By Chad Koenen


Tara Baune comes from a large family that supported education and values children. It’s those same values she not only shares with her three children, but all of the students that walk through her door, or say hello on the computer screen each day. 

After spending much of the past two months learning at a distance, Baune welcomed her students back in the classroom for the first time on Monday since November. In addition to talking about the holiday break, what they did while they were at home and the excitement of coming back to the classroom—Baune was able to share for the first time in person that she was honored as the NY Mills Teacher of the Year.

She was selected as Teacher of the Year by her fellow staff members right before the holiday break.  

“This is my first time being nominated for teacher of the year.  I am honored to be recognized.  Having been a substitute teacher, I was able to teach in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms, being recognized for being a part of that team is humbling, as I have seen the amazing things that are happening in other classrooms,” said Baune.

Baune began as a substitute teacher at NY Mills School and worked in the kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms for three years. She was then hired as a third grade teacher, a position she held for one year, before moving into her current role as a sixth grade teacher at NY Mills School. It’s a position she has held for the past five years and enjoys the welcoming atmosphere the school district provides students and families alike. 

“The thing that I enjoy the most about the NY Mills School is that it is a very welcoming place, creating a comfortable environment to learn, make mistakes and grow as a student or a staff member,” she said.

Along with her husband Charly, the Baunes have three children including Jonas, who is a sophomore at Minnesota State University in Moorhead, as well as sophomore Aidyn and eighth grader Alayna who both attend NY Mills. All three of the children were able to have their mother as their teacher during their time at NY Mills School.

Today, COVID-19 has completely changed the way teachers and students learn in the classroom. Between a mixture of in-person and distance learners, online meetings and keeping students socially distance, teachers have been forced to completely change how they reach students each day. 

Even with the challenges, Baune said the favorite part of her day is being able to interact with the students at the school and share the joy of education. 

“I am fortunate to be a part of a great teaching team with my partners in grades five and six, in the elementary as a whole and district wide. I really enjoy working together in the best interest of New York Mills students,” said Baune. “That said, the very best part of teaching is the students. I love the conversations that happen around learning, wether that be about a new academic skill they are mastering, a new book they are reading or something they are a excited to learn about outside of school. The joy of learning new things is contagious, and I am blessed to be a part of it.”