AAP staff report
Oakdale, Minn. (January 21, 2011) – Lanka Liyanapathiranage, a 7th grade language arts teacher Woodbury Middle School, was named “Secondary Educator of the Year” for 2010 by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce. Liyanapathiranage received the honor along with other district educators at the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce’ “Let’s Paint the Town” Annual Gala last month at the Prom Center.
Liyanapathiranage, at Woodbury Middle School, is described as an English teacher with supreme dedication to educate students at all levels – “from the gifted to the struggling and everyone in between.” He is said to instill a drive in his students to succeed both academically and in life.
In the words of just two of the many nominators, one person wrote, “He is one teacher who will forever leave a lasting impact.” Another wrote, “He’s an ordinary man, who chooses to be extraordinary.”
That he does this without fanfare and as simply a part of his commitment to education and to his students, Liyanapathiranage is being recognized for his efforts to engage his students. He is known to visit places like the skateboard park in an effort to connect with kids outside the classroom, and also reads youth literature to select the right work for each of his literature circles.
Liyanapathiranage’s classroom ‘Reader’s and Writer’s’ workshops and its connection throughout the curriculum is a model program for the district. He has already been recognized by the school district as a teacher “making a difference” for his work to engage more boys in reading by leading boys book clubs.
The award notes that he sets high standards for himself and his students in academics and in all aspects of their lives. He greets each student by name as they enter and leave school each day, and out of respect they all know how to spell and say his last name.
Liyanapathiranage is known for his attentiveness to environmental issues, spot-checking in the school cafeteria for recyclables in the trash and trash in the recyclables, and reminding students when he finds an error. His students know that he has no tolerance for bullying and has a dislikes for stereotyping.
He teaches to respect differences in one another, to identify propaganda, and to consider whether they want to be walking advertisements for designer labels. He is huge on school and team spirit, helping his team of teachers, as well as his students create outlandish costumes, sometimes made of duct tape or beach towels, for school spirit and superhero days.
Liyanapathiranage feels strongly about giving back to the community and leads his students and their families outside of school to volunteer at Feed My Starving Children. This had a particularly great impact on the kids when they packaged food on Martin Luther King Day following the earthquake in Haiti, where the food they packaged was headed.
He does not miss a school band or choir concert or theatre production, and can be found watching his students at hockey, football and baseball games, among other events.
Liyanapathiranage is a co-leader of the Student Council, as well as the WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) program that integrates 6th graders into the school with 8th grade mentors. He organizes summer kickball games, excursions to the State Fair, water parks, skating and other activities.
Liyanapathiranage was one of several ‘Educator of the Year’ honorees that included “Elementary Educator of the Year” Megan Blake, a Kindergarten teacher at Bailey Elementary; and Elizabeth Lauterbach at “Preschool Educator of the Year” from Primrose School of Woodbury.
To receive the honor recipients had to be an educator in a Woodbury or Newport public or private school, preschool through grade 12, for at least three years. The nominees were recognized for playing an active role in the community, and displaying exceptional skill and dedication to education and have a positive influence in the lives of students.
The East Ridge High School Planning team was selected at the “Educational Team of the Year.” The team members include Aaron Harper, Matt Kraft, Maureen Kostka, Jean Hancock, Nancy Berg, Gary Blok, Dave Hawkinson, Amanda Hestwood, Greta Lewis, Carolle Neisius, Kathryn Newcomb, Lynn O’Driscoll, Susan Peichel, Kelly Reagan, Julie Rekstad, Gretchen Romain, Chris Russell, Terry Sinn, Christopher Tank, Mary Tollefsrud, Paul Virgin, Rob Weberg and Glen Wurm.