Celebration of Excellence

Minnetonka Public Schools’ Celebration of Excellence happened Thursday, May 10.

Parnell family

Ben, 16, Amy, Kelly, 18, and Laura, 20, Parnell pose for a photo.

The Parnell family

Amy and her children, Kelly, 18 Laura, 20, Kelly, 18, and Ben, 16, present Charlie Parnell Award for Excellence in Special Education in memory of Charlie, their father and husband.

“The reason that we did it was to find a meaningful way to honor his memory and also to have it be something that was really visible and meaningful for the kids. So when they were younger, I presented the award, but as they’ve gotten older, they present the award,” Amy said.

“It is so special, and we’ve had family come every year. Over the years, we’ve honored teachers and bus drivers and students and it’s a really special and important way to honor people that do so much for kids with special needs. It’s all about the importance of inclusion and seeing the beauty in everybody.”

Clear Springs Elementary Principal Curt Carpenter

Minnetonka Employee Awards for Child-Centered Excellence


nown for:

Greeting students during drop-off, knowing students’ names, having fun testing students on trivia before school

“It’s humbling because anyone could win it. It’s a tremendous district. The words ‘child-centered’ really mean a lot to me and what’s cool is that everyone in this auditorium, everyone in this district is child-centered, so it’s a special place.”

Trivia example?

“What I like to do is warm up and with easy ones for the young kids, and I’ll just string together things like: ‘2+4, you have a new number in your head, don’t say it out loud, you’ve got that new number. Now, take that new number and double it. Take that number, add those two digits together, you’ve got a new number. It’s a little number, but what is it?’ And then the kids will shout out, ‘3!’ So, I just see how long I can string together math problems and have kids hang with me. It’s just a way to warm up their brains in the morning.”

Christine Breen

Team Award for Child-Centered Collaboration, “Team Joe”

“It’s an honor to win this award, but it really is team effort and team collaboration working with the student Joe and his family. I’ve known them now for, gosh, six years since they moved to Minnetonka.”

What are fun moments in your day?

“Joe always, every single day, can make you laugh. Whether he’s having a difficult day or a day with a lot of anxiety, he still engages in conversations and tries to make you feel good and everyone feel good. That’s just a passion that he has.”

Physical Education

Teacher Bart Inniger

Minnetonka Employee Service Awards for 25 years of service

“It’s great, it’s nice to be recognized, I started in the district in 1993 and have enjoyed my time in the district. Great experiences, lots of wonderful people.”

Differences from when you started the job?

“When I first started I didn’t have a computer. It obviously has made life a lot easier and a lot more smooth. All of the equipment has gotten much more safe and kid-friendly. So, a lot of the things we get — we used to use these really hard playground balls, and now they’re softer — so I think the equipment has evolved and things have evolved for the better.”

Excelsior Dunn

Brothers Coffee Owner

Ken Sutherland

Minnetonka Community Education Awards

Known for:

Offered free coffee to 100-mile riders at the 2015 Tour de Tonka, donated coffee to volunteers and runners in 2017.

“You don’t really expect anything, you don’t really care if you get one, because what you’re doing is just a lot of fun.”

On handing out coffee:

“What’s fun about it is I’m a biker. I’d go to events where they’d be giving out coffee, and then they asked if I’d do it, and I said, ‘Of course I’m going to do it, are you kidding me?’ The most fun is giving it to the volunteers beforehand because they’re there really early and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you.’ So it’s great. And I only serve 6-ounce cups. I call them biker’s size cups because they’re just enough to get you going, but not enough to make you go.”

Favorite drink to make?

“My favorite coffee drink to make is a vanilla ice granada.”

Kolt Ringer

Minnetonka Community Education Awards

Known for:

His annual Youth Ice Fishing Tournament

“It was a great surprise, not expected, a lot of people help out with the ice fishing tournament so it’s a lot of behind the scenes work.”

Best advice for teaching children how to ice fish:

“Dress warm. Bring snacks and extra boots.”

Volunteer Yvonne Ring

Minnetonka Spinnaker Awards

Known for:

Organizing World Culture Week at Clear Springs Elementary, painting a mural at Clear Springs

“I think when you’re a volunteer, you just do what you do, and to have someone come to you and say, ‘Wow, you just did so much.’ And for me it’s just passion. And when you do something with passion, sometimes you go overboard.’

What inspired World Culture Week?

“I studied archaeology in school. So I grew up studying foreign cultures and my parents are from different countries. So when someone asked if I could help the country was Egypt, and as an archaeologist, I said, ‘You couldn’t have picked a better country that would inspire me more.’ And it lets me play with all sorts of mediums.”

Special Education

Teacher Amber Larsen

Joyce Gustafson Award

Known for:

Pilot program in specific social curriculum, creating a room for children with further social and emotional needs

“I feel so honored and it was such a fun surprise that all my kids were there, or a couple of them were there, and that’s why I feel that I do what I do and so it’s just so fun to see their smiling faces. And that’s what really brings me so much joy each day.”

On making a room to meet social and emotional needs:

“I try to have spaces where kids can take breaks, where we have a learning space, where we have a space where kids can do learning jobs too, even if they’re just taking a break out of the classroom … a place where kids can feel welcomed no matter what kind of state they’re in.”

Science Teacher

Dawn Norton

2019 Teacher of the Year Nominee

Known for:

Leading clubs, member of AP Exam Board, being a storyteller

Moment you learned?

“Mr. Erickson comes into classes to do like a senior recognition so he was standing inside of my class and i thought he was coming to do a recognition for a student and I was kind of finishing up with something and then he announces to my class that I was getting this award, which was wonderful. What an honor.

What’s the best part about teaching?

“Kids are wonderful. It doesn’t matter where we are in the year, where we are in what we’re doing, they’re amazing, they rise to the occasion, they’re enthusiastic. In spite of themselves, they love to learn. That fuels my fire, my passion to enjoy learning along with them.”