Dan Palkki, 5th grade teacher, named finalist for Educator of the Year Award

Mr. Dan Palkki is a current 5th grade teacher at New Life Academy. He’s been teaching here for 5 years and prior to teaching at New Life, he taught at Christian Life School in Farmington for 2 years.

Recently, Mr. Palkki has been named a finalist for the Educator of the Year Award. The criteria for that award is the ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to reach their full potential.  He was nominated on the basis of educating the whole child so they can be successful in their middle school years. He strongly believes in taking time during the day to meet with students one-on-one, to encourage students to be leaders who walk with integrity and serve others. He is passionate about forming vibrant relationships with each student so that they know their teacher cares for them and is always cheering them on. He conducts his classroom with high expectations and academically rigorous, but engaging activities.

Last week we sat down with Mr. Palkki to ask him what he loves about teaching at New Life and what motivates and inspires him as a teacher.

What do you love about teaching at NLA and what motivated you to want to teach at NLA?

What I love about teaching at New Life Academy is that my goals as a teacher line up perfectly with the school’s mission and motto: to Learn with Honor, to Lead with Courage, and to Serve with compassion. As a teacher, I’m committed to teaching the whole student. At NLA, we don’t just teach academics, but we teach and challenge our kids to grow spiritually, and we push them to grow as leaders and servants with compassionate hearts. That is something that I am super passionate about. I also love the relationships that I am able to build here with students and their families, both in and out of the classroom.

What is a unique experience, talent or interest that you bring to your classroom to help shape the learning experience of your students?

I view myself in the classroom as less of a teacher and more of a coach. The best coaches are able to take their players both individually and collectively, and are able to get the most out of them. They challenge and inspire their players to be the best they can be. I view myself in this role in the classroom. Each student is an individual, and each child has a different potential. My goal is to walk alongside each student and to motivate them to reach their full potential in Christ. I want my students to leave 5th grade understanding that their full potential far exceeds even their own expectations for themselves.

In the classroom, I value a hands-on and collaborative approach to learning. It makes learning a lot more fun when we can experience what we are learning. There is always a very positive vibe in my classroom, and I like to think that my kids really enjoy coming to 5th grade each day. I know I do! I also like to think that my 5th graders have a difficult time moving onto 6th grade because of all the special memories we’ve built together throughout the year. I have a very difficult time sending my kids off to 6th grade, but I do like when they come back and visit!

What sets NLA students apart from students at other schools?

Our students are learning so much more than academics! They are growing in character, in spiritually, and in servant leadership. This world needs New Life students in a big way! Whether they end up as doctors, as teachers, as pastors, or as lawyers –this world needs New Life students to go out and impact their world for Jesus! This is what separates us. Our teachers and administrators encourage growth in the whole student.

What do you want students to gain from having you as their teacher?

When students leave my room on the last day of school I want them to know first and foremost that I love them. I cherish the relationships that I build with my kids, and I want those relationships to continue to grow throughout the years. It is important to me that my students leave 5th grade with a greater confidence in who they are in Christ. Philippians 1:6 says, “I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”