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Hudson resident is a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Hudson native and resident Diane Weiher Hallen is one of 10 finalists for 2008 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

Weiher Hallen, a sixth- and seventh-grade science teacher at Lake Harriet Community School in Minneapolis, was nominated for the honor by the parents of two of her students. The couple said Weiher Hallen had passed her love of science on to their daughters.

"Science is fun!" is the message atop Weiher Hallen's Web page on her school's Web site.

"Science has to be absolutely hands-on. You've got to do it," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. "We've got all the good stuff. I've got animals in my room. I've got chinchillas and lizards and rats. For some kids, that's the best part of their day -- to come in and snuggle with a bearded dragon."

Weiher Hallen credits her sophomore biology teachers at Hudson High School -- Marvin Grabau and Robert Rengstorf -- with getting her hooked on science by letting her and her friends take care of the baby rats.

She's a product of the Hudson public schools, having attended E.P. Rock Elementary, the old middle school that is now Willow River Elementary, and the junior high that is now part of the high school. She graduated from Hudson High in 1981.

Weiher Hallen said the teachers who inspired her were the ones who took the time to get to know her -- and who provided a lot of interactive, hands-on activities in the classroom. They included German teacher Judy Huftel, high school track coach and math teacher Sara Sjoquist, her band and choir directors, sixth-grade teacher Mrs. Dutton and third-grade teacher Mrs. St. Ores.

She tries to emulate them in her own teaching.

Weiher Hallen attended Mankato State University (now Minnesota State) after high school, where she earned a bachelor's degree in secondary science education.

She's in her 21st year of teaching. She began her career in Amery, teaching there for two years before going to work for the Minneapolis Public Schools.

She taught mostly minority students at Franklin Middle School in North Minneapolis before transferring to Lake Harriet Community School a few years ago.

Weiher Hallen, her husband, Leif, and their four children (ages 3 to 12) reside on Vine Street.

She said Leif cooks dinner and knows how to run a vacuum cleaner, which makes balancing her career and family life possible.

Her mother is Louise Weiher, director of the bell choir at Hudson United Methodist Church and an active member of various community choirs over the years.

Leif's mother is Mary Ellefson, a retired Stillwater Area High School social studies teacher and mayor of Hudson in the late 1980s.

Mary Ellefson contacted the Star-Observer about her daughter-in-law being named a finalist for the Teacher of the Year honor.

"I'm very proud of her," Ellefson said. "Having been in education, I know what it means to be selected this way. She's really an excellent teacher. She's been deserving of this honor for a long time."

A panel of 24 leaders from business, government and non-profit organizations will interview the finalists on May 3 and select the 2008 Teacher of the Year.

There were 115 candidates for the honor initially. The panel first narrowed the field to 28 semi-finalists, and then selected the 10 finalists.

The Teacher of the Year program is sponsored by Education Minnesota, the 70,000-member union representing Minnesota's public school teachers.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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