by Dennis Dalman
Lori Dornburg, a highly esteemed Sartell-St. Stephen Middle School teacher, has been named Minnesota Teacher of the Year 2020-21 for grades six through eight by the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.
She is now eligible for the national award to be announced later this month.
Dornburg received the VFW’s “Tony Gozola Memorial Honor Award” in the mail instead of at the customary statewide banquet, which was cancelled this year due to the pandemic. The award is named in honor of a Minneapolis U.S. Navy veteran, Tony Gozola, who served all through World War II and who died at age 94 in 2016.
Dornburg was stunned when she received the award.
“I was humbled and honored,” she said in an interview with the Sartell Newsleader. “
Dornburg received hundreds of kind comments and congratulations from fellow teachers, former students, administrators and many others.
She has been a teacher for the Sartell-St. Stephen School District for 26 years, but her entire teaching career spans 34 years.
At Sartell-St. Stephen Middle School, Dornburg has served as a family- and consumer-science teacher as well as an academic extensions coordinator of many programs: Knowledge Bowl, Geography Bee, spelling bees, Battle of the Books. She’s also been an organizer and leader of countless educational field trips. Dornburg is a student-council sponsor.
Just last week, she administered tests to students in grades six through eight for the statewide “Math Counts” contest.
She also coordinates an annual “Lunch with a Veteran” day at the middle school, followed by a festive patriotic assembly, featuring guest speakers who are veterans. Many local veterans (parents or relatives of students) enjoy the luncheon and assembly with their loved ones and their friends in the school cafeteria.
“I hope things soon get back to normal, so we can hold that big assembly again,” she said.
Born in LaCrosse, Wis., Dornburg lived in various places because her father moved fairly often as a regional sales representative for 3M Corp.
She taught school in San Antonio, Texas; near Buffalo, N.Y. and in Bemidji. During her years in Texas, she also served as a county-extension agent for Texas A & M University.
Dornburg and her husband, Randy, live in Cold Spring and have two grown daughters. Some months ago, she, Randy and one of their daughters suffered a bout with a COVID-19 virus infection. Fortunately, the infections were mild enough to be beaten back, although Lori said she and her husband had noticed some long-term effects, such as heart palpitations, now and then. She noted they are grateful they have since had the vaccinations.
Dornburg said she has enjoyed her many years of teaching in Sartell, but she is pondering retirement.