Greenvale Park Elementary School third-grade teacher MaryBeth Youngblut spent Monday getting her classroom ready for students’ arrival next week.
Youngblut, who is being recognized for 30 years of service with the district this year, enters the school year with a top honor: Teacher of the Year. She was selected earlier that day during a staff welcome back ceremony and appreciation breakfast at Northfield Middle School.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said of being named Teacher of the Year. “There are so many people that have been supportive of my journey as a teacher. I thanked a lot of them, but not everyone. It’s a huge honor, an honor that I know could go to many people in this district.”
In her address to fellow staff Monday morning, Youngblut thanked her husband, Paul, for his ready ear, support and engagement, along with her mother and father and siblings.
“They taught me how to be a good person, how to think outside the box, to appreciate music, how to have fun, that if you want to achieve something, you have to work hard to achieve it,” she said. “And to have courage and always keep going, even when your world is crumbling around you.”
She also thanked past and present colleagues at Greenvale Park Elementary.
“They are my second family,” she said.
Youngblut has worked under nine principals in her Greenvale career and spoke highly of the work current principal, Sam Richardson, is doing.
“He is such a dedicated, knowledgeable, kind, caring leader,” she said. “I’m hoping Sam is the principal that will be at the new Greenvale Park for many, many years, at least until I am done teaching.”
She also thanked the person who hired her, former Principal Bonnie Jean Flom.
A Waterloo, Iowa, native, Youngblut attended St. Catherine University for her undergraduate work and graduated with a communications theater degree. She worked for approximately 1½ years in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area as a freelance drama specialist before going back to school and earning her elementary education degree. She then spent two years in the Twin Cities before taking a job at Greenvale, where she has been ever since. Youngblut graduated from Hamline University with her master’s degree in literacy this summer.
“It’s been great,” she said of her career at Greenvale. “There are definitely those things that are challenging and frustrating, but overall, the past staff and the present staff at Greenvale are just outstanding to work with.”
Like most elementary teachers, Youngblut’s days include teaching a variety of subjects. The typical day for her and her students begins with a morning meeting, which centers around the importance of building community. They then have math, participate in literacy block instruction and go to recess and lunch. Youngblut’s instruction also includes writing and group time.
Youngblut believes in the importance of reading. She estimates there are more than 1,400 books in her classroom. She tells students it is important that they see themselves through the perspective of the book while appreciating the perspectives of others expressed through writing.
“It is a passion of mine to surround them with quality literature,” she said. “Last year was a year that I focused a lot on making sure that I had literature in my room that has diverse characters, not only from different races but also characters that may have a disability.”
She enjoys crafting lessons and fun things to do with her students. She admits sometimes looking at possible STEM activities for 1½ hours straight.
“I love working with kids,” Youngblut said.
To her, making students understand she is there for them is the No. 1 priority. She oversees students at recess, does goal setting with them at the beginning of the year and plans for the school’s evening of the arts.
“I want them to feel like I care, that I treat them fairly, that I am interested in them and I know who they are as an individual,” she said. “And I want them to feel like this is a safe place where they can trust me but also feel a part of the community that I build in the classroom.”
Northfield Superintendent Matt Hillmann described Youngblut as an extraordinary teacher who is committed to helping students. He said she has almost become synonymous with Greenvale Park Elementary.
“We are so proud that she was selected for the top,” he said.