Gov. Doug Burgum acknowledged the actions of two North Dakota State faculty members, Ann Clapper and Thomas Hall, by awarding them an Excellence in Public Service, more specifically, the Sodbuster Award for Excellence in Growth Mindset.
After 11 years of working at NDSU, Ann Clapper is an associate professor of practice in the School of Education and program coordinator. Thomas Hall is a newly retired associate professor from the School of Education and program coordinator. The two worked side by side as program coordinators in the NDSU Educational Leadership program and then created the Teacher Leader Academy, which led to their recognition by the governor.
Clapper was excited about the fact it was a new award she was receiving. She explained how the governor shared the importance of innovation and wants to motivate people to try new things.
“I never thought it would be something that would have that much impact,” Clapper explained after sharing her surprised reaction to the announcement of the award.
Gov. Burgum was intrigued by the innovation tactics Clapper and Hall were taking when he saw multiple teachers implementing innovative techniques in their teaching instead of relying on the typical textbook work.
When Clapper and Hall started the academy they had an immense sense of gratitude toward the chair and dean of the education department. According to Clapper, this is because the chair and dean helped with a lot of complicated paperwork.
“We (Clapper and Hall) wouldn’t be here without districts that trusted us to do it, without other districts and the willingness to host an academy (and) without deans and chairs that support you,” Clapper said.
There are two names on the plaque, Clapper and Hall, but Clapper said there should be about 87 names on the award because there were so many people involved with the creation of the academy.
“You just don’t feel like you deserve it because there were so many other people that allowed this to happen,” Clapper shared.
Clapper explained how when NDSU President Dean Bresciani first started he explained to the program coordinators that he wanted them to be at the top of their game and if it wasn’t — make it better. Clapper said this motivated her to strive to make a better program.
“It really was his (Dean Bresciani) charge to all of us when he got here to be looking at what’s the edge of innovation in your program,” Clapper said.
In 2012, Teacher Leader Academy started after Clapper received a brochure from Kansas State University that explained their innovative techniques. Clapper then showed it to Hall, because of their relationship as co-workers, and immediately realized it was something they needed to do.
Clapper explained that with the balance between Hall’s and her skills, they were able to achieve the success with the academies in schools.
When starting the Teacher Leader Academy, they started with West Fargo High School. It took two years to get the academy running.
Eight months after people have attended the academy, the committee looks at the impact after people have attended the academy and received a master’s degree and they see transformational learning.
“They are transformed by the experience because they’ve been pushed to the edge of doing things that are scary that they’ve never done before in front of their colleagues,” Clapper explained.
Through this academy, people are able to build relationships and try out different tactics and practice them.
Clapper explained how people have to go out of their comfort zones to make a difference and be transformed.
“If you play it safe, always play it safe, that’s not where the learning is,” Clapper said.
There are now four academies in the North Dakota area, with locations in Bismarck, West Fargo and Mandan. The fourth academy is a combination of three small districts and is called the rural academy. Valley City will be one of the next academy districts.