This sixth grade teacher has had an extraordinary impact on fellow teachers and students during a tough year at North Branch Area Middle School—
Lisa Moeller will never forget her selection as North Branch Education Association’s Teacher of the Year for 2013.
Selected by her peers back in May, Moeller was joined by Dan Campbell and Jenel Korkowski as finalists for the honor. A sixth grade teacher at North Branch Area Middle School, she talked about the honor and more during an interview with the Post Review earlier this month.
“It was the most amazing and most cherished award I’ll ever receive,” she began. “When I presented my speech in June, I said I’m sharing this award with everyone I’ve ever worked with. It’s like a patchwork quilt. I’m a little bit of everybody.”
Moeller enjoys teaching Minnesota history and physical science, a subject that keeps students and herself on the cutting edge of technology through hands-on subjects such as engineering and robotics. And she considers it fortunate that her 18-year teaching career has all been accomplished in a sixth grade classroom at North Branch Area Middle School.
Why has teaching meant so much to her?
“Kids soak everything up like a sponge,” she said. “I love it when they realize you have something to offer them. It’s amazing. You know you’re making a difference.”
Yet the difficult part of teaching for Moeller is sometimes pupil can be smarter than instructor who doesn’t always have the answers — especially when it comes to technology.
“In robotics,” she explained, “students find ways to solve problems that I wouldn’t think of. When I grew up, the teacher knew all the answers. They make their own robotic how ever they want. There is no one right answer, and that’s what I love about science. It’s more about the process now. Memorizing facts is not the main focus anymore.”
In his Teacher of the Year nomination of Moeller, middle school science teacher Kevin Grote expressed how she was up to the challenge during an unusually stressful year for middle school teachers in North Branch.
“We started the school year with the unexpected passing of middle school teacher Mike Lizotte,” Grote wrote. “Lisa stepped up and led the way in organizing the sixth grade to meet the challenges of replacing Mike and starting the school year. Lisa worked closely with Mike for many years. She put the well-being of her colleagues first and her own loss second.”
Grote also touched on Moeller’s impact when times got tough on him personally with his wife (and beloved high school French teacher) Andrea Grote’s illness. “Mike (Lizotte) was the person I turned to at school to help me when things got difficult,” he noted. “Lisa knew that Mike was very important to me, and when he passed away, Lisa made it her responsibility to take on Mike’s role. Lisa has been a wonderful friend and colleague.”
“Many teachers do great things in their own classrooms, but the gifted teachers help others become better teachers,” Grote added. “Lisa is a gifted teacher and has shared her gifts with the staff at the middle school. She puts her heart into every part of her teaching, and the kids know it.”
Fellow teacher Mark Savage considers Moeller an “outstanding teacher,” as well, and even a better friend.
“We have had a very difficult year at North Branch Area Middle School,” Savage said in his nomination letter. “Lisa has been a key member of the staff helping individuals with their teaching assignments and adjustments in sixth grade. She has also been a rock in assisting staff in personal crisis. One can always turn to Lisa for a kind word and a hug to pull you through the day. She is honest, accountable and responsible as a professional educator. She speaks up for the kids and advocates for action in our building. Lisa Moeller is all that is right in District 138.”
A native of Foley, Minn., Moeller graduated from high school in 1991. From there, she attended Moorhead State University where she earned her teaching degree in 1995. She was hired at North Branch later that year.
“I wanted to be a teacher since I was 3,” she said. “Every one of my teachers were my role models and had an impact on me.
“It’s a caring profession,” Moeller continued. “You’re making an impact on others in a positive way. It gives me satisfaction. And even though I may have a hard day, it was a good day. I want kids to know they have the potential to do whatever they want. I want them to say, ‘If I work hard, I can be successful, too.’”