Jim Hill Middle School math teacher Todd Magnuson saw first hand just how much some people dislike math when he worked in the tire department at Westlie Motor Co.
Magnuson, who was named the Minot Wal-Mart store's Teacher of the Year on Tuesday, said he used to watch as some of his customers at Westlie's would struggle with the math as they figured out their bills or tried to decide how much to spend on a new set of tires. Magnuson himself has always liked working with numbers, which he did a lot when he was assistant manager at the auto dealership. So, when it was time for him to go back to school, Magnuson decided he'd like to be a teacher.
"I just needed to make a difference in some people's lives," said Magnuson, who has taught for 17 years.
Andrea Johnson/MDN •
Todd Magnuson, left, accepts his teacher of the year award from Wal-Mart store manager Dave Bussard at Jim Hill Middle School in Minot Tuesday.
Magnuson attended Minot State University, where he graduated in 1992. He had delayed his own college education until his wife, Marlys, had a chance to finish hers. He started out teaching math at Surrey High School, where he had attended school. He taught there for 11 years before he took a position at Jim Hill Middle School, where he's been ever since.
He tries to help his middle school students develop the same liking he has for math.
"I try to alleviate their fear of math by starting out simple and building on the simple things," he said.
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Magnuson uses a lot of technology, such as the interactive white board in his classroom, when he teaches math.
"Todd Magnuson is a dynamic and outstanding educator," said Jim Hill principal Cindy Mau. "He provides each student with a structured and step-by-step approach that guides students to a rich understanding of mathematical concepts. He continually strives to increase involvement of his students and is a master on the new smartboards in our district. He spends literally hundreds of extra hours a year to build new lessons for students to better understand his subject. He holds students to high expectations and raises the bar in education. His inherent desire to teach, coupled with his rich character and integrity, make him an exemplary educator."
His students also participate in extracurriculars like the Math Track Meet and MathCounts. Some of his students come into the class with a distaste for math, but Magnuson's own enthusiasm for the subject helps them start to enjoy it.
Magnuson's daughter Sarah, who attends Minot State University, plans to become a math teacher as well. She sometimes helped him out in the classroom, which may have gotten her interested in math as a career, he said.
His son, who attends Minot High School-Central Campus, had him as a teacher when he was at Jim Hill. Magnuson said that went better than he expected. His son and his classmates all handled it pretty well, he said.
His wife and kids did a pretty good job of keeping his big award a secret even from him, said Magnuson. When the awards were announced at a school assembly, Magnuson and other teachers were chatting, wondering who had won the teacher of the year award. His wife and kids sneaked into the gymnasium unnoticed.
"Then all of a sudden my name was announced," he said. "I was totally stunned."
As part of the award, Jim Hill will receive a $1,000 award and Magnuson will get a $100 gift certificate to buy supplies for his classroom. Magnuson said he wants to use the money to buy a few extra calculators and other supplies for his classroom.
Magnuson was nominated for the teacher of the year award by the school. Wal-Mart gives the award every year to a teacher who teaches within a 90-mile radius of its store. Last year's teacher of the year was also from Jim Hill.