Teachers dedicate their lives to imparting knowledge to young people. Along the way, many inspire students with their enthusiasm and desire to make a difference in the world. Three such teachers were voted this year’s ‘best teacher’ finalists in Maple Grove Magazine’s Best Of reader survey. Now that school is back in full swing, take a peek at some of what makes Mark Cook, Matt Detloff and Steve Borgstrom stand out in a crowd of wonderful local teachers.
Mark Cook is a homegrown educator who’s known he wanted to be a teacher and coach since the ninth grade. Cook credits a junior high school teacher for inspiring his desire to make a difference in young people’s lives. During Cook’s teen years at Osseo High School, he seized an opportunity to get his feet wet by volunteering with eighth graders at Maple Grove Junior High. Since then, Cook had no doubt he would pursue a teaching career.
Currently marking his 14th year in the profession, Cook teaches tenth grade U.S. history and American pop culture and coaches football at Maple Grove Senior High School.“Developing relationships with great young people is the most rewarding part of my job,” he says. “Kids are capable of incredible accomplishments and I’m excited to have a little something to do with preparing them.” Preparing students is often a team activity.
For the past year, Cook has partnered with social studies teacher, Matt Detloff, someone Cook describes as one of the best up and coming teachers in the district. Detloff also coaches football alongside Cook. He is an advisor to the Action for Reaction and Spirit Council, is the boys’ basketball team announcer and is a self-proclaimed Crimson super fan. “I’ve wanted to teach since sixth grade,” Detloff says. “That was when I realized truly masterful teachers would not accept anything less than my best.” Detloff has established a rewarding tradition in his three years as a teacher.
After students finish a final exam in his class, Detloff reads from the Dr. Seuss book, Oh! The Places You Will Go! He asks students to reflect on where they’ve been and envision the endless possibilities for their futures.
Veteran teacher Steve Borgstrom has helped students discover their potential for 33 years. Cook recalls Mr. Borgstrom as an incredible music teacher back when he was a student at Osseo High School. Borgstrom has directed elementary, junior high and senior high orchestra, elementary and senior high band, jazz ensemble, marching band and guitar classes. He is especially grateful for the opportunity to teach the first ever beginning guitar class in the district in 1999. Since then, the beginning guitar curriculum has grown to include over 200 students at all three high schools in the district each year who learn to chord, read music and perform together. It is the only instrumental music class in the district that students can begin during high school.
Throughout every music class Borgstrom teaches, he hopes kids will learn that music is magic. “Music education activates both hemispheres of the brain at the same time,” Borgstrom says. “Learning to read music and make instant decisions about how to react to those symbols on the page help make students smarter and more well-rounded people. Kids may not become famous musicians. But the simple acts of setting a goal and practicing instill discipline and build brain power.”
Borgstrom reinforces the notion music is magic with a Harry Potter themed magic wand as his conductor’s baton. He purchased the wand at the Renaissance Festival and had it engraved with symbols for peace, love, strength and balance. Unlike a flimsy fiberglass baton, the heft of Borgstrom’s magic wand carries more power when he whacks his music stand to keep the beat. And if a student acts up, Borgstrom simply waves his wand toward the offender and quotes a spell from the treasured Potter lexicon. Kids laugh and cease their disruption. Honored to be considered among the best, these three teachers feel privileged to know and learn from one another. They also feel especially privileged to get to know and help to grow the future leaders of Maple Grove.