Shakopee teacher named Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Kelly Holstine, an English teacher and founding member at Tokata Learning Center in Shakopee, was humbled to learn she had been chosen as Education Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year. The announcement was made Sunday afternoon inside the Raddison Blu at the Mall of America during Education Minnesota’s 54th annual program.

“Every single kid matters, that’s so important to me,” said Holstine. “You get these kids and sometimes they’re scared, or they’ve been hurt. Or they have stuff going on at home, stuff that’s happened to them that’s outside of their control—chemical dependency, mental health issues. All of these things that happen to these kids that they didn’t plan for and they get to school and they’re supposed to learn?” 

To make sure her students do learn, Holstine leads with relational mindfulness. 

“I get up every morning and think of the ways that I want to connect with kids,” she said. 

After exploring careers in media and social services Holstine earned her master’s degree at Augsburg College and has taught 9th through 12th grade for the past 11 years. 

In one of her responses to questions posed by the Education Minnesota panel, she explained her teaching practice: 

In Holstine’s classroom, students have a voice and a choice. As they crack open the books, she validates their feelings to help heighten their empathy for themselves and others. 

“I walk into the classroom and ask the kids what they need to try to get it for them,” Holstine said of her daily routine at school. 

Holstine’s knack for making young people feel emotionally, physically and intellectually secure is why she’s now Minnesota Teacher of the Year. 

“I want to be a better teacher every day,” she said. 

As Teacher of the Year, Holstine will also be an ambassador. She plans to change the narrative around alternative learning centers across the nation. 

“I want to help people understand that these students are amazing and sometimes they might just need a little bit of extra love, extra patience, a little bit of extra understanding,” she said. “Once they get that, then they can flourish and blossom, find their voices and excel and learn!” 

Holstine was chosen from an initial pool of 167 candidates and 12 finalists. 

Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education will nominate Holstine for the National Teacher of the Year program.

The national program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.