Sheri Peterson - MN Teacher of the Year Candidate!

Sheri Peterson - 2023 MN Teacher of the Year Candidate!
Posted on 02/05/2023
Sheri and her students

At ISD 917, we belong to each other.  Few stories exemplify this saying more than the rise of Sherlyn (Sheri) Peterson to her candidacy for the prestigious Minnesota Teacher of the Year award!  Inspired by her husband’s support, Sheri first joined the ISD 917 staff in 2003 as a paraprofessional in the ISD 917 Program Alternative for Communication Education and Socialization (PACES) program so she could follow her passion of helping children. In 2005, while working full-time, Sheri began pursuing her special education teaching license and a Master of Arts degree so she could become a special education teacher.  She began her new role as special education teacher in the PACES program in 2007, and she has grown and thrived in that role ever since.

The ISD 917 PACES program is located in five member district school buildings, and Sheri has worked at  the Farmington and Lakeville locations  since 2003.  The PACES program is designed to meet the needs of students primarily with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related neurobiological disorders through a highly structured environment with a low student to staff ratio.  Our PACES staff are highly trained and specialized, and their daily work with students is incredibly unique and personalized.

As a new teacher in the PACES program in the 2022-2023 school year, Jody Grote was lucky enough to be mentored by Sheri Peterson.  Jody describes her professional mentor and friend as, “consistently kind, calm, focused, patient, creative, confident, and fun to problem solve with.”  She was so grateful for Sheri’s generous spirit and passionate support, “often leaving another relieved and inspired,” that, when she received an email from the district office with a link to the nomination form for Minnesota Teacher of the Year, she decided to nominate her for the honor!

Appreciation for Sheri’s work is shared across the board.  Don Budach, ISD 917 Assistant Director for the PACES program says, “Sheri has a unique skill set, which I have rarely seen. She is extremely dedicated to her profession, exuding professionalism, positivity, energy, resourcefulness, passion, and an overall commitment to meeting the needs of the learners she serves. Beyond that, she has also excelled at working with paraprofessionals and building strong relationships with parents and caregivers. She facilitates productive discussions between her colleagues, parents, and other school staff. She is extremely organized, detail oriented, has a calm demeanor, and has incredible follow through.”

Stephanie Betley, ISD 917 Dean for the PACES program says, “Sheri is a kind hearted educator who is a strong advocate for her students. Her passion for inclusion, solution focused thinking, and calm and nurturing teaching approach are some of the wonderful qualities she contributes to meet the needs of students in her classroom.  Sheri’s commitment to students extends outside of the classroom through her collaboration and mentorship of other special education teachers. We are fortunate to have an amazing teacher like Sheri in our PACES program and appreciate the leadership and kindness she brings to our district.”

Lakeville’s Christina Huddleston Elementary principal, Jill Kelly, describes Sheri as, “extremely passionate about her students and their success.  She maintains a positive attitude that is infectious.  Her leadership and knowledge leads to a collaborative culture that ensures success for all.”

So, what does Sheri have to say about being a candidate for Minnesota Teacher of the Year?  She is “over the moon,” and the smile has not left her face.  She expresses gratitude for the opportunity to tell her story, to share her teaching style and educational values, and to thank those who have “shaped, molded, and guided” her along the way to focus on both the “art and the heart” of teaching.  Sheri’s husband, who was so instrumental in her entry into and growth within the field of education, unfortunately, was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and bravely fought it until he passed away  in 2015.  His influence on Sheri as a person and an educator cannot be overstated, and she is eternally grateful for him.  She also wishes to share this honor with ISD 917 and Lakeville Area Public Schools who have warmly embraced and supported her personally and professionally throughout her career.

In her Minnesota Teacher of the Year 2023 portfolio, Sheri described how she uses “art and heart” to provide opportunities for special education students “to learn with and from their peers.”  She reveled in the collaborative nature of her role, the ability to teach other staff and students about the importance of inclusion, and the value of “recruit[ing] qualified teachers, creat[ing] interest in teaching as a financially stable procession, and help[ing] raise teacher morale and respect for the profession.”

ISD 917 is incredibly proud that Sheri Peterson, who thoroughly demonstrates our district’s core values, has been chosen as a candidate for the 2023 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.  We are behind her all the way!

This year marks the  59th time Education Minnesota has awarded the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award to celebrate excellence in teaching.  After a review of candidates’ portfolios, a diverse panel of Minnesota leaders will choose the award recipient and present the award on 5/7/23 at the St. Paul RiverCentre.


**Update from 2/28/23: Sheri has been named a SEMI-FINALIST!!!

Learn more at: