2 SPPS teachers named finalists for 2015 Minnesota Teacher of the Year
Two Saint Paul Public Schools teachers have been named finalists for 2015 Minnesota Teacher of the Year out of 123 candidates. Erik Brandt, an English teacher and IB Program Coordinator at Harding Senior High School, and Amy Hewett-Olatunde, an ESL teacher at LEAP High School, are two of the 10 finalists for the award. A selection panel comprised of 23 local leaders in education, business, government and nonprofits selected the finalists from a group of 30 semifinalists. The selection panel meets again May 2 to conduct individual interviews with the 10 finalists and will determine the  2015 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

Washington Tech students qualify for state science fair
Congratulations to Washington Technology Magnet School’s first ever state high school science fair participants. Aimee Vang, Rebecca Lindau and Browerti Koffah qualified for the state science fair after scoring high at the regional fair. The students were mentored by Washington Tech science teacher David Quosig, with help Washington Tech teachers Mary Jurney and Meagan O'Brien.

Linwood Monroe Arts Plus first grade team will receive two agriculture grants
Congratulations to the Linwood Monroe Arts Plus first-grade team (Julie Manthe, Ann Griffin, and Mary Morgan) for receiving two grants. The first grant, from Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom, includes the purchase of 13 new books that explain how food from the farm gets to our tables. The team also will be growing edible plants in the classroom.

The second grant, from the University of Minnesota's Monarch Lab, is to revitalize school gardens near the front entrance of Linwood Monroe Arts Plus to include more plants for pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. The first-graders will take an active role in planning, planting and maintaining the garden.

Washington Tech students research artifacts for the Multicultural Resource Center
Students from Mary Ann Rogers' art history class at Washington Technology Magnet School spent the week of March 16 researching artifacts for the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC). The students chose at least three artifacts and used their iPads to locate missing information about each item. On the last day of research, students used their iPads to share information on one artifact with their classmates. Because of the students’ work, the MRC now has information on many artifacts that previously did not have full descriptions.The MRC will incorporate the students' research findings into the information cards displayed with each artifact.

Chelsea Heights Wellness Champion nets $40K for American Heart Association
For six years, Chelsea Heights physical education teacher Tim Lang has organized the fundraiser Jump Rope for Heart for the American Heart Association, raising more than $40,000. Learn more about his cause at wellness.spps.org.

Youth Leadership Team student spotlight: Grace James
Grace James wanted to make a difference in her community. As a junior at Highland Park Senior High School, she applied and was selected to participate on the Saint Paul Public Schools Community Education Youth Leadership Team (YLT). The group comprised of 12 high school students from across the city identifies an area of need important to them, determines youth-driven solutions and pushes for community-wide change.

In 2013, a student at Grace's school committed suicide. The loss deeply affected everyone in the community. The Youth Leadership Team wanted to help people cope and developed a community project to increase awareness about teen depression. Through Grace's work, more than 250 students learned about the prevalence of teen depression and warning signs.

Grace also helped create an interactive creative mosaic to display at school. Students painted individual tiles answering the question, "what brings you happiness?" Answers ranged from dopamine and serotonin, complete with their chemical structures, to dance and sunshine.

This year, Grace and her YLT peers are working on promoting the health of the Mississippi River. She is interviewing local experts about the issue and plans to take her group's findings to the state legislature.