Ron Hustvedt, a 2001 graduate of the Saint Mary’s University Master of Education in Teaching and Learning program, was named the 2014 National Magnet School Teacher of the Year. The award was announced during the Magnet Schools of America’s 32nd National Conference in Hartford, Connecticut in May.

Now in his sixth year as a social studies teacher at Salk Middle School in Elk River, Minn., Hustvedt helped advance the transition into a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) magnet school by adapting the philosophy into his classroom, keeping diverse subjects and students in mind.

“We’ve collaborated a lot at Salk to help fit STEM into everything that we do,” Hustvedt said. “We help make connections to the students in all subject areas, not just the STEM subject areas. Everything that’s taught in school is interconnected and can be linked together with STEM as the glue. The challenge is in creating opportunities and mechanisms to support all students, no matter where they’re at with their learning skills.”

Eight years after Salk decided to become a STEM magnet school, the results are rolling in. The first groups of students who started the STEM program are in college or just graduating from high school. Many have received scholarships, some are national merit scholars and a couple have even earned perfect ACT scores. “Most of all, the students who were in our STEM program for their middle school experience are reporting back that they used the skills and knowledge acquired here throughout high school and into college,” Hustvedt said.

The school has established History Day and Science Fair as two of their hallmark events, and Salk has one of the most successful programs in the state in terms of competition as well as project completion. “We have upwards of 98 percent of our students completing these high-level projects, and that’s not easy to come by,” Hustvedt said. “We’ve had students advance to state and regional science fairs and do quite well.”

The History Day project is a research project where students gather numerous primary and secondary sources to support a thesis statement centered around an annual theme. “They end up with annotated bibliographies that would be the envy of many college students,” Hustvedt joked.

A teaching veteran of 16 years, Hustvedt still recalls the coursework he studied at Saint Mary’s over a decade ago. He credits the school for instilling new leadership and decision-making strategies in him that have helped his career grow.

“One of the things Saint Mary’s really drills home is that people can be the drivers of their own world,” Hustvedt said. “Discover and solve the problems that you see, and do it in a balanced way. You have to continue to always do better and evolve as a teacher. Coworkers who I know have gone to Saint Mary’s use the skills and information that they learned in broad applications.”

In receiving his award, Hustvedt made sure to thank his principal, his curriculum coordinator, his social studies department and the rest of Salk Middle School. He also thanked his wife, Sharon DeLisle M’03, a fellow teacher and Saint Mary’s graduate, calling her his “No. 1 source of professional development.”

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