Connection, continuing education, and community make a Gold Star teacher


Lowell Elementary fourth-grade teacher Troy Erie likes to keep busy. He mentors students, oversees the crossing guards, leads the Lowell Ski Club, the Wolf Ridge fourth grade field trip and the Inventors Fair and he serves on the Lowell Continuous Improvement team. Those are just his school commitments; he's also a father of three and an avid outdoorsman.

And most recently he received the Goldfine Gold Star Teacher Award. Andy Goldfine made the announcement at a May 17 reception at Lincoln Park Middle School, during which he presented Erie with a trophy and a $5,000 check.

"It was an honor just to be nominated," Erie said. "I felt lucky to be among such a great group of teachers, so it was an honor just to be nominated alongside them."

Manley and Lillian Goldfine established a fund for the award in 2006 through the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation to honor inspirational teachers for their dedication, skills and hard work. Nine ISD 709 elementary school teachers were nominated for the award based on several criteria, including impact in the classroom, school and community and their efforts to pursue professional development.

According to Principal Jen Larva, "Troy Erie is a dedicated teacher and lifelong learner, demonstrating his love of teaching and enthusiasm for learning on a daily basis. Building positive relationships is the foundation of his classroom management style."

Originally from the Twin Cities, Erie attended the University of Minnesota Duluth for education. His love of nature and outdoor activities attracted him to the area.

"I've been lucky enough to get a job and stay here for the past 20 years," Erie said.

Erie began his career teaching sixth grade at Morgan Park Middle School for 12 years. When the school closed, he transitioned to Lowell Elementary and spent a year teaching first grade before shifting up to fourth grade.

"I love teaching fourth graders because they're old enough to have a lot of independence, but they still have a lot of enthusiasm about school, education and life," Erie said.

Erie mentors college students and newly hired teachers.

"They're really up to date on the latest education research and practices and new, fresh ideas," Erie said. "They're coming in from many different classrooms so it's great to see what they come up with."

Education research is another passion of Erie's. He's a member of the Lowell Continuous Improvement Team, which meets once every two weeks to review assessment data, research best practices, develop practice profiles for instruction and provide input into the fidelity of the system.

Colleague Amy Kass wrote in his nomination packet, "He is continually looking for and implementing new resources and teaching strategies to provide additional practice for his diverse learners." Although he's always looking for new ideas, Erie's core teaching principles haven't changed too drastically. He's a firm believer in developing community within his classroom through connection and building relationships. Every day his class starts out with a morning meeting to allow students to share and greet each other. He asks questions to get the students to open up and make connections.

"I believe it's really important to let them know that you really care about them as a person and that you're glad they're here and that they're wanted. It makes it so that every day they're looking forward to coming to school and want to be here and have a good experience," Erie said.

In the nomination materials, parent Sandy Kolasinski wrote, "He is kind and connected to his students ... funny, upbeat and outgoing, a teacher that students look forward to seeing every day. His teaching style supports different learners, challenges students who need to be challenged while providing patient help to those struggling."

The other nominees for the 2017 Goldfine Gold Star Teacher award were Jen Boyson of Myers-Wilkins Elementary, Paul Davis of Stowe Elementary, Holly Johnson of Lakewood Elementary, Matthew Knutson of Laura MacArthur Elementary, Cindy Miller of Congdon Park Elementary, Rachel Moseley of Piedmont Elementary, Nicole Munthe of Homecroft Elementary and Sherry Williams of Lester Park Elementary. The award was given to an elementary teacher after going to a secondary teacher last year.