Rochester teacher makes history as ‘Minnesota Teacher of the Year’

(ABC 6 News) – A Rochester teacher from Century High School has made history. Natalia Benjamin is the 2021 Minnesota Teacher of the Year and is the first from the Rochester district and the first Latinx teacher to receive this award.

"I’m just very excited again to highlight the work that Rochester educators do. There are so many amazing educators across the whole spectrum," Benjamin said.

Benjamin says she was not expecting this honor.

"No, no not at all. All the finalists are just great, amazing educators. I’m just happy to bring their voices with me and just to share what we think education needs to do as we move forward in a year post-pandemic," Benjamin said.

"You know, I’ve been here about a month and in the first week, I started hearing about Natalia," Supt. Kent Pekel said.

Dr. Kent Pekel, new Interim Superintendent for Rochester Public Schools is excited about what this means for the school district.

"I hope also that it lets people in this community know that kind of amazing educators we have at not only Century High School but in Rochester Public Schools," Pekel said.

Benjamin is being recognized throughout the state of Minnesota for the hard work that she does as an English Learner and Ethnic Studies teacher.

"There is a unique power to teacher leaders who are directly still in the classroom working with kids but who have the chance to help lead. And she’s definitely done that with our Employee’s of Color research group, she’s done it on curricular issues, she’s done it on community issues," Pekel said. "I think she’s helping to kind of paint a picture of where our district can head and needs to head."

As Minnesota Teacher of the Year, Natalia Benjamin still gets to stay in the classroom doing what she loves.

"So that’s exciting, that’s the reason why I became a teacher so staying in the classroom is important to me and I get to do that," Benjamin said.