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As a physical education teacher at Evergreen Park World Studies School in Brooklyn Center, and Oxbow Creek Elementary School in Champlin, Joyce Spehar's class motto for her student is, "You are the best of the best." As one of the 10 winners of an Anoka-Hennepin School District "2012 Above & Beyond Award," Spehar can also claim that for herself.
Spehar, who grew up in Duluth and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1978, is one of 10 school district staff to receive an award. The largest school district in Minnesota, Anoka-Hennepin has about 6,000 employees.
Spehar was nominated by Karlyn Bolander, a co-worker at EGP. Bolander said Spehar has a very close relationship with her "noodles" (students), genuinely cares for them and has high expectations for all.
Bolander said Spehar has changed the track and field day to accommodate students' learning styles. Always ready with an encouraging word and an amazing, mentor to all, Bolander said Spehar is the most selfless teacher she knows.
Through her life, Spehar said she's been fortunate to have inspirational people in her life, such as her parents, who taught her kindness, compassion and how to empower others.
Spehar lives these lessons by building positive relationships with her students and their families. Whether checking in with students both inside and outside of class, or calling a parent or guardian to praise their student's work ethic or great attitude, she works to build trust through open communication.
An all-conference volleyball and track athlete who competed at the collegiate level for UW-Superior, Spehar knew early on she wanted to be a physical education teacher because she loves sports and kids.
She started her career teaching and coaching at the middle and high school levels. While working for the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Spehar made the change to teaching elementary students and didn't look back. A teacher at a number of elementary schools in the district, Spehar said teaching at EGP for the past 23 years has been a real privilege and she appreciates what she has learned during that time.
"I feel so fortunate and blessed to be working with such wonderful students and staff," Spehar said. "My job, from the heart, is to help students succeed, to let them know I sincerely care for their well-being and that I will not give up on them. I teach my students to do their best and be proud of what they do, while inspiring them to reach their full potential."
When Spehar learned she had won an Above & Beyond Award her first thoughts were of her mother who recently passed away.
"I thought, 'Hey mom, I did it,' " said Spehar. "I'd like to thank my parents for their support and encouragement over the years as I've taught. I'd also like to thank my twin sister, Joan, who teaches physical education at Champlin Park High School, for being an outstanding role model for me. She deserves this award just as much as I do."
(Submitted by the Anoka-Hennepin County School District)
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