PIERZ, Minn. (WCCO) — Twice a month, WCCO-TV gets to do something pretty fun — surprise someone who’s helping others.READ MORE: 'We Don't Have To Do It': Mask Mandate Confusion Abound In Twin Cities
Along with American Equity Mortgage, the WCCO crew gives them $500 to spend, any way they want.
This week’s winner is Kurt Stumpf, a teacher in Pierz, Minn., which is two hours north of the Twin Cities.
He was nominated for turning around math scores, running the district’s basketball program and even creating student jobs by hosting tournaments.
If you’re lucky, you had a teacher like Mr. Stumpf once.
“This is the kind of classroom that if there was no class, there’d be 30 kids in it anyway. They just hang around there. They want to be there,” said George Weber, superintendent of Pierz Public Schools.
The superintendent said a lot of kids enter 7th grade only so-so at math. But after a year with Stumpf, they’re outperforming the rest of the state.
“He won’t stop til they’re a success,” he said. “He just never quits.”
When WCCO-TV’s Amelia Santaniello stopped by to present Stumpf with a $500 check, it seemed he was at a loss for words.
“This isn’t an actual check,” Santaniello said, holding a giant cardboard check, “but you get $500, to spend as you like.”
Stumpf was humble but excited about the honor.
“Awesome, I’m doing what I can, I don’t know how great it is,” he said.
He’s great alright — in class and on the court.READ MORE: Police Reform A Major Sticking Point As Legislative Session Nears Its End
Stumpf runs tournaments so he can afford to take his varsity team to Target Center, Wisconsin Dells and even Chicago.
He’s in charge of basketball for the district and coaches volleyball, too.
Noah Boser, one of his students in the 7th grade, said there’s a number of things that make Stumpf a great teacher.
“He’s really funny, and he makes jokes to everyone,” he said. “He’s pretty good at teaching math, too.”
When asked what his secret is to great teaching, Stumpf said it’s nothing special, he just enjoys what he does and makes the kids his priority.
“I don’t have any secrets, and again, it’s not about me, it’s about the kids,” he said. “My secret might be my stupid jokes. That at least gets them engaged sometimes, that might be a little secret. But we just try to work hard and have fun.”
Stumpf grew up in Pierz and lucky for his hometown, he stayed.
He’s only 29, and he just got his master’s degree. When asked how he’ll spend the money, he joked that he’ll use it to buy pencils for his math class.
That’s a lot of pencils.
If you know someone who’s making a difference in our community, let us know.
Along with American Equity Mortage, we’d like to honor them.
Paula Engelking, Producer
WCCO-TV’s Amelia Santaniello Reports