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District names Teacher of the Year

ABOVE: Louise Ostlie is the Fairmont Area School District’s Teacher of the Year.

FAIRMONT– Education Minnesota Fairmont has named Louise Ostlie as the district’s Teacher of the Year. Ostlie has been a physical science teacher with the district for 18 years.

Ostlie grew up in western South Dakota and attended South Dakota State University, where she obtained a degree in Biology/Chemistry and an MST in Chemistry and Physics.

“I knew that I wanted to go into science. I like the challenge of it,” Ostlie said.

She looked at the scope of jobs available within the field and, as she liked working with people, thought teaching would be a better option for her, rather than working in a research lab.

Upon graduating Ostlie spent a few years teaching in South Dakota and then her husband, Brian, got a job with the Fairmont Area School District so the couple moved here. Their four children all went through Fairmont Area Schools. Brian retired as a math teacher in 2020 after 29 years in the district.

Ostlie teaches physics and chemistry, as well as honors physics and chemistry. Most of the students in those classes are juniors and seniors but she also teaches a ninth grade science class.

“I like a mix of kids. Ninth graders are different than juniors and seniors,” Ostlie said.

Physical science is more math-based, as opposed to earth science. Ostlie said every unit starts with a lab and an equation is derived from the experiment, which is used to solve chemistry or physics problems.

Looking back over her years of teaching, she commented on some of the changes in education she’s seen.

“The approach that we take today has changed a lot with new science standards. We don’t want just memorization of concepts. We want application and an explanation of things,” Ostlie said.

Of course Ostlie said changes have been expedited over the last three years, mostly due to Covid. She said that the use of technology is much more prevalent than it used to be and noted that all students now have a Chromebook.

“But I still think kids need the hands-on physical contact to understand things. I don’t think you can watch a video and get as much out of it as you would setting up something yourself,” Ostlie said.

She was nominated by Melissa Smith, a science teacher in the district, who actually served as Ostlie’s student teacher a number of years ago.

Smith said that she nominated Ostlie because during her years as a teacher Ostlie has made an impact on many students and coworkers lives for the better.

“She teaches difficult content and does it in a way that helps kids understand it and learn it so they are able to be successful in the sciences beyond FHS,” Smith said. “I also have had a unique experience of not only being a coworker and parent of her student but also she was one of my mentor teachers when I student taught at FHS 13 years ago. Due to her mentorship, she has helped make me the teacher I am today and for that I will always be grateful.”

As for one of her favorite things about teaching, Ostlie said, “I like seeing kids grow academically, especially when they think they can’t do something and then eventually do it. I like seeing them achieve that growth.”

She will be recognized by Education Minnesota Fairmont at a celebration next Monday. Then, Ostlie will need to submit a portfolio, complete with references, to compete for Teacher of the Year at the state level.

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