MREA appointed Karen Jacobson as president of the Board of Directors. The director of the Minnesota River Valley Education District has been elected by the board to serve a one-year term.

Jacobson couldn’t resist a career in education. She learned early on the impact that teachers have and took an unconventional path to being an educator herself.

She has been in her current role, impacting schools across southwest Minnesota, for two decades.

Jacobson shares more about her career path, passion for MREA and goals for the organization in 2021:

What led you to pursue a career in education?

My career path in education has been anything but direct. I was sure that I didn’t want to be a teacher or work in education. My father, grandmother and great-grandfather were all educators and I was determined to forge my own career pathway.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in animal science, I moved to rural Minnesota and began working for the Minnesota Extension Service. This position allowed me to teach youth and adults in a non-traditional education setting. I found that I loved teaching and providing educational experiences. As a result, I pursued and earned a masters degree in agricultural education.

My next occupation led me to the school system where I provided drug and alcohol prevention education and services to a consortium of schools in the area. It wasn’t long before I felt called to serve as a grants program officer and Community Initiatives Director at the Southwest Initiative Foundation.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was given the opportunity to work for Minnesota River Valley Education District.  I was hired because I brought a nontraditional perspective to education. 

Over the years I have been fortunate to continue to learn and grow as the Executive Director of the MRVED.  Though the work is often challenging, I truly love what I do.   

 Tell us about your current role.

The Minnesota River Valley Education District (MRVED) is a consortium of nine school districts that work together to positively impact student learning and to be on the cutting edge of school improvement efforts. 

Our staff organizes and provides staff development opportunities, along with facilitating curriculum review and development  for our districts.

The MRVED offers an online learning program, facilitates special education services for half of our districts, and oversees alternative learning opportunities through our area learning center. 

We write and manage grants to benefit our districts, cooperatively lease fiber for a robust technology infrastructure, and file E-rate on behalf of our districts.  We facilitate groups of superintendents, principals, teachers, ESL teachers, and other educators.

Bottom line, if our districts need it done and we can do it better as a group of districts, we do it.   

Why did you join the MREA board?

The more I heard about MREA, the more I knew that I wanted to be a part of the board.  I grew up in the Twin Cities and have had the chance to see the disparities between metro and rural schools.

Almost 40 years ago, I moved to rural Minnesota. My children graduated from the Yellow Medicine East school district.  They had a very good education and were involved in many extra-curricular activities, but their selection of courses and activities was limited in comparison to metro schools.

My first grandchild is now attending kindergarten in the Montevideo Public Schools. She, along with all rural students, deserves a comprehensive and competitive education.

I am passionate about providing rural students with the best educational opportunities possible, so serving on the MREA board was a natural fit.

What have you enjoyed most about your time with MREA?

The people. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the teachers, school board members, and administrators from throughout rural Minnesota. It is so rewarding to be a part of an organization where the members are dedicated to advocating for rural education and putting students first. Also, the Educators of Excellence awards are always inspirational.

Why do you think it is important to be involved in MREA?

It is essential to have a voice at the Capitol to represent the issues and interests of rural educators and students. MREA is a respected voice that brings forward realistic solutions to issues and provides data to legislators so they can make informed decisions.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when not serving MREA?

I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren (and their parents), reading, gardening, being involved in our church, and coaching high school pole vault. 

What are you most looking forward to for MREA in 2021?

The conference. While the 2020 conference had great keynotes and breakout sessions, I really missed seeing people in person and the networking opportunities.