Drescher is BEA Teacher of the Year
Donna Drescher was named the Blue Earth Area Teacher of the Year on Wednesday, April 22.
Drescher, who just completed her 17th year at BEA, is an English Language Development teacher. She is married to Dave Drescher, who is the pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Blue Earth.
The Teacher of the Year award is normally one part of a reception which also honors all of the BEA teachers who are retiring at the end of the school year.
But, in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, the award was announced via YouTube this year.
In addition to Drescher, the other nominees were Kristin Johnson and Tom Plocker.
“It is very humbling to receive this honor,” Drescher says. “I have always felt I was just one cog in the system of really great educators at BEA.”
Drescher grew up just south of the Minnesota border and graduated from high school in Estherville, Iowa. She received an education degree from Crown College in St. Bonifacius and achieved her master’s degree at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She then furthered her education at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
“I was actually a stay-at-home mom when my first husband died unexpectedly in 1994. He was also a pastor,” Drescher explains. “I was left with five children, between the ages of two and 15, to support and raise.”
Armed with her teaching degree, she renewed her teaching license and did substitute teaching for two years while working on her master’s degree.
“I was encouraged by a friend to apply for an opening as an ESL teacher,” Drescher shares. “When I started teaching ESL, I had a lot of friends who questioned me. They thought ESL would go away.”
That was over 20 years ago and Drescher has had the opportunity to teach many students in that time.
“One common assumption is I must know how to speak Spanish or other foreign languages to be able to teach these kids English,” Drescher remarks. “And while I certainly know more Spanish words than I did when I began teaching, I do not know the language.”
The students she teaches are known as new-comers or new immigrants, according to Drescher.
“One of the joys in teaching these diverse students is they are comfortable being in a multi-age setting,” Drescher comments, “It is a one-room school house approach where I may have students from many different grade levels in the same group.”
The goal, Drescher shares, is for the students to meet standards in four areas, listening, speaking, reading and writing.
“It takes an average of five to seven years for non-English speaking students to become proficient in English where they can function without my help,” she says. “But, I have had some who have only needed three years and others who have taken 11-12 years. Their success can depend a lot on their home setting and their motivation.”
But her joy does not come just from teaching her students.
“All these children are unique and their needs are unique,” Drescher says. “But I not only get to know the kids, I get to know their families, also.”
And it may be a testament to the teacher-student relationship in what happens when the students meet the requirements and “graduate” from her class.
“The students feel sad when they pass the test,” Drescher explains. “They ask, ‘Does this mean I can’t come and see you anymore?'”
Drescher says she assures her students they are always welcome to get in touch with her.
And they do.
“Since being honored with the Teacher of the Year I have heard from a former student who now lives in California and operates his own business,” Drescher says.
Former students have also left comments on YouTube for their former teacher.
One student wrote thanking her teacher, “When I got to the United States, I didn’t read, write and understand English at all. Mrs. Drescher had the patience to teach me how to read, write and how to pronounce words in English. She believed in me when I didn’t. She is a kind and wonderful woman and she is a wonderful teacher.”
Maybe it is fitting she got the award this year because had the reception been held like it normally was, Drescher also would have been recognized as one of the teachers who is retiring this year.
“It is kind of a strange way to end my final year with the children not in school,” Drescher relates. “But the Minnesota Department of Education hit the ground running and had a statewide EL meeting. The number one priority was checking the students’ well-being.”
And though she wishes she could have spent the last weeks of the school year in the classroom with her students, Drescher says she is thankful for the ability to still connect with the kids.
“We are very fortunate at BEA to be able to have one-on-one contact with the students whether it is through Zoom or other means,” Drescher comments. “We are still able to communicate and talk about the language and I am still able to work with my students.”
And, she is not the only one in the family who is retiring.
“My husband Dave is also retiring. We were both widows when we married in 2003 and we brought two families together,” Drescher comments. “Dave had four children and I had five so we had a bonus family of nine children.”
And she says spending more time with their children and grandchildren is one of their goals heading into retirement.
“We are going back to our roots,” she offers. “We plan on moving to Sheboygan. It is where we each spent a lot of time and we have family in the area.”
She knows she will miss Blue Earth Area and teaching.
“I have told people repeatedly God led me to this job,” Drescher shares. “I have felt over all of my years I have had the best possible job and it became a ministry for me. It has been so rewarding. I have been very blessed.”