Robbinsdale Area Schools

RTC’s Jenny Peterson a semifinalist for 2024 Minnesota Teacher of the Year

RTC’s Jenny Peterson a semifinalist for 2024 Minnesota Teacher of the Year

When Jenny Peterson learned she was in the running to be named Minnesota’s top teacher for 2024, she was shocked. Her first thought was that she knew so many teachers deserving of a recognition like this.

Peterson teaches Money for Independent Living, and Habits for Wellness/Cooking at the Robbinsdale Transition Center (RTC), a program for students aged 18-21. RTC works with students with disabilities and focuses on post-secondary education and training, employment and independent living.

“I am honored to be recognized,” she said. “I can't believe this is my job, I get to teach really meaningful life skills every day.”

Peterson started her teaching career as an English teacher with St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) and then with Minneapolis Public Schools. After working with students with disabilities related to self regulation, she went back to school for Special Education and a certification in Emotional Behavioral Disturbance. Peterson returned to SPPS, then worked in St. Michael/Albertville schools before coming to Rdale in 2017.

Tracy Ogren, a special education supervisor said she isn’t surprised by the nomination.

“(Pederson) does what all special educators should do,” Ogren said. “She focuses on student strengths, empowers students to advocate for themselves, and believes that all our students can live their best lives.” 

Peterson said she’s thankful to have a job she loves, and she considers herself a successful educator because of the willingness to go out of her way to build relationships. “Students don't want to learn from you if they don't have a relationship with you.” 

“I want students to want to come to my class so I put relationships first.”

In January, it was announced that Peterson, as well as Robbinsdale Academy Highview English teacher, Chad Olsen and Cooper Performing Arts teacher, Gretchen Wurzer-Palm, were among the candidates for the teacher of the year award. 

Nominees include teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade and adult basic education, from public and private schools. The recognition program is organized by Education Minnesota, the state’s 70,000-member teacher union.

Moving forward, a panel will review all semifinalist portfolios and video submissions, and then select approximately 10 finalists. On May 5, this year’s state Teacher of the Year will be announced during a ceremony at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

Read more about the award and see the full list of semifinalists at the Education Minnesota website.