Rob Anderson started his career as a furniture salesman but ended up close to 40 years later as Minot Education Association's Teacher of the Year.
Anderson, who is the arts in the schools coordinator for Minot Public Schools, said he started out studying art and physical education at Minot State University, but decided he didn't particularly want to coach sports. As he started selling furniture, his wife, Diane, and one of his friends started their own careers as teachers. That got the attention of Anderson, who has always loved kids and enjoyed working with people.
He began thinking, "Maybe I should be a teacher."
Andrea Johnson/MDN •
Rob Anderson is the Minot Education Association’s Teacher of the Year for 2008.
Anderson grew up in New Rockford and moved to Minot in the late 1960s to study at MSU. He received his undergraduate degree from MSU and eventually embarked on his teaching career, at South Prairie and later at Sunnyside Elementary, where he taught for close to 20 years and always incorporated his love of the arts in the curriculum. For close to 10 years, his students put on an original opera production, writing and performing and setting up the stage set.
"That was such an exciting project for the kids," said Anderson.
Along the way Anderson also obtained a master's degree from MSU.
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Anderson said he helped write the job description for the arts in the schools position, which he ended up taking about six years ago. The position has allowed him to share his love of the arts with youngsters in the same way he shared it with his students when they performed in operas. Many of the theater exercises he does with students in the school district are like those he used with the opera. He exposes children to the various arts, such as theater, storytelling, movement, painting, and some music, though he said he does less with music because the schools have regular music programs.
Even though he now works with many students at many different schools, Anderson said he's still a regular teacher. The thrill for him is seeing the blossoming of a child who is expressing himself creatively. Anderson plans to start out this school year with lessons in painting. He tells his young students that art is all about communication and he wants them to share their creations. If a piece of artwork is shoved into a desk drawer without being shared, its message doesn't get out, he said.
Anderson said he thinks art as a subject has tended to get lost in the shuffle in the age of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which places an emphasis on improving reading and mathematics and skills in other "core subjects." But Anderson said the Minot Public School Board and the administration of the Minot Public Schools "genuinely value the arts." Here, art is an important subject. Kids have different learning styles and interests and art is one of the areas where children can shine, he said.
Anderson said he's honored to be named teacher of the year and is especially honored to be held up as an example for other teachers. However, he said the district has many strong teachers. The award gives the MEA a chance to put a spotlight on the profession as a whole.
All three of Anderson's children have also gone into the family business; one daughter is a Title I reading teacher, his son is an educator, and his other daughter is pursuing an education degree and will be student teaching soon. Anderson said he could see the signs early, from the time one of his children was a 5-year-old. "She just was a teacher," he said. He thinks the oldest of his four grandchildren has what it takes to be a teacher as well.
He's glad that he decided not to remain a furniture salesman.
"I can't imagine myself doing anything else," he said.