MREA’s membership elected six directors to the 2024 MREA Board of Directors during December elections. These directors will help represent and advocate for education across all of Minnesota.

The Board’s first regular meeting will be February 6-7 near Redwood Falls. At that meeting directors will elect the President-Elect and Secretary/Treasurer positions and appoint the fifth member of the Executive Committee. Michelle Rinke Koch, Principal with Menahga Schools, ascended January 1 to the MREA Board President position, succeeding Jim Ferden, School Board Member from Win-E-Mac Schools.

New Directors

sarah_bauckSarah Bauck
Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Schools
North Central Zone | Teacher | 3-Year Term

Bauck joins the MREA Board as a new director representing the North Central Zone. She has been Band Director at her district for 26 years and continues seeking new ways to meet student needs and improve as a teacher. She is an active participant at MREA member meetings, including Fall Member Meetings, legislative briefings, and the Greater Education Summit. She is also involved in her local district and regional union boards, city council, and numerous civic and church activities.

Jenny MarasJenny Maras
Morris Area Schools
South Central Zone | At-Large | 4-Year Term

Maras has been a Business teacher for the past 22 years, teaching currently at Morris Schools and previously at Willmar Schools. She is an alum of Benson High School and Concordia College. In August 2023 she was named the 2023 National Rural Teacher of the Year by the National Rural Education Association and accepted her award in November at NREA’s national conference. She was also an MREA 2022 Educator of Excellence. Maras looks forward to ensuring the land of the 10,000 lakes is well represented both at the state and national levels.

Nels Onstad
Wabasha-Kellogg Schools
South Zone | Administrator | 4-Year Term

Onstad is Superintendent for Wabasha-Kellogg Schools. He has also worked in Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, West Central Area, and Greenbush-Middle River school districts. He has private business experience and worked as Director of Educator Licensing for the Minnesota Department of Education.

Returning Directors

craig_brendenCraig Brenden
Waseca Schools
South Zone | Teacher | 3-Year Term

Brenden returns to the Board after stepping up to a fill a mid-term vacancy in 2022. He grew up near Rothsay and has been a rural educator for 32 years, teaching currently in Waseca. Brenden is also a military veteran, spending 30 years with the Northa Dakota and Minnesota National Guards. He is interested in getting teachers more knowledgeable about MREA’s purpose  and helping to develop plans for the future of Minnesota’s education.

Jeff Drake
Fergus Falls Schools
North Central Zone | Administrator | 4-Year Term

Drake has been Superintendent in Fergus Falls for 4 years after working for 16 years with Battle Lake Schools. He began his career in the mental health field, working in prisons and as a social worker before moving to education. He started as a guidance counselor in Hastings Schools and then was principal in Milaca Schools before his move to Battle Lake. He serves on the MREA Board’s Executive and Greater Education Summit committees.

Ryan Walseth
Thief River Falls Schools
North Zone | School Board| 4-Year Term

Walseth has served on the MREA Board for the past two years and is also Chair of the Thief River Falls School Board, where he graduated from high school. He is a product of rural education and a lifelong resident of rural Minnesota. As owner of a travel agency, he has also been entrusted with leadership positions in the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Development Association, and Travel Leaders Network. He received the Director’s Award in 2023 from the Minnesota School Boards Association.