Region's top educators are Dragons

The Moorhead Normal School graduated its first teachers in 1888, setting up Minnesota State University Moorhead as the premier institution in the region educating teachers. MSU Moorhead’s comprehensive and specialized education equips aspiring teachers with the skills, knowledge, and experience to succeed in today’s classrooms. That’s one reason MSUM has a long history of celebrating Teachers of the Year nationwide. Among that prestigious list of award winners is this year’s Fargo Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Amanda Hetland, and Moorhead Public Schools Teacher of the Year Angela Hase, both proud Dragons.

Moorhead Public Schools Teacher of the Year

Growing up, Angela recalls playing ‘school’ with her older sister as the ‘teacher’. Angela comes from a family of teachers, so it was no surprise she grew up with the same goal. With a degree in English education and a master’s in curriculum and instruction, Angela is now an English teacher at Moorhead High School.

Angela gravitated toward English throughout her high school experience. Stories and analysis are an important part of English courses, but Angela is most drawn to argumentation and expressing yourself in the way you want.

“I love walking kids through that journey and watching them go through that process,” Angela says.

Angela chose to attend MSUM because it was founded as a teaching school. Far enough away from her hometown of Bismarck, N.D., she felt MSUM would set her on a new adventure. During the first few days of fall, Angela was surrounded by colorful foliage and college students, and she called it her ‘college moment’ when she realized she was in the right place.

BS in Education

After graduating, job hunting was no small feat, Angela recalls. It was a tight field and it seemed like everyone knew someone to get their foot in the door. She claims luck secured her a job at Moorhead High School.

“Moorhead allows you the freedom to be a teacher in more ways,” Angela says. “I really enjoy the students, coworkers, and the environment.”

Being named Moorhead Teacher of the Year was surprising and humbling. It made Angela realize that she is seen and valued in the community and is forever grateful for this award.

“I will always do my best to live up to it,” Angela says.

Fargo Public Schools Teacher of the Year

Amanda Hetland had a similar experience of playing ‘school’ while growing up, except she was the ‘teacher’ to her younger siblings.

After graduating from MSUM with a degree in early childhood education, Amanda spent four years as a paraprofessional in a special education classroom. She loved it and realized she couldn’t see herself anywhere else, so she decided to get her master’s degree in special education.

Amanda enjoyed the intimacy of her courses and how she got to know each of her classmates and professors. Her most memorable experiences were attending sporting events on campus.

“I chose MSUM because they have high standards, and I knew it is a good school, especially for education,” Amanda says.

Special education teachers and specialists are important in every school as they advocate for the most vulnerable population.

Amanda has come full circle. She now teaches in the same classroom where she was a paraprofessional when she realized teaching special education was her calling. She was very surprised to be named Fargo Public Schools Teacher of the Year but equally as honored.

“It isn’t just me being recognized; it’s my entire team,” Amanda says. “This is a team effort and a great recognition for special education teachers.”

West Fargo Professional Licensed Staff of the Year

Mendi Blake was also recently honored with the West Fargo Public Schools 2024-2025 Professional Licensed Staff of the Year Award. Mendi received her MS in Special Education from MSUM and has taught at West Fargo High School for the past 15 years.

"Mendi Blake is the definition of dedication to education. She believes deeply that all students are capable and, with the right supports, are able to be successful contributing citizens," her nomination read, according to West Fargo Public School's news release.

West Fargo's Staff of the Year Awards recognize district employees who have significantly contributed to education, professional development, and the West Fargo community. We're proud to have a Dragon like Mendi Blake representing us.

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