Three East Side teachers are candidates for MN Teacher of the Year

Michael Houston

Holly Johnston

Elizabeth Neilson

The list of 132 teachers nominated for the 2017 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award includes three East Side teachers this year. They are:


• Michael Houston, a math teacher at Harding High School. 

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Houston has lived in Minnesota since 1991 and has been teaching at Harding High School since 2002. 

He attended the University of Minnesota from 1999-2001 before transferring to Concordia University in St. Paul where he received his bachelor’s degree. 

Houston recently completed his master’s in education from Hamline University.  


• Holly Johnston, a kindergarten teacher at Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet School. 

She has been teaching at Phalen Lake for 24 years. Johnston has a bachelor’s degree with distinction from the University of Minnesota and received a master’s degree from St. Cloud State University. She and her husband have 11 1/2 year-old twin sons. 


• Elizabeth Neilson, an English teacher at Twin Cities Academy. 

Neilson grew up in St. Cloud, and she and her husband recently moved to St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood. This is Neilson’s fifth year of teaching. 

She was previously selected as a semifinalist for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. 


This year’s program will name the 53rd recipient of the Minnesota Teacher of the Year honor. Candidates include pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade and adult basic education teachers from public and private schools.

The 2017 winner will be announced Sunday, May 7, at the Radisson Blu Mall of America hotel in Bloomington. Over the coming weeks, a 25-member panel of community leaders will name a group of semifinalists and finalists.

Education Minnesota, the union representing teachers and school support staff, sponsors the competition. 


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