As she was coordinating a special presentation fair for her students, Opal Ehalt was already prepared for a busy day at Broadway High School in south Minneapolis on Friday, April 26. However, it’s safe to say that she wasn’t expecting to welcome a television crew from FOX 9 — or the accolades that would accompany the visit.
Ehalt, who lives in Waconia, learned she is one of nine recipients of the 2013 FOX 9 Top Teacher Award, which recognizes local outstanding educators in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities.
“When FOX 9 showed up, I was like, ‘oh, my gosh, what’s happened?’” said Ehalt, an English teacher who has taught at Broadway, which is part of the Minneapolis Public Schools TAPP (Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting) Program, since 1999. “It was fun. The students were so excited and I was really surprised.”
As a FOX 9 Top Teacher, Ehalt received $900 from Control Credit Union for classroom supplies, a Subway sandwich party for 100 friends and a crystal apple to put on her desk. FOX 9 anchor Heidi Collins was part of the FOX 9 team that surprised Ehalt at the school on April 26.
According to the co-worker who nominated her, Ehalt does “an amazing job teaching and mentoring some of the most vulnerable and at-risk students in the state, and she does so while continually maintaining a positive attitude and a warm smile.” The nominator wrote about Ehalt’s “positive and influential presence in the lives” of her students and said Ehalt’s dedication to Broadway makes her “a cornerstone of the school.”
Ehalt’s story aired on KMSP FOX 9 on April 26 and will be included in the FOX 9 Top Teacher Special Community Program that will air at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 14 and Friday, July 5. One can view FOX 9’s visit to the school at www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/22088120/top-teacher-opal-ehalt.
Ehalt was honored to receive the award and appreciative that FOX 9 takes the time to honor area teachers.
“It’s nice to see them honoring the profession and giving people the chance to nominate teachers,” she said. “It’s nice to highlight and celebrate our accomplishments at Broadway. It’s an added honor to have a co-worker nominate me. They see you at your worst and at your best.”
At Broadway, students are prepared for graduation, college and careers through a project-based, personalized learning program that includes online classes and working with teachers on a rotating basis. The school also runs a respected childcare center that works with the children to prepare them for kindergarten.
In addition to being an English teacher, Ehalt helps run the school store, organizes prom and oversees the yearbook. One of her main duties is a special assignment where she coaches teachers and staff about the school’s continuous learning model so it adheres to the perimeters of No Child Left Behind.
“I love the creativity of our program,” said Ehalt, who said she has always wanted to work at an alternative learning center such as Broadway, which was her first job out of college. “Despite the hardships and struggles of being a young mom, I love the hope the students have and how motivated they are. A lot times, they come to us, newly pregnant. We walk them through it to the end of the journey. A lot of alternative programs and schools that deal with at-risk students tend to remediate but our goal is to give equal access to these young moms and to have high expectations, and provide a quality education for them.”
Ehalt often stays in touch with her students after they graduate from Broadway.
When she’s not teaching at Broadway, Ehalt enjoys spending time with her family — husband Eric and their children Adrik and Soleil — and gardening and spending time outdoors.
Eric was proud that his wife was recognized for her work at the school.
“Opal shows an amazing amount of dedication and passion to teaching and education,” he said. “She is constantly thinking of new ideas and ways to better the lessons, the schools, and the educational techniques.”
Ehalt is the second teacher with Waconia ties to be honored as a FOX 9 Top Teacher in recent years. Jamie Langer, an eighth grade language arts teacher and coach at Clearwater Middle School, received the award in 2012.
Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]