East Side educators make it to semifinals for Teacher of the Year award

Justin Hudalla

Molly Keenan

This year there were 167 candidates for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. That initial field, the third-highest number in the award’s 54-year history, has been cut to 43 semifinalists, as announced Feb. 26 by Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union and sponsor of the award.

Two East Side Teachers are a part of the 43 — Justin Hudalla, an eighth-grade global studies teacher at Battle Creek Middle School and Molly Keenan, a social studies teacher at Harding High School. 

This is Hudalla’s seventh year teaching at Battle Creek Middle School. He graduated from Anoka High School in 1996, attended the University of Minnesota and now lives on the East Side with his wife, two young kids and their cat and dog. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys camping in the Boundary Waters, fishing and running. 

Keenan grew up in St. Paul and graduated from St. Paul Central High School. She later attended Minneapolis Community Technical College, Pikes Peak Community College and Colorado College, which culminated in a Russian-Eurasian Studies degree. She later attended Hamline University to receive her master’s in education. She has taught since 2002 in both Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools. She currently lives in the Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis with her partner, their daughter and their dogs and cats. In addition to teaching, Keenan is also a visual artist and vocal performer. 

Later this month, the 23-member panel that chose the semifinalists will narrow the field down to 10 finalists. On May 6, the current Minnesota Teacher of the Year, Corey Bulman, will announce his successor at a banquet at the Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington. 

Candidates for the award include pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade and Adult Basic Education teachers, from public or private schools.


— Marjorie Otto

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