The classroom has been a challenging environment to navigate for students, teachers and parents across the state of Minnesota over the past year. As COVID-19 continues to change how and where students are able to safely learn, a local Vadnais Heights teacher has been recognized by Press Publications readers for his outstanding work. Mark Theissen, a first grade teacher at Vadnais Heights Elementary, is the winner of best teacher. 

Teaching was not on Theissen’s radar when he attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth. After graduating with a degree in criminology, he took on substitute teaching jobs in a St. Paul elementary school and it was there 

that he developed a love for teaching. He decided to take classes at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, working toward a master’s degree at night and substitute teaching during the day. 

As he finished his education degree, Theissen was hired at Vadnais Heights Elementary, where he has spent the last 21 years teaching first grade. 

“We have great leadership, and I have some really close friends that I love working with professionally and that get me through the hard days and make me laugh on the good days,” said Theissen. “It’s a really fun building to work at.” 

The last year has been unlike any other Theissen or his colleagues have ever experienced, but despite challenges, Theissen is proud of his students for their perseverance. 

“The kids have done a really good job, they are resilient,” said Theissen. “They wear the masks and do their best with distance, and we are looking forward to, hopefully in the near future, being back to a totally traditional classroom.” 

As students and staff begin the 2021-2022 school year at Vadnais Heights Elementary, a new sense of excitement and hope is brewing. Theissen shares this sense of excitement and is grateful for the recognition he has received from Press Publications readers. 

“I think it’s very humbling, and I’m really fortunate to work with an amazing staff where everybody uses their collective minds to work together to help these young students reach their fullest potential,” said Theissen. “I know we are going to take them to amazing places, and it’s a really exciting time of year.”


Caden Christiansen is a contributing writer for Press Publications. He can be reached by emailing or calling 651-407-1200. 

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