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Community helps teacher reach full potential

Bill Knutson (center) poses with his award while surrounded by his fourth-grade students, as well as (from left) Carol Nelson, Phil Nelson and Jamie Knutson. Carol and Phil Nelson are Senior Tax Exchange Program helpers who help tutor the students in math and reading. (Photo by Jordan Willi)

Back in late September, Hillside Elementary fourth­-grade teacher William Knutson was one of three St. Mary’s University of Minnesota faculty members to be honored with the Brother Julius Winkler Adjunct Faculty Recognition Award for 2013.

Knutson, who has been teaching at St. Mary’s University for 14 years, was chosen for the award based upon peer recommendations, student evaluations and his excellence in preparation and delivery.

Although he was honored and happy to accept the award, Knutson felt that he could never have accom­plished any of it without the support of the community where he grew up.

“If it wasn’t for the experi­ences that I had as a member of the New Richmond area community, I would never have taught, gone to St. Mary’s and taken the risk to teach there,” Knutson said. “Now, I’m just humbled that I’m being recognized for being an outstanding adjunct instructor.”

Over his 18 year teaching career, Knutson has taught primarily in the New Richmond and Somerset area. Four years into his teaching career, Knutson decided to take a risk and teach as an adjunct at St. Mary’s, where he is an instructor in the Masters of Teaching and Learning program.

“I teach one weekend day a month at St. Mary’s face-to­face and then the rest of the work is done online, which is called a blended program,” Knutson said. “I instruct the Masters in Teaching and Learning courses at St. Mary’s, which includes cours­es on instruction, assessment and classroom management. It is really a whole gambit of courses.”

At this point in his career, Knutson has found a balance between his two teaching jobs and feels like the two mesh together very well.

“Being a teacher here in New Richmond and at St. Mary’s really complements each other because when working with teachers at St. Mary’s I’m learning ideas and learning with them while also being exposed to the latest theories,” Knutson said. “Having the opportunity to work with kids in the school district and adults there is a nice blend for me.”

Despite his success and winning a prestigious award, Knutson is quick to make people aware that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of the many mentors and friends he has had throughout his life while liv­ing in New Richmond.

“What led me into teaching at both schools is really the New Richmond community, because they supported me so much over the years,” Knutson said. “I grew up in New Richmond. I graduated from New Richmond and I’ve just been inspired by the gen­erosity of this community. And that generosity made me want to give more back and try to help other educators.”

Knutson also credited the level of innovation that he sees in the New Richmond community as another reason why he has been able to teach both at Hillside and St. Mary’s for the last 14 years without losing interest or the drive to teach.

“Instead of people in the community complaining, they are doers. That has rubbed off on me as I’ve seen so many mentors in this community go out and do innovative things,” Knutson said. “If it was just about this award I wouldn’t really want to be interviewed, but I wanted to be able to rec­ognize the community we have here in New Richmond and how that leads people to be the best they can be.”

As much credit as Knutson gives to the community for his success, he also recog­nizes that the students he teaches, both at the elemen­tary and college level, havetaught him more than he could ever have imagined or learned in any classroom.

“I learn more from my stu­dents, I feel like at times, than they do from me,” Knutson said. “The high expectations that we have for the students in this community, as well as at St. Mary’s, and the talents of our students and the involvement of the parents is really impressive and inspires me.”

Above all else, Knutson is happy to have been born and raised in New Richmond as well as get the opportunity to raise his own children here. In Knutson’s eyes, the commu­nity has shaped him into the man and teacher he is today, and without the community’s support he wouldn’t have been able to do half of what he has so far in his life.

“It is where I raised my kids and it is really a great place to work,” Knutson said. “Having the opportunity to teach in the New Richmond area gave me the confidence to try college. When I tried it, it was a two-year contract and I didn’t know if it was going to last. But now I am in my 14th year.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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