Anoka-Hennepin celebrates its employees going ‘Above and Beyond’

Ten of Anoka-Hennepin’s outstanding employees were recognized at the annual Above and Beyond Awards program this week. Congratulations to the following winners:

· Pam Baker, college and career specialist at Champlin Park High School.

· Nicole Hedlund, second grade teacher at Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy.

·  John Horton, third grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School.

·  John Lero, building supervisor at Madison Elementary School.

· Nicki Magaard, counselor at Roosevelt Middle School.

· Juanita Mercedes Martinez Pabon, elementary paraeducator at Wilson Elementary School.

· Muggy Pierfelice, second grade teacher at OxbowCreek Elementary School.

· Karrie Schaaf, homeless youth liaison at the Family Welcome Center.

· Mischelle Squire, adult learning coordinator with Community Education.

· Kelly Weeks, elementary paraeducator at AndoverElementary School.

“We celebrate the unique aspects of each person’s extraordinarily successful work and we celebrate the shining commonalities between them,” said Superintendent Dennis Carlson. “It’s an honor to share the work of education with these Above and Beyond winners.”

A few tears trickled down crowd members’ faces as they heard each winner’s story.





The presenters shared quotes from parents, students and colleagues that nominated them as well as words the winners used to describe themselves. “If we can do something small that brings our students some sense of stability, it is my hope that they are better able to focus on their learning,” said winner Karrie Schaaf, homeless youth liaison, in her application.

The Above and Beyond Awards program is sponsored jointly by the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation (AHEF) and the Anoka-Hennepin School District to recognize outstanding employees for innovation, creativity, caring and commitment. Award recipients were selected by a panel of community representatives and principals.



Nicole Hedlund:

A unique approach

Every morning, Nicole Hedlund sets the tone for the learning day in her second-grade classroom at Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy with a morning meeting.

Students gather around, greet one another, and share recent events in their lives. The “team-building activity,” as Hedlund calls it, is the most important part of the day, she says.

It’s that kind of special attention to students that led Hedlund to be named one of the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Award winners.

Hedlund, who has spent nine years with Anoka-Hennepin schools, is one of 10 recipients of the annual award that recognizes teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, and other employees who work extra-hard to make sure students are successful.

“I was taken aback—just so honored,” Hedlund said of the award. “I love coming to work each day to work with amazing children and staff. Each morning I amgreeted with smiles and each afternoon hi-fives and hugs!”

For Hedlund, it wasn’t even a colleague that nominated her—it was a parent.

Michelle Bickford’s son is in her class, and she said it was through Hedlund’s individual attention, care, and kindness that a learning issue was identified with her son.

“She knew it was going to be difficult for us to hear, as it was just as difficult for her to tell us,” Bickford said. “Knowing that there was a difficulty that he could not control, she felt it best to go to the next step, talking to us, the parents. She is truly amazing in her kindness and has deep concern for her students.”

Soon, Bickford’s son was receiving the extra help he needed, and as a result, he has made tremendous progress. Bickford recalled the phone call Hedlund made to announce the progress her son had made—nearly crying as she told the parent.

“She made that extra effort out of her day to make sure we as parents knew that there was hope,” Bickford said. “She also made sure our son knew that he had achieved something great.”

“When I found out (Bickford) had taken the time to nominate me—we’ve really been on the same team, her and I, and it’s been great to develop that relationship and earn her trust,” Hedlund said. “We have such a connection.”

Hedlund, though, is quick to point out she isn’t alone, saying she works with amazing people.

“Within this professional environment I have been given the opportunity to work with amazing leaders that have inspired me throughout my educational journey, which is a true gift,” she said.

Hedlund said she wants to use this experience to help and inspire other young teachers in the district.

“This is not an easy job,” Hedlund said. “I want to be there to support and collaborate—I believe in paying it forward.”



Pam Baker:

Dreaming big

As Champlin Park High School’s college and career specialist, Pam Baker tells students to dream big, no matter their post-secondary goals.

Her own advice has led to a pretty big honor for Baker. She’ been named one of the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Award winners.

“There is nothing better than seeing a smile on the face of a student who is able to pursue their dream,” Baker said of the work she does helping CPHS students develop plans for after high school.

Baker, who has spent 33 years with Anoka-Hennepin schools, is one of 10 recipients of the annual award that recognizes teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, and other employees who work extra-hard to make sure students are successful.

“It’s an honor—it truly is,” Baker said. “But it’s also very humbling. I feel like I work with many people who go above and beyond every day.  To be acknowledged—it’s a very humbling experience.”

The colleagues who nominated Baker said she’s “an essential person in the community of Champlin Park High School,” and that she offers a very personal touch helping students with their post-secondary dreams—especially those who are first-generation college students who may have little help athome.

Specifically, last year Baker worked with a student who needed to complete credits for graduation once her senior year had ended. Baker, according to her colleagues, worked on a post-secondary plan with the student, finding a suitable college and guiding her through the financial-aid process. Bakereven talked to the college to see if she could attend in spite of needing to complete some of her high school work. Once the student was approved, Bakerwent so far as to help the girl—who would be away from home for the first time—buy necessities for her dorm room. All the while, Baker continued to help the student finish her high school credits by hiring a tutor and helping provide financial assistance to cover those costs.

“We have lots of students who, with support, can move forward in the whole college planning process,” Baker said. “I’m just one of those people who has a passion to provide that support. Some of the kids—they need that.”

Baker is constantly seeking new ideas to promote the career and college culture at Champlin Park High School, including what she considers to be the most meaningful contribution—the staff scholarship fund. Staff members donate to the fund, which is used to provide scholarships to graduating seniors pursuing careers in education. The fund has awarded more than $25,000 in scholarships to date.

“My actions and words demonstrate that I do care and am concerned about the success of the students at CPHS,” Baker said. “Each student is unique and it is in helping them that I can truly say I have a great job.”