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AMS teacher loves to see students solve puzzles

By Dylan Lysen

Sheryl Fjell’s students don’t love math like she does, but she will go out of her way to help them solve a puzzle.

“I’ve always loved math,” she said. “It’s just so fun. It’s just numbers. They say ‘But they don’t do what you want them to do.’ And I say, ‘Exactly.’ “It’s a puzzle,” she added. “It’s always a puzzle with math.”

Fjell, an eighth-grade math teacher at Anthony Middle School, was awarded the Manhattan-Ogden School District’s 2017 Master Teacher award last month for her contributions in and outside the classroom.

Each school in the district nominates a teacher for the award and the teachers union, of which Fjell is a member, selects the winner.

Fjell stays after school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to help students with their homework, she said. She also teaches an “early bird” algebra class with another teacher before school to help students.

In her nomination letter, Fjell said one of her best qualities as a teacher is her patience.

“If a student does not understand a concept, I try different strategies to help them,” she wrote. “I stay after school to reteach, re-explain, and always reassure students that they can be successful when they are ready to call it quits. I find it so rewarding when a student starts coming in for help on a regular basis and is successful on a quiz, test or assignment. The smile on their face after this achievement is priceless.”

Fjell began her career at Paxico in 1977 before moving to Northview Elementary in 1981. From there, she moved to Hutchinson Community College leading a math lab from 1984 to 1990. She then moved back to Manhattan to work for K-State in academic assistance until 2001.

She then rejoined USD 383 to teach freshmen but moved to AMS in 2004. After a long career of teaching math, she said she will retire at the end of the school year.

With her experience teaching in higher education, Fjell said she tries to impress on her students the importance of thinking about their future and possibly going to college.

“There’s just so many things I want them to learn before the next level to make the next level easier,” she said. “You can determine your future right now in eighth grade.”

Marvin Wade, USD 383 superintendent, said he appreciates Fjell’s approach to teaching and going the extra step.

“We’re striving as a district to prepare our kids for life-long success,” he said. “Sheryl is one of those individuals that not only has content knowledge, but she’s a really good role model for the kids. She wants to see them succeed and she goes out of her way to help them.”

Wade said Fjell also is a role model for girls because of her success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“She’s one of those strong female role models who is important for our girls as we encourage them to be involved in STEM,” he said.

Fjell said she is honored to receive the award, especially during her final year of teaching. She said it was fun to look back on her career during the process.

“I think every teacher should do that,” Fjell said. “You haven’t just been teaching kids, you’ve been forming these relationship and you see them later.”

Fjell, who is originally from Dubuque, Iowa, moved to Manhattan after she married her husband Dale in 1975. Dale and Sheryl both earned degrees from K-State. The couple has three adult children. Fjell followed both of her parents into the teaching profession, but she joked none of her kids wanted to be teachers.

“My children do not want to be teachers because I graded too much at home and they saw that,” she said. “But I’m getting better.”

Outside of teaching, Fjell said she’s dedicated herself to community service. She is a member of three different sewing groups and has made blankets for a local emergency shelter. She said they are currently making adult bibs for local nursing homes. She has also had her students run a food drive for the Ogden Friendship House.

“That’s what I’ll do when I’m done with teaching every day,” Fjell said. “But I do want to come back and substitute teach because I will miss the kids. They kind of grow on you.”

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