MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A paraprofessional in a Coon Rapids elementary school is about to retire after nearly 25 years. She had one thing that she wanted to make sure happen before she did, however: nominate the teacher she works with for the WCCO Excellent Educator award.

“We watch ‘CCO a lot and I’ve watched a lot of the nominees,” Barb Koste said. “I thought, ‘I’m leaving in December and I wanted to nominate Travis.'”

Koste is talking about Travis Tucker at Hoover Elementary. And Tucker’s devotion to his students’ lives inside and outside the classroom is what makes him this week’s Excellent Educator.

The group of students Tucker works with every day is small. They are students who need extra help because of a disability they face.

“We do a lot of different things in here. We teach reading, we teach math and we teach social skills to a lot of kids,” he said. “I’d have to say my favorite part is just connecting with the kids, working with the kids and helping them with their needs.”

He’s been a teacher for 12 years, but Tucker took a longer path to find his passion.

“I didn’t always want to go into teaching. I went into automotives to start with, went and got my automotive degree and was a mechanic to start with,” he said.

But he brought his love of cars into the classroom. It’s hard to not notice the large display of Hot Wheels hanging above the chalkboard.

“When I first started, I was getting a lot of coffee mugs and I don’t drink coffee, so I really wanted something that I could start collecting that I could connect with the kids about that was fairly inexpensive for the kids to buy if they wanted to get me something,” he explained. “Each car I get I always put the picture of the student on there and I put their name and the year they got it for me. And then I say to the kids ’25 years from now when I retire, I can take the cars down and look back and think about them.'”

The good news is retirement is years down the road, leaving plenty of time for him to impact on even more kids.

“Mr. Tucker has really helped me with my reading. Ever since I’ve been in his group, he’s really helped me work on my fluency,” Kaitlyn, one of his students, said.


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