February 1, 2023 at 5:07 p.m.

Es un honor

By Ben Sonnek- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Buysse nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Education Minnesota has announced its list of the 131 teachers nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award, and among their ranks is Sauk Centre Public Schools’ own Spanish teacher Kelly Buysse. Having been at SCPS for about 20 years, she is both surprised and flattered to be recognized in this way.

“Sometimes, it’s a little difficult to take because I teach with so many wonderful people,” Buysse said. “It feels like they deserve that recognition too.”

The Education Minnesota panel will be meeting again in March to narrow down the candidate list, and then a winner will be announced at the May 7 Minnesota Teacher of the Year banquet in St. Paul.

Born and raised in Alexandria, Buysse greatly enjoyed her ninth-grade Spanish class and her instructor, and so she knew in high school that she wanted to be either a veterinarian or a Spanish teacher. After graduating high school in 1999, going to college at Concordia College in Moorhead tipped the scales for her.

“I took my first organic chemistry class in college and I decided, yep, Spanish teacher it is,” Buysse said. “I liked them both, but I’m really happy with my choice.”

Buysse graduated from Concordia in December 2002 with degrees in education and Spanish. In May 2002, through a Concordia program, she studied abroad in South America, starting in Peru with its strong indigenous population and then going to Machu Picchu.

“It was a great experience,” Buysse said. “We also got to spend time in rural areas where you really notice the culture and it’s not so metropolitan.”

Her studies then took her to Chile and Argentina, which to Buysse had the cleaner and more modern areas; she still finds it intriguing how different the countries are with their various cultures and dialects, even though they are clustered close together. She also traveled to Paraguay and non-Spanish-speaking Brazil before returning to the United States.

Then, Buysse student-taught at an immersion school in Probstfield Elementary in Moorhead and also at SCPS for her K-12 license.

“The person I student-taught with ended up leaving that year,” Buysse said. “I really liked student-teaching (at SCPS), and then I took the job the next year.”

Buysse has been a teacher at SCPS since the fall of 2003. She currently teaches fifth grade as an introduction to Spanish course; Buysse also teaches Spanish 2, 3 and 4, the latter two of which are college credit courses, and she has an education master’s degree and master’s credits in Spanish to teach those. Her classroom in SCPS has 21 flags hanging inside of it, one for each country that speaks Spanish as its official language.

Each class is different to Buysse. With the fifth graders, she enjoys seeing how eager they are to learn another language.

“It’s a novelty, and they’re so excited for it,” Buysse said. “With my upper-level kids, I think I have a unique experience teaching Spanish because I can bring in all kinds of different subject areas. I teach them about things in Spanish, using simplified language; I can teach them about The Dirty War in Argentina, holidays or the butterfly migration. I pick all kinds of different topics that apply to different countries, and then I pull in that culture and teach them about different cultural events.”

For Buysse, keeping things novel is important to drive student learning. She has seen attention spans shrink in her 20 years as a teacher as children grow up with more stimulation, and so she likes to incorporate movement breaks and other elements to keep students engaged.

It was during the 2023 Christmas break that Buysse got an email that told her she had been nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year by several people, along with blurbs of what they had said when nominating her.

“At first, I was really flattered,” Buysse said. “At the same time, I was humbled because I teach with so many wonderful people who make this school a great place.”

It is not the award that makes teaching Spanish such a rich experience for Buysse, though. Along with her colleague, Judy Viere, she loves having a collaborative working partnership, and then there’s seeing how the students progress in their knowledge of the language.

“I’m proud of the department (Viere) and I have worked to build,” Buysse said.


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