Stacy Lundquist and her husband, Jeff, had just about had it with city life.
A five-year employee of the South St. Paul schools as a Title I coordinator, and with a young and growing family, Lundquist and her husband decided to return to their hometown of Battle Lake, where the two were high school sweethearts years ago.
Lundquist received her master's in educational leadership from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2007. She is one of 34 semifinalists for the 2012 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award.
"We had young children, and we wanted them to go to school here," she said. "We were ready to move back. My husband always wanted to. It was time."
Jeff, fortunately, was able to make the move without any disruption to his job as a Delta pilot. Stacy teaches fifth- and sixth-grade math in the Battle Lake Elementary School.
Battle Lake has a school that houses all grades, K-12, said Lundquist. There are 460 students in the school.
Her mother was a preschool teacher, and she knew from the fourth grade that a career in education was in her future.
"It's a calling," she said. "Every day you are given the chance to make a difference."
She's been teaching for 10 years in Battle Lake, a community of 875 located on the western edge of West Battle Lake. She graduated from the high school there, and received her elementary education degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
It was a big commitment when she decided to pursue her master's through SMSU. She was part of a cohort group that met in Fergus Falls one weekend per month for two years. "It was very intense," she said. "Those were full days. I don't know how (education professor) Sharon Kabes put up with me. There is a gal I did it with who works across the hall from me, and a couple of times we would lose it, but I have no regrets.
"I was at a point in my career where I was looking for new ideas and validation in a lot of the things I was doing, and the master's program fit that need. It was especially nice having it set up in a learning community format. It's so convenient, it worked in with my schedule. I would not have tackled it otherwise."
In college, she wrote a paper about how computers will change our lives.
"I pulled it out the other day and I laughed," she said. "I was optimistic in saying that every student would have one (in school). We don't yet, but it's coming. It's made teaching easier, it's a more visual way to show students things, and makes it easier for visual learners, and it makes things more interesting."
Her school was named a 2011 National Blue Ribbon School this past fall.
"You're nominated by the state," she said. "There were just eight schools in our state that were named a Blue Ribbon School," she said of the honor, bestowed by the U.S. Department of Education.
Of the 13 elementary school teachers in Battle Lake, seven have received a master's degree in education from SMSU, she said.
Lundquist is proud to be nominated for the 2012 state Teacher of the Year honor. The list of 35 semifinalists will be pared down to 10 by the end of the month. She credits her master's degree from SMSU with making her a better teacher.
"It gave me confidence, helped me become more assertive," she said. "I have a deeper understanding of things now, and it's fun to be able to say 'Research shows that ' because I've been a part of that research. It also validated my thinking and made me more proactive in getting that into my classroom."
Like all good teachers, she believes you have to have a passion for the classroom to be successful. "If you have the passion, you'll find a way to do it, you'll enjoy your job, especially if you enjoy children."