"It’s evident that Mrs. Schaefer, Mrs. Mattson, Mrs. Peterson, and Mrs. Wasness are respected and beloved by their students for the job that they are doing as outstanding teachers," said North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.
"Like all teachers, they play a pivotal role in shaping not just individuals, but societies. They shape our democracy. They play a pivotal role in everything that we do in our lives," said North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta.
"The 2024 North Dakota Teacher of the Year is Sheila Peterson of Bismarck, North Dakota," said Baesler.
"Thank you, Superintendent Baesler. Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller. Thank you, Nick, for all the things that you guys have done to promote education," began Peterson.
She went on to say the following:
"To my colleagues, I'm embarrassed to be up here. It really could have been any of us. I don't know how you guys felt researching each other, but I was like, 'Oh, my gosh.' My husband's like, 'Quit looking at that stuff,' because I'm like, 'Those ladies are really good.'
"When I told my daughter I was a finalist, I was pretty surprised, and she looked at me and she's like, 'Mom, it's not that big of a deal.' God bless your little soul.
"I shouldn't be here. I can't help but reflect on the caring and selfless teachers and adults in my life who have completely transformed my world. They saw potential me when I couldn't see it myself, and their unwavering support and guidance allowed me to grow into the person I am today. I wasn't the best student. We didn't have a lot of money. There was some dysfunction at times, but I do know that I was loved.
"My mother raised me with the highest of expectations, no matter our life situations. She taught me that I had to succeed in spite of difficulties, whether it be financial, personal, or a terminal cancer diagnosis. She never allowed us to take a second to feel sorry for ourselves. She taught me that my life difficulties would be the reason that I would succeed if I could survive these tough times. I could accomplish anything if I was willing to work for it.
"I'm so grateful for the many coaches, educators, and friends that God has blessed me with. I cannot fathom how or why I've been so fortunate to have been given so many wonderful people in my life."
"I love that one of the words that she hopes to hear when students describe her classroom is ‘weird,' because weird usually means interesting, and Mrs. Peterson's classes certainly fit that category," said Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller.
"In closing, I encourage you to think of those students, the ones that shouldn't be here, the ones that you're unsure of, what your future holds, have high expectations for them. Give them opportunities even when you know they might let you down sometimes.
"I truly don't know where I'd be today without these people in my life. Think about how you can impact their lives and empower them to believe in the beauty of their dreams. How do we make sure that every student has a person who believes in them without doubt and cares enough to hold them to high expectations?
"As teacher leaders, we hold a unique power to shape not just one life, but the futures of countless individuals. It's a responsibility I carry with pride, and I'm determined to contribute to the betterment of my community, my state, and most importantly, our future: our students. Great educators truly do change lives. Thank you."
"Andee Mattson, Teacher of the Year Sheila Peterson, Trisha Schaefer, and Megan Wasness, on behalf of 11,500 members of North Dakota United: congratulations and thank you for everything you do every day, to educate our children and lift our profession," said NDU President Nick Archuleta.