Two NP teachers earn FOX 9 honor

New Prague High School automotive technology teacher Kevin Baer,left, works with students on Wednesday, May 1. During a ceremony that day, he was recognized as one of FOX 9 New’s Top Teachers. (Patrick Fisher Photo)

Falcon Ridge elementary teacher Rich Wilson, named a FOX 9 News Top Teacher last week, goes over a geometry lesson with his fifth grade students. To see more photos click on the blue button, lower right. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

Automotive industrial teacher Kevin Baer knew something was about to happen when New Prague High School principal Tom Doig asked him to stop his class. Being recognized as one of FOX 9 News’ Top Teachers was not what Baer was expecting.

"Surprised," was how Baer described his feeling when reporter Tom Halden, with cameraman in tow, presented the award on Wednesday, May 1. The presentation was made during Baer’s auto class with his students loudly cheering and clapping. Also present were his parents Bill and Barb Baer and his brother Steve.

When asked why he chose teaching, Baer responded, "I wanted a job that I enjoyed and where I can make a difference." He noted the automotive class is a place where his students can get away from sitting at computers. "They learn something that will help them in life."

He noted he gets great numbers for the course. He teaches the automotive ABCs and how to rebuild a motor. He believes his students get a lot of satisfaction in learning how to fix something themselves that helps them save money.

The presentation was one of two FOX 9 made that day. The Twin Cities based TV station also recognized Rich Wilson, fifth grade teacher at Falcon Ridge Elementary School. Baer and Wilson share a passion for teaching and are also veterans. Baer served with the Army and was stationed in Iraq for three years. He will soon be deployed to Afghanistan.

"I really learned a lot," said Baer about his deployment in Iraq. "I try at times to tell my students how good they have it."

Besides the award, Melissa Wippler and Kurt Howard of Royal Credit Union presented him with $900 for the school. When it was announced that Baer will also receive a Subway sandwich party for 100 of his closest friends many of his students raised their hands.

"He has to work hard even after school," said Brian Prchal, a sophomore who with his mom Jodi Prchal nominated Baer for the award. "He also helps beyond the normal work hours."

Brian is also in Baer’s Supermileage Challenge. The group meets Tuesday and Thursday after school. They design and build a small vehicle that gets high gas mileage.

Last year they competed against 60 other schools at Brainerd International Raceway where they raced the vehicle around the track. Last year, New Prague’s vehicle was able to get 285 miles per gallon, although the top vehicle had 800 miles per gallon. This year’s competition is set for Tuesday and Wednesday, May 14 and 15.

"I didn’t expect this and I don’t think I’m truly deserving of it," said Baer of the award.

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Falcon Ridge Elementary School teacher Rich Wilson was taken aback during what he thought was a monthly awards presentation for fifth grade students.

“They had me running around, rushing to the office to pick up certificates, I really wasn’t sure what was going on,” he said. Principal David Giesen spoke to the students in the school’s all-purpose room, then suddenly turned to Mr. Wilson and asked if he felt like a “Top Teacher.”

That’s when a camera crew and reporter from FOX 9 News came into the room, along with members of Wilson’s family, his wife Emily and children Korey and Jacob and others. That’s when he learned that he had been named a FOX 9 News Top Teacher.

“My face just turned all shades of red,” said Wilson, who has been with the district for 24 years. “I didn’t expect this. I got a little teary-eyed.”

Wilson, a former Army Reserve member who served for a year in Iraq in 2006, said he thinks his heart was pounding more than it was the first time he jumped out of a plane in the military.

Wilson said he first thought about going into education when he was in high school in Park Rapids. “There was a listing for a volunteer helper needed at one of the schools and I tried that and enjoyed it. I worked at a scout camp for a couple of summers and it seemed like a good fit,” he said.

After college he was hired at what was then New Prague Elementary School in 1989 by principal Bob Gullickson.

“He thought I’d be a great fit for third grade, and I’ve taught third, fourth and fifth graders ever since,” he said.

He enjoys working with kids at that age, but he noted that things are always changing with them. The key, he says, is to have a plan.

“I’m always making notes after a lesson and making changes to nextyear’s lesson plans,” he said. “I look at each lesson, and say ‘What should a kid look like when I’m done,’ and then make a plan to get to that point.

“Part of the key is to make memories. I say ‘What am I helping the kids to achieve.’”

To help them make memories, he has gone “above and beyond” the line of duty, according to Giesen and Jodi Prchal, a Falcon Ridge teacher who nominated him for the award. Prchal, who received the same award last year, said that Wilson is constantly “thinking outside the box.” He helped students prepare for a “Rube Goldberg Device” competition, works on plays and is constantly looking for ways to make things appeal to the students.

Wilson noted that a lot of things have changed since he started in New Prague. “Not only in the way we teach, but also in the community,” he said. “New Prague was much more of a farming community. There's still some of it, but it’s not as predominant.”

Melissa Wippler and Kurt Howard of Royal Credit Union presented Wilson with a check for $900 to be used for classroom purchases, and he will also receive a Subway sandwich party for 100 of his friends and students