Fargo South teacher named one of 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize

Leah Juelke is the only finalist from the U.S. The winner of the award will receive $1 million.

FARGO, N.D. — Teaching was not always the plan for Leah Juelke.

The 2001 Fargo South graduate attended NDSU on a nursing scholarship. Two years into college, she joined the Army National Guard as a medic.

It was there that she found her real calling.

“Having to train up all these new soldiers that came in, I really found a love in the training and the teaching and I realized I really like teaching,” said Juelke. “This is what I really want to do.”

That was over 15 years ago. Since then, she has built a teaching career that has spanned continents.

Now, the former North Dakota teacher of the year and Horace Mann Award recipient is one of 10 finalists up for the Global Teacher Prize.

“I think I am still in disbelief. It is a lot to process, but it is such a great honor,” said Juelke.

The award comes with a $1 million dollar prize. It’s given to an exceptional educator who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. Juelke is the only finalist from the U.S.

At Fargo South, Juelke has spent much of her time working with New American students. Early during her time there, she asked these students to write a story about their experience coming to the U.S.The English language arts teacher was moved by what followed.

“Reading these and just really learning about my students, I thought this has to be bigger. We have to share this in a larger capacity,” revealed Juelke.

That was how Journey to America was born.

The project pairs Juelke’s students at Fargo South with local college students as they write narratives about coming to this country. At the end of the project, the high school students are invited to both NDSU and Concordia College to read those stories out loud to others in the community. The stories are published and shared with teachers and classrooms around the U.S.

Juelke says the project not only allows teachers to learn how to educate students from other countries better, but it also creates a more open-minded and informed world.

“In our political climate right now and how things have been, I think a lot of education needs to take place within our community about the different and diverse populations,” said Juelke.

Winning the Global Teaching Prize would allow Juelke to take this idea even further.

If she were to receive the money, she plans on starting a foundation that would grant scholarships to immigrant and refugee students in North Dakota that hope to attend college for teaching.

The winner of the 2020 Global Teacher Prize will be announced in a virtual ceremony on December 3.


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