By Kim Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Now that school is back in session, it’s time to recognize the great work our teachers do.

The teacher receiving the first Excellent Educator award of the 2016-2017 school year sets the bar high.

Tim Owen may teach his students how to speak the Spanish language at Hopkins High School, but his goal is to connect them to the people.

“I’ve always wanted to build bridges between cultures because I see the way different groups of people tend to separate themselves, so this is a great opportunity to help bridge my students to interacting with Latin American cultures,” Owen said.

Owen first got to know Latin culture during many trips to Central America. He’s visited Nicaragua more than a dozen times, lived in Costa Rica and studied in Cuba and Mexico. He took all of what he learned home, to enrich his curriculum for his Spanish students at Hopkins High School.

His lessons, reach beyond language.

“Salsa is one of my great passions,” he said.

After school hours, Owen manages a Cuban band, Salsabrosa, that performs around the Twin Cities and also has make appearances in his classroom.

“I bring musicians here to perform and to tell their stories and sing with the students so that students are connecting with the local Latino community, which is very important,” he said.

The learning also takes place outside the classroom. Students have joined Owen at live salsa performances and even traveled to Central America with him to experience the culture first-hand.

“When I, or my students, travel and go to places that are very different from what we’re used to you get to see the world through another lens and it makes your life better. And it gives you an opportunity to see what is needed in the world,” Owen said.

But Owen cares about the culture at school too, which is why he leads a student group that works to make the school more inclusive. Last year, those students helped create Hopkin High School’s first gender neutral bathroom. The principal said his enthusiast attitude is contagious.

“When somebody else does something that is maybe outside of the basic expectations other people step up and do the same thing,” Doug Bullinger, Hopkins High School principal, said.

As much as he gives, Owen said, he gets as much back from the people he most cares about.

“I love my students. I’m inspired by them every day,” he said.


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