The reluctant teacher of the year

Of all the “teachers of the year” who’ve been named since I moved to Minnesota in the last century, Carleen Gulstad stood out more than any other, mostly because of the credit she gave her brother at the luncheon honoring her last month. Her brother killed himself when she was 15.

“He was an amazing teacher for me, and taught me about the glaciers and lakes and rocks and all that,” Gulstad said. “He took me for walks. He taught me to read, he taught me to love music. And I wanted to carry on his work in teaching. And also, he was a guy that needed somebody to be there for him. And I wanted to be that teacher, to be there for some other kids.”

“Because he was the kind of kid who struggled (with depression) and because he was a loner, I think about those kind of kids a lot. So a part of my teaching is to reach out to those kids, too, and to let them know that there’s somebody there for them,” she told MPR’s Gary Eichten the next day.

Gulstad has resigned her title “for personal reasons.”

During her appearance on MPR’s Midday, Gulstad seemed reluctant to talk about the politics that surrounds teaching. Questioned by a listener, she shied away — mostly — from the question of teacher salaries, and put emphasis instead on mentoring programs for teachers, saying that young teachers leave the profession because they feel alone.

She also displayed a neat insight into kids. “Kids are kids,” she said, “but now they’re developing in a world that’s moving faster than ever.”

A replacement will be named soon. Presumably they’ll come from the other finalists: Joe Beattie of Hastings High School; Rose Regan, Pine Bend Elementary School; Diane Weiher, Lake Harriet Community School; John Bade, Northfield Middle School; Julie Buryska, Wilson Elementary School (Northfield) ; Gordon Westendorf, Proctor High School; Steve Brehmer, Mayo High School; Lynne Meyer, Greenleaf Elementary School (Rosemount area) and Derek Olson, Afton-Lakeland Elementary School.

  • Minn Whaler

    I truly admire Ms. Gulstad’s actions. Whatever her personal reasons may be, the message I receive is that she is a teacher for all the right reasons, i.e. the kids she teaches, for the love of the job and for her commitment to work in the memory of her brother. I imagine her rewards come daily, some weekly, and some may not come for years, until a child who makes it comes back to tell her they wouldn’t have if not for her. In saying this I don’t mean to take away from the award program in anyway and I don’t believe she did either. Sometimes it is harder to do your job when you may also be watched and/or judged under the shadow of an award such as “Teacher of the Year”, especially when you are one of the youngest of your co-workers.

  • Lily

    I admire this woman for the courage to talk about her brother and to step down, whatvever the reason be….

    Please note that she is also a Concorida CollegeMoorhead graduate. Anyone who reads their mission statement will know that they produce a different breed of professional. She is an amazing woman, teacher, and mentor to many.

  • sonya

    Ms. Gulstad is my English teacher and she is really good! When we read a book, she makes sure that we have good backround information before consuming the whole story. We always play fun activities to stimulate the mind and keep us from drifting into sleep. She explained to our class her personal reasons of declining the award, and they made perfect sense.

    I just want everybody out there to hear a review, first handed, from a student who sees her practically everyday, that she is AWESOME!