MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thomas Rademacher,32, was named the 2014 Minnesota teacher of the year on Sunday. Rademacher teaches English at the FAIR school in downtown Minneapolis.

He is the first winner from the West Metro Education Program district, a voluntary partnership of 11 school districts.

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Education Minnesota, which is the union for educators, oversees the teacher of the year award.

The winner gets about $6,000, mostly to cover travel expenses, as he or she goes around Minnesota speaking to other teachers, student teachers, state lawmakers, the governor and even the president of the United States about improving our schools.

WCCO tagged along with Rademacher Monday, his first time back at the FAIR School since winning the award.

As he cruised through the lunch crowd, it was easy to see the students at the FAIR School already knew Rademacher is awesome. So much so, they call him Mr. RAD.

Students jumped from their seats to congratulate him and give him a hug.

“In their hearts they understand that, that everything I do is absolutely for them,” Rademacher said. “And that I create classes that are going to be the best for them.”

He’s been a teacher for eight years, mostly teaching English to high school students and middle school students.

He says he looks for more than the ability to write; he rewards critical thinking.

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“I want to know all the ways my kids need my help and need my support, but I, I absolutely want to know all the ways my kids are brilliant as well,” he said.

The student who nominated him pointed to his ability to motivate and his reluctance to judge.

“You don’t know what happened the hour before you see that kid, what happened at night, what happened five years ago that that kid might be carrying around. You have to remember that each kid is almost always giving you the most that they can on that day,” he said.

He views the award as an opportunity to share ideas on how to improve teaching.

“It is easy when you are teaching to get tired, and it’s easy to have experiences that wear you down. I do think, on the hardest day, on my worst day, there is nothing I’d rather do with my life,” he said.

Winning the state teacher of the year award automatically puts you in the running to be the national teacher of the year.

So now, a whole new competition is beginning.

Over the next year, Rademacher will also go to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. with the other state winners, and next spring the entire group will be invited to the White House to meet with President Obama.

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He also received a free iPad.