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WATCH: Hopkins high school teacher named finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Sunday May 7, 2023



In your typical high school English class, you’d usually see a little class discussion followed by some feedback from the teacher.

But at Hopkins High School, Fatuma Ali isn’t just your “typical” English teacher. Ali, who is of Somali descent, is one of the 11 finalists for Education Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year award.

“I’m still kind of a little bit in shock,” Ali said of being a finalist. “Like not fully cognizant of it. But also, it’s been such a difficult last couple of years in the teaching field. So having this as kind of like a bright spot has been incredible.”

“Incredible” could be one word used to describe the relationship she has with her students.

“[Students] love, love, love her,” said Crystal Ballard, the Hopkins principal. “She is an advocate for them. She listens to them. She connects with them both inside and outside of the classroom.”
One of the ways she connects is by creating a curriculum the students care about. For example, Ballard said Ali developed a course called “Arts & Literature of the Black Diaspora.”

Fatuma Ali teaching an English class at Hopkins High School.

“I’ve been intentional about teaching content that reflects my students, and as much of my students as possible,” Ali said. “Creating classes when I found out that there were gaps. Like I created two classes, two courses here in the English department that had a lot of popularity and a lot of student interest.”

Ali also creates a relaxing classroom atmosphere. After all, it’s not often that you’ll see classrooms with beanbag chairs where kids can relax and hang out.

Meanwhile, Education Minnesota will announce the winner during a ceremony on May 7. Whether Ali wins remains to be seen, but either way, she wants the best for her students.

“My biggest goal is that they never stop seeking knowledge,” Ali said. “That they’re always looking for answers on their own and are not waiting for somebody else to tell them what they should and shouldn’t be learning.”

Of the 11 finalists up for Minnesota Teacher of the Year, two come from Hopkins Public Schools: Ali, and Allyson Wolff, a first-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School.


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