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Science teacher Kevin Pope named Morris Area 2012 Teacher of the Year

Kevin Pope, a fourth year science teacher in the Morris Area School District, loves teaching, but hates to be in the spotlight. Pope, who also helps coach football and manages the weight room, was named the district's 2012 Teacher of the Year.

MORRIS - Morris Area High School science teacher Kevin Pope loves physics, but doesn't think of himself as a math person even though he acknowledges physics is mostly math.

He's a science person, but muddled through college chemistry.

He loves teaching, but doesn't like to be in the spotlight and doesn't know why he was voted the 2012 Teacher of the Year for the Morris Area School District.

Pope, who is in the middle of his fourth year in the district, said he is "completely honored and humbled" by the award, especially since he was chosen for the award by the many colleagues he looks up to.

"To be viewed in that light by my peers and the people I look up to, that's really awesome," said Pope. "I'm still one of the younger teachers on staff and I'm at the point where I'm still trying to learn from them and look up to them as much as I can."

When Pope graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2009 he and his wife, Jessie, knew they wanted to try and stay with the community. The small town location of the district appealed to them, since both grew up in Ely, Minn., a community of around 3,500 people about two hours north of Duluth.

In the spring of 2009, Pope interviewed for two jobs in the Morris Area School District. He was the runner-up to science teacher Dylan Viss for the first job, but landed the second position that opened up shortly after.

Pope is licensed to teach both science and social studies, although science is his first love and the subject he said he has wanted to teach since high school.

"I got to college and started right away into biology, but I hit a speed bump with chemistry - chemistry's not a strong subject for me - so I struggled and muddled through that," Pope recalls.

As a college sophomore, Pope realized he might not be able to finish his biology degree in time to complete the education program, so he switched majors to his second passion, social studies with a focus on history, while still working towards a minor in biology.

At graduation, this mixed background offered him the opportunity to teach in either subject. He was hired in Morris to teach middle school science.

Today, Pope continues to teach science to the districts' 80 7th graders, and recently had the chance to add a physics class for juniors and seniors to his teaching load, a subject he loves.

"If you drop a ball you're doing physics," said Pope. "That's why I love physics - it's everything around us ... If you understand what's happening in any situation, it's physics."

Pope tries to keep his classes "pretty loose," playing music before class starts to help students relax and have fun before they settle in to start working. He also tries to set clearl expectations for students so they know how to do their best in his class.

In addition to teaching, Pope also helps coach high school football and, along with Viss, manages the high school weight room before school. While a student at UMM, Pope was an active member of the Cougar football and baseball programs, and said he would also love to coach baseball when he has time.

For now, however, he and Jessie, a kindergarden teacher at Morris Area Elementary School, are being kept busy by their two-year-old daughter Madalyn and nine-month-old son Landon. Pope also loves to get outside to hunt and fish, and cheer for his favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers (a fact his kids and his colleagues like to give him a hard time about).

"I try to come to work every day with a good attitude," he said. "I really love what I do. It's easy for me to come here with a good attitude because I love coming here for the kids. I love the people I work with. Everything about what I do is just what I want to do. It really makes that easy for me."