Students, teachers, community members honored at banquet


Sibley East’s first ever American Education Week banquet proved to be a hit. Approximately 450 people attended the event held Monday at the Arlington Community Center.

American Education Week spotlights the importance of providing every child in America with a quality public education from Kindergarten through college, and the need for everyone to do his or her part in making public schools great.

It was the idea of Superintendent Stephen Jones to organize a banquet here. The banquet recognized 47 students in Grades 4-12 based on academics, integrity, and character. School staff and community members were also honored.

Students recognized were:

Fourth Grade – Carron Kranz, Kiana Montes, Mitchell Neisen, Lina Vue

Fifth Grade – Alexus Kreft, Alma Lopez, Ella Lundstrom, Sheryl Monsivaiz

Sixth Grade – Logan Bruss, Trevor Diehn, Sadie Quast, Rachel Sorenson

Seventh Grade – Megan Elseth, Paige Nelson, Elizabeth Thies, Shelby Voight, Zachary Weber

Eighth Grade – Samuel Bullert, Kelsey Klaustermeier, Michael Templin, Amanda Uecker, Anna Woehler, Mitchel Wentzlaff

Ninth Grade – Erin Mesker, Katelyn Reid, Katherine Templin, Yuepan Vue

Sophomores – Tara Boehning, Bryce Kloeckl, Hannah Miner, Brandon Muehlenhardt, Emily Norell, Sonja Sprandel, Abby Tourtellott

Juniors – Aimee Bruss, Megan Heibel, Lucas Herd, Val Kloeckl, Rachel Ling

Seniors – Aaron Anderson, Mackenzie Bade, Max Eckberg, Tony Haefs, Teresa Ihrke, Lauren Keithahn, Justin Rettmann, Tim Young

Three current staff members were chosen for awards. They were the Sibley East Teacher of the Year, Paraprofessional of the Year, and Support Person of the Year.

Sibley East Teacher of the Year
Greg Elseth
Greg Elseth teaches seventh grade life science and eighth grade earth science. He has been employed by the Sibley East School District 14 years. He was nominated for his dedication to teaching that is shown by the time he works beyond school hours. Elseth uses technology well, keeping his classes current and opens his room during lunch or free periods for students to get help and work at experiments.

Elseth works at helping other teachers with new technologies, such as SMART board and PowerPoint presentations. He is involved with Scouts and has had meeting with the Scouts in his classroom. He also helps with refereeing football when needed.

Paraprofessional of the Year
Karen Kroells
Karen Kroells is a paraprofessional at the Gaylord campus. She has been employed by Sibley East for 16 years. She always has a smile for everyone and is very caring and compassionate. Kroells continually goes above and beyond the call of duty. She is very patient with small children, but firm. She puts her heart and soul into the Sibley East students.

Support Person of the Year
Soraida Palacios
For 15 years, Soraida Palacios has done a superb job of building a bridge connecting Sibley East Schools with our local Hispanic community. This bridge has become a viable means of communication between parents and teachers, enabling students to reap the benefits of a shared effort to bring the best to their world of learning.

As any district employee will tell you, Soraida is invaluable to our teachers, students and parents. She is our home-to-school connection for part of our population. When a letter needs to be translated, a home visited, or a phone call made to a Spanish-speaking family, she will do it without hesitation.

An Outstanding Retiree and Friend of Education were also named.

Outstanding Retiree
Mike Vrklan
Mike Vrklan taught and coached at Sibley East for 35 years. He continues his coaching responsibilities as cross country head coach and assistant girls track coach. He is now in his 41st year with the school district. Students often write about “Vrk,” saying what a great coach and inspiration he is to his runners. Students are the toughest critics, and they love him.

Friend of Education
Ann Carlson
Ann Carlson was employed as a paraprofessional in the Senior High School’s Special Education Resource Room for nearly 20 years. Ann approached her job professionally and went beyond expectations asked of her. She could always be counted on to get things done. In working with students, Ann was very patient and dedicated. Students enjoyed working with her as she provided support for their educational needs. A senior student who receives special education services described her as “persistent.” She didn’t give up, even though students might have much earlier. She provided invaluable support to not only special education staff, but general education teachers as well as she supported students in classes.

The first three inductees of the Sibley East Wall of Fame were also recognized. These inductees are people who have made great contributions to the schools that make up the district through their lifetime, or have graduated from high school here and have had noteworthy accomplishments.

Sibley East Wall of Fame

William “Bill” Harjes, Jr.
Bill was born and raised in Washington Lake Township. After graduating from high school in 1947, he began farming. He has been a lifelong dairy farmer and his family was named the Sibley County Farm Family of the Year in 1988. He unofficially retired from farming in 2005.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1954-56. While stationed in Germany, he met his future wife Dorothea. They were married in 1956 and have three children – Denise, Martina and Thomas, and 15 grandchildren.

Bill served on the Arlington-Green Isle School Board from 1965-1977. He served as a Sibley County Commissioner six years and on the Bongard’s Creamery Board for eight years. He is also active on the Sibley County Dairy Board, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Green Isle American Legion, and Green Isle Lions Club.

Mike Max
Mike, now of Eden Prairie, graduated from Gaylord High School in 1983. A three-sport athlete, he was named the school’s Athlete of the Year in 1983. He graduated from Hamline University in 1987, majoring in communications, and he played basketball and baseball.

Max interned at WCCO-TV in 1986 and was employed there as a producer-reporter from 1987-94. He was a Midwest Sports Channel Host from 1991-2001. He is a WCCO radio host from 1998 to present, and a WCCO-TV reporter and anchor from 2005 to the present. He serves as host to Life to the Max television program and The Sports Show on CW-23.

Max and his wife Jennifer have two children, Cassidy – 6, and Colton – 3.

Arden Kreft
Arden was born and raised in Arlington Township. He attended country school and Arlington High School. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1954-56, he was graduated from Minneapolis Vocational in 1958 and worked in the Twin Cities area. Arden moved back to Arlington in 1962 and opened his cabinet shop. He served as mayor of Arlington for 24 years, from 1970-1994, during the Sibley East consolidation. He has been active in the community and Peace Lutheran Church, past commander of the VFW and Legion Posts, numerous city boards, ambulance association, and civil defense director.

He married his wife Marie in 1969. They have seven children – Jim, John, Mark, Kathryn, Dan, Dave, and Mike – and a host of grandchildren.