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Polum Named Grand Forks County Teacher of the Year

News Release        

For Immediate Release

April 24, 2023

Polum Named Grand Forks County Teacher of the Year

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Nikki Polum, a 6th grade teacher at South Middle School, has been selected as the 2023 Grand Forks County Teacher of the Year.

The announcement was made by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction on April 21.

“Our county Teachers of the Year are among our best at educating the next generation of young North Dakotans,” said State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler. They impart knowledge in reading, math, science, and other subjects, and they do it with passion, empathy, imagination, and a spirit of service,” Baesler said. “They embody the best qualities of the teaching profession.”

County award recipients are eligible to apply for state Teacher of the Year honors. The winner of the state Teacher of the Year award will be named in September.

Polum was named the 2022-2023 Grand Forks Public Schools Teacher of the Year on April 13.

Polum began her career with Grand Forks Public Schools in 1994. Throughout her career, Polum has taught 6th grade at Schroeder and South middle schools, along with teaching at Valley Middle School and Ben Franklin Elementary School.

“She has taught all the core subjects: science, social studies, math, reading, and English Language Arts (ELA). She has mastered the curriculum for all 6th grade core content areas and can seamlessly transition from one subject to another, often based on the needs and strengths of her team,” said colleagues Angie McLean and Kelly Wilber in their nomination.

“Mrs. Polum builds genuine, caring, long-lasting relationships with students, families, and colleagues. Students know she loves and accepts them as they are while always keeping one eye on where they are headed and their potential for success. During conferences and meetings, families see her as an honest ally who will speak the truth lovingly but advocate for their child no matter how imperfect the child, family, or system may be. Colleagues ache with laughter after collaborating with her, but can also count on her to ask tough questions, pull her weight, and get the job done.”

Polum received a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota and a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas (Minn.). She has served as a team leader, participated in various district-level committees, and has overseen teacher candidates during her teaching career.

“Nikki has been an integral part of piloting and adopting a new curriculum this year by developing, implementing, and sharing prepared materials for other 6th grade ELA teachers at South and throughout the rest of the school system. She has an open door for any teacher to visit her classroom. She sets new teachers up for success by checking in on them often, answering their questions, inviting their input, and shouldering extra responsibility to ensure they do not become overburdened. There is always something to learn in Nikki’s classroom room: communicating clear goals, providing feedback, engaging students in cognitively-complex tasks, and expertly building a climate of acceptance and community in the learning environment. She is humble and accepting of others’ suggestions and consistently committed to self-improvement,” said McLean and Wilber.