Uptown teacher wins U award

Kathie Huettl, an English teacher at Work Opportunity Center, a Minneapolis public alternative high school at 1006 W. Lake St., has won the first Outstanding Educator Award for alumni from the University of Minnesota's College of Education.

A 1972 graduate, Huettl received the William E. Gardner Outstanding Educator Award for pre-K through 12 teachers in early April.

"This is a really big honor, I appreciate the University honoring classroom teachers," said Huettl. "There aren't too many awards out there honoring people going through their career, trying new things and doing honest, hard work."

A 24-year veteran teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools, Huettl has taught mostly junior high students. Huettl taught at Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Ave. S., in the 1980s. A skier, she led an after-school ski club, coordinating weekend ski trips locally and farther north.

For the last six years, Huettl has taught 9th-12th graders who have been referred out of Minneapolis' traditional high schools to WOC -- the only alternative school within the Minneapolis school district.

"I absolutely love it. The kids really want to be successful; they just have struggled with how to do that," Huettl said.

Huettl said part of her job is to motivate students who are distracted by immediate problems outside of their schoolwork. At WOC, students work individually on the coursework that they need to return to a traditional school or graduate from WOC.

"I talk to them about bracketing, putting issues away to solve later -- it's basic survival strategies for the classroom," said Huettl.

Teaching at an alternative school has allowed her more freedom within her classroom. Continuing a WOC tradition of strong arts education, she helped start a collaborative program between students and performance poets. Noting that some of her students are "quite talented rappers," performance poets work with students on their own writing and performance works.

Performance artist and WOC collaborator Desdemona said, "She's open to learning even from us [artists], and she's always right there with us after class, telling us about books she bought for the students. She seems to want to further her relationship with her students."

In addition to receiving a plaque, the College of Education gave Huettl a surprise $500 cash award.

"My first thought is to spend it on a lounge to go along with a new reading program we're starting," Huettl said. "You know, bean bags and such for the kids to sit and read."