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NDSU recognizes area educators for supporting access to higher education

Published April 28, 2014

Five North Dakota and Minnesota high school educators have received Distinguished Education Professional awards from North Dakota State University. The honor recognizes area educators who are advocates for access to higher education and who work effectively with the NDSU Office of Admission.

“These educators have a vital role supporting and promoting access to higher education, which is an important part of NDSU’s land-grant mission,” said NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani. “Their expertise on college and university programs and resources helps students explore their options and realize their full potential. We want to acknowledge their dedication to their students and their professionalism as they work with representatives from NDSU.”

The recipients were nominated by NDSU Office of Admission staff based on leadership, commitment and excellence in supporting access to higher education and support of NDSU’s recruiting efforts.

The Distinguished Education Professionals were honored at an award ceremony at NDSU on April 25. During their two-day campus visit, each honoree chose a student from their high school to receive an NDSU textbook scholarship.

2014 Distinguished Education Professionals are:

Leanne Benes, Beach High School, Beach, N.D.

Benes has served as the counselor at Beach High School for 16 years and has enjoyed a 26-year career in education, which includes 10 years at schools in Winifred, Mont.

“There is never a dull moment with kids. They are so full of energy and life that it is just fun to be around them,” said Benes, who encourages students to keep their options open and find work that makes them happy. “At Beach High School, we have students in grades 7-12 and it's great watching them grow into young adults. It's amazing what we can actually learn from them when we take the time to listen. They are our future and they have some wonderful ideas and dreams.”

Benes earned her bachelor’s degree in home economics education from Montana State University and her master’s degree in counseling and career development from MSU-Northern. She also holds a career and technical credential from Valley City State University, Valley City, N.D.

Vanessa Boehm, Fargo Davies High School, Fargo, N.D.

Boehm has served as the Ronald N. Davies High School counselor for three years and has worked in education for a total of 23 years. She encourages students considering college to do research on the institution’s size, its community, activities on campus, size of classes, the majors offered and what best fits their budget.

“I love being a school counselor. Every day is something new and different,” said Boehm, who encourages students to carefully weigh options when it comes to college. “It is so fun to come to school each day and talk with students, hearing about their successes as they do well in classes, make decisions for their futures and apply for higher education and scholarships. I also enjoy talking with students and helping them to find ways to be more successful when they are struggling. Seeing every student walk across the stage to accept their diploma is always a highlight of the year and a very proud moment.”

She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in counseling and guidance at NDSU.

Yvonne Engelhart, Wishek Public School, Wishek, N.D.

Engelhart is the 7-12 principal and K-12 counselor at Wishek Public School, a position she has held for five years. Her message to students is to choose a career path that makes them happy and it’s OK to change their minds.

“No two days are alike,” she said of her 26-year career in education. “I enjoy seeing the students get excited about their education and their potential jobs. (I enjoy) encouraging students to push themselves beyond their comfort level to achieve their goals. Our school is small so I get to see students grow from elementary up to high school. You see how easily their career choices can change as they get older – you see them grow from children into young adults.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Northern State University, Aberdeen, S.D., and her master’s degree in secondary and elementary administration from the University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.

Richard Kangas, dean of student and administrative services, Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids, Minn.

Kangas has enjoyed a 19-year career in education and moved into his current position nine months ago. He strives to ensure that every student feels genuine value in the experience as they pursue educational, personal and professional goals.

“I often explain to students that it is unlikely they will awake one morning and have had this incredible dream and know exactly what they should do with the rest of their lives. Career exploration is a series of well thought out and intentional experiences that guide them toward the best educational and career choices,” Kangas said. “I encourage all students considering a college to take the time to visit the geographic location of the college, take a tour and visit with their program of interest to ensure that each will provide them with the best fit.”

Kangas earned an associate degree from Rainy River Community College, International Falls, Minn.; a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Bemidji State University, Bemidji, Minn.; and his master’s degree in counseling and psychological services at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Winona, Minn.

Thomas McIver, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Public Schools, Walker, Minn.

McIver, academic dean of students at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Public Schools, has worked in education for 24 years. He says his top concern is what is best for the students, noting sometimes they need to be challenged to think differently in order to gain new insights.

“I enjoy the fact that every student is unique. Helping to unlock the potential of each student brings variety and optimism to each day,” said McIver, noting each student’s plan for post-high school is different. “My job is to help students find solutions to the challenges they experience and assist them in making the best choice for their situation. If students and faculty play their respective roles well, students walk down the aisle at the graduation ceremony prepared for success at the next level, whatever that may be.”

McIver, who has been in his current position for four years, was a German and social studies teacher from 1998-2010. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, Morris, and his graduate studies came at St. Cloud State University and the University of St. Thomas.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.


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