Minnesota’s new Teacher of the Year challenges ‘systems of oppression’

"I challenge systems of oppression such as poverty and racism by demanding more resources for my students and their families."

Image credit: Twitter via @GovTimWalz

Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, wants to continue with distance learning in the fall, but hosted an in-person event last week for its annual Teacher of the Year award.

The ceremony took place Thursday night on the Upper Mall of the State Capitol complex, according to a press release from Education Minnesota.

Pictures of the event show a large tent was set up outdoors for the annual gathering. Gov. Tim Walz, a former teacher, was in attendance and spoke at the event.

Qorsho Hassan, a fourth-grade teacher at Echo Park Elementary, was named the 2020 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

“Being aware of the lived experiences of my marginalized students and their communities makes me fight harder to ensure they receive a high-quality education,” Hassan, a Somali-American, said in an essay she submitted for the contest.

“I build strong relationships in order to know every single student as an individual. I challenge systems of oppression such as poverty and racism by demanding more resources for my students and their families. I believe that if students are in a learning space where they feel safe, seen and heard, they will succeed,” Hassan continued, according to a press release.

Nicole Jenne, a parent who submitted a nomination letter, said Hassan doesn’t just prepare students academically, but helps them “be a positive community member.”

“While we see so much focus in schools on how a teacher’s classroom is performing academically, we rarely see or highlight how a classroom is performing emotionally and socially,” said Jenne.

Despite the potential mental and emotional health risks, Education Minnesota President Denise Specht wants schools to continue with distance learning in the fall if they “are not ready to safely reopen.”

Specht also voted in favor of an American Federation of Teachers resolution that calls for an infection rate below five percent and a transmission rate below one percent before school buildings reopen.

Under Gov. Walz’s “Safe Learning Plan” released in late July, a county needs to have fewer than nine COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents over a 14-day period in order for schools to resume in-person classes. His plan also requires educators and students at schools offering in-person classes to wear masks.