Governor-elect Tim Walz today named Mary Cathryn Ricker as the state’s next Education Commissioner.

“Mary Cathryn carries great accomplishments from her efforts to strengthen educational opportunities for students, teachers, families and communities,” said Lee Carlson, president of the MREA Board of Directors. “I have known Mary Cathryn for many years and have appreciated her willingness to make the effort to understand challenges that face our smaller, rural districts and schools.”

Former Teacher

A native of Hibbing, she has taught in classrooms in St. Cloud and St. Paul in addition to Camas, Washington and Seoul, South Korea. She served as president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers union before being named executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. Learn more.

“Having taught in classrooms from St. Cloud to St. Paul, Mary Cathryn understands the shared challenges and diverse needs of schools across our state,” Walz said in a prepared statement. “This teacher-governor is proud to put a teacher-commissioner at the Department of Education.”

Higher Education

Walz also named Dennis Olson Jr. to lead the Department of Higher Education. Olson is the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. He was previously the commissioner of education for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and worked with the University of Minnesota – Institute on Community Integration.

“We have partnered with Dennis on a variety of key education efforts, including American Indian Education Aid,” MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan. “We look forward to working with him in this new position.”

Join us in welcoming these two leaders to serve students in Minnesota.