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This award adds up: Longtime math teacher Hewitt named Bemidji Teacher of the Year

Bemidji High School math teacher Terry Hewitt received the 2018 Teacher of the Year Award from the Bemidji Education Association. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—A Bemidji High School math teacher is Bemidji Area Schools' teacher of the year.

The Bemidji Education Association named Terry Hewitt its Teacher of the Year at its annual all-faculty gathering Wednesday.

Hewitt's taught high school math in Bemidji since the mid-80s. He pushed for AP classes at the high school in the early 90s and founded its math league team—and the impetus for both was to help his students stay competitive.

He noticed that BHS teams struggled against their counterparts from Hibbing High School at an annual math competition at BSU. The Iron Range school had a math league team and Bemidji didn't, Hewitt said, which meant students there had a big advantage. So he formed a math league team here in the early 90s that's grown to routinely boast 40-50 members each school year and perennially compete at Minnesota state tournaments.

The rationale was similar for AP calculus at the high school: recent graduates said some of their college classmates had already learned calculus in high school and earned college credits for it.

"And I thought, 'Well those other high schools don't have anything over us. We could do that here,'" Hewitt told the Pioneer. "So I talked our administration in letting me start an advanced placement class so that these students could have the same advantages of some of the other high schools."

Hewitt said math appeals to him because he likes solving problems without a readily apparent solution.

"It appeals to me to see the facial expression of kids in my class that discover the same thing," he said. "All of a sudden they discover an approach that will work to solve a problem. And so whether it's in math league or whether it's in my math classroom, there's a certain amount of enjoyment that I get out of seeing students achieve something that they might not have thought at first that they could get."

And teaching is in Hewitt's blood. His father was a longtime math teacher at Coon Rapids High School, and his uncle parlayed a math doctorate into a community college teaching position. Hewitt's daughter is set to start her own math teaching career at Blaine High School next week.

Hewitt said he partly dedicated the Teacher of the Year award to his father, who passed away 2½ years ago. At the funeral, mourners told Hewitt his father was a terrific teacher.

"I kinda dedicate this award to him knowing that he never received one, but there's so many people that are good teachers that never get an opportunity to say, 'Oh, you're the Teacher of the Year,'" Hewitt said. "And yet they do a terrific job each and every day of their career."

Beyond the recognition for Hewitt, the teachers union on Wednesday named Shawn Davis, a paraprofessional at Lumberjack High School, their Support Professional of the Year. Paulette Liedl, a volunteer for the school district's McKinny Vento program, and Ginny MacKinnon, a reading volunteer at Northern Elementary, were named Lay Educators of the Year.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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