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  Sunday November 23rd, 2014    

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Hill makes top 10 Teacher of Year list (03/26/2014)
By Amelia Wedemeyer


     by AMELIA WEDEMEYER

It came as no surprise that the first thing to come out of teacher Lora Hill’s mouth after she received the phone call informing her that she had been named one of the top 10 finalists for Minnesota Teacher of the Year pertained to her students.

“I’m really grateful that the kids got to see that all the work that we have done together is respected and fruitful,” Hill said on a Monday afternoon in her classroom on the second floor of Winona Senior High School (WSHS). “I feel proud to represent Winona and Winona teachers.”

For Hill, who is the advisor to the WSHS social justice student group FORTITUDE, which stands for Forever On Route To Independence, Tolerance, Understanding, Diversity and Education, the honor is one of several for which she and her students have received statewide recognition. The most recent — and noticeable — has been Education Minnesota’s five anti-bullying commercials that were filmed at WSHS. The ads, which helped launch Education Minnesota’s (the state teachers union) annual media campaign, “Ed Moments,” tell the story of Hill’s Friday morning dance routine, in which all WSHS students and staff are invited to get up and dance to music together. “We dance together and in that way we overcome bullying; it’s by building community through dance,” Hill explains in one of the commercials. “If you have the confidence to dance, to be who [you are], you are powerful — you don’t need to bully anymore.”

The WSHS ads will run until the beginning of April, with Ed Moments featuring other Minnesota schools and teachers with inspirational stories.

“This was the kick-off to the Ed Moments campaign and it’s a great start,” Education Minnesota’s Doug Dooher said of the ads. “We’ve been trying to push [the anti-bullying legislation] at the Capitol, and people supportive of the bill are appreciative of the ads and their air coverage. People in St. Paul are saying, ‘Those kids are great; [it is] really neat to see what they are doing there.’”

The experience of being in a commercial, which is now preserved on DVD copies for each of Hill’s students, has been thoroughly positive for the WSHS community. For Hill, the impact on her students’ self esteem has been one of the greatest things to come out of the ads.

“[Being featured in the commercials] made them feel like stars. It gave kids an opportunity to be amazing,” she said.

Top 10 teacher

“I thought I wasn’t going to find out until Friday,” Hill exclaimed after she received the call confirming her top 10 Minnesota Teacher of the Year status. “It’s emotional.”

In true Lora Hill fashion, she talked of the honor as it related not only to her, but to her students, especially the ones she mentors in FORTITUDE.

“[This honor] means that [the students] can do anything. It empowers them; I mean it,” Hill explained. “They know how we struggle — we struggle for funding, for time, we struggle for respect at times. The work is so hard, it’s not easy having a social justice group. It’s not about partying, watching movies, eating popcorn — this is about struggling to learn. It validates everything we have worked so hard for.”

While Hill and her students will have to wait until May 4 to know whether she will take home the title of Minnesota Teacher of the Year, for now, she can relax, which maybe isn’t quite the right word for someone who teaches all day and stays after school most days for tutoring and mentoring. She plans to have a little celebration with her husband — a spontaneous date night, but after that, it is back to the work she loves, the work she knows is making a difference in her students’ lives.

“My biggest worry is that I hope people don’t think the work is over!” Hill said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

It came as no surprise that the first thing to come out of teacher Lora Hill’s mouth after she received the phone call informing her that she had been named one of the top 10 finalists for Minnesota Teacher of the Year pertained to her students.

“I’m really grateful that the kids got to see that all the work that we have done together is respected and fruitful,” Hill said on a Monday afternoon in her classroom on the second floor of Winona Senior High School (WSHS). “I feel proud to represent Winona and Winona teachers.”

For Hill, who is the advisor to the WSHS social justice student group FORTITUDE, which stands for Forever On Route To Independence, Tolerance, Understanding, Diversity and Education, the honor is one of several for which she and her students have received statewide recognition. The most recent — and noticeable — has been Education Minnesota’s five anti-bullying commercials that were filmed at WSHS. The ads, which helped launch Education Minnesota’s (the state teachers union) annual media campaign, “Ed Moments,” tell the story of Hill’s Friday morning dance routine, in which all WSHS students and staff are invited to get up and dance to music together. “We dance together and in that way we overcome bullying; it’s by building community through dance,” Hill explains in one of the commercials. “If you have the confidence to dance, to be who [you are], you are powerful — you don’t need to bully anymore.”

The WSHS ads will run until the beginning of April, with Ed Moments featuring other Minnesota schools and teachers with inspirational stories.

“This was the kick-off to the Ed Moments campaign and it’s a great start,” Education Minnesota’s Doug Dooher said of the ads. “We’ve been trying to push [the anti-bullying legislation] at the Capitol, and people supportive of the bill are appreciative of the ads and their air coverage. People in St. Paul are saying, ‘Those kids are great; [it is] really neat to see what they are doing there.’”

The experience of being in a commercial, which is now preserved on DVD copies for each of Hill’s students, has been thoroughly positive for the WSHS community. For Hill, the impact on her students’ self esteem has been one of the greatest things to come out of the ads.

“[Being featured in the commercials] made them feel like stars. It gave kids an opportunity to be amazing,” she said.

Top 10 teacher

“I thought I wasn’t going to find out until Friday,” Hill exclaimed after she received the call confirming her top 10 Minnesota Teacher of the Year status. “It’s emotional.”

In true Lora Hill fashion, she talked of the honor as it related not only to her, but to her students, especially the ones she mentors in FORTITUDE.

“[This honor] means that [the students] can do anything. It empowers them; I mean it,” Hill explained. “They know how we struggle — we struggle for funding, for time, we struggle for respect at times. The work is so hard, it’s not easy having a social justice group. It’s not about partying, watching movies, eating popcorn — this is about struggling to learn. It validates everything we have worked so hard for.”

While Hill and her students will have to wait until May 4 to know whether she will take home the title of Minnesota Teacher of the Year, for now, she can relax, which maybe isn’t quite the right word for someone who teaches all day and stays after school most days for tutoring and mentoring. She plans to have a little celebration with her husband — a spontaneous date night, but after that, it is back to the work she loves, the work she knows is making a difference in her students’ lives.

“My biggest worry is that I hope people don’t think the work is over!” Hill said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

 

 

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