Two Faculty to Receive Statewide Teaching Honor

by Annika Freiburger

Grand Rapids, MN and Ely, MN-Two Minnesota North College faculty members have been selected to receive the Minnesota State Board of Trustees award. Ryan Miller of the Vermillion Campus, and Anna Francisco, of the Itasca Campus, were chosen for this year’s award. The Board of Trustees Awards for Excellence acknowledge and provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior commitment to student learning and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence at the colleges and universities of Minnesota State.

Ryan Miller began teaching at Minnesota North in 2020. In the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, Miller not only adapted but flourished in the online teaching environment, sharing his wealth of knowledge in forestry, wildlife, and the wildland firefighter courses.

Miller teaches general forestry and wildland firefighting courses. Before teaching, he was on the forefront of fighting fires across the western United States. Miller’s leadership landed him a variety of roles across the country, one being Crew Boss for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. He was in the field for about 15 years, until he decided to change courses.

“I was actually a lab assistant for former professor Lori Schmidt. That position opened a door for me, I was pretty excited to be able to teach about the things I love.”

His teaching philosophy, grounded in hard work, self-discipline, continuous learning, and respect, has not only shaped his students’ academic journeys but has also fostered a genuine connection.

In the words of Marshall, a freshman in Miller’s class, “He is an amazing teacher and connects with students as well as interacts with us during class. He is always there for us when we need help. I am thankful for Ryan Miller and the hard work that he does both in and out of the classroom.”

Anna Francisco’s passion for elementary education has become a guiding light for students at Minnesota North College. Beginning her teaching career at Keewatin Elementary, Francisco found herself at the college level in 2014, teaching developmental education and Class Act courses. Her commitment to creating an engaging and immersive learning environment has left a mark on her students.

“Teaching at the college level was something I didn’t anticipate, but I was excited for the opportunity.”

Keeping students engaged in their coursework can be difficult, but Francisco has made it fun for students. Course takers find themselves immersed in actual classrooms with a variety of coursework. Her teaching philosophy is centered around being passionate about teaching and learning, building relationships, and preparedness in the classroom.

“I love working with students and getting to be a part of a program (Class Act) that helps them figure out their path. Natalee, a student under Francisco, expressed her gratitude, saying, “Anna is an extraordinary educator whose passion for teaching is not only obvious but contagious. I’ve witnessed countless instances of her going the extra mile to ensure that each student feels valued and supported.”

Miller and Francisco continue to make an impact on their students and their respective programs. Both faculty members will be honored in St. Paul later this spring. The Minnesota State Board of Trustees Awards for Excellence serve as a testament to the transformative power of dedicated educators who shape the future one student at a time.