Pine City teacher Ryan Larson has been named one of the Minnesota Rural Educators Association 2019 Educators in Excellence for his work with the Dragon Academy.
Back in 2012, Larson inherited the Junior High Area Learning Center program from former teacher Lisa Mills, but the big switch came a few years later when he saw a way for him and his coworkers to move from a supportive to an active role.
"At that point in time, I ended up co-teaching with teachers from several different subject areas, so that gave me the idea, 'if we're licensed in different areas, maybe we could provide them with alternative classes instead of helping them with their homework.,'" Larson told WCMP.
So, Larson proposed Dragon Academy as a way to teach their eighth and ninth-grade students the core subjects of Math, Science, English, and Social Studies with a more hands-on approach.
Every year, students going out and collect maple syrup as a way to see first hand how ratios and proportions work in everyday life.
"40 to 1 doesn't mean a lot to a student," Larson said, "But when they [the students] realize 40:1 means eight, five-gallon pails of sap equals one, one-gallon jug of syrup, that has a lot more meaning to them."
As the Dragon Academy it enters its fifth year, Larson is starting to see his first students start to graduate.
"For a lot of the students I get to work with, their interests are not, so much, school sorts of interests. Knowing that they're going to get their diploma and move onto to the sorts of things to them beyond academics, it's nice to know they've made that big step of graduating and launching off into the world, it's rewarding," Larson said.
You can watch MREA's video on Ryan Larson and the Dragon Academy below.
The MREA will honor the 2019 honorees at the Annual Awards Banquet on Nov. 18 at Cragun’s on Gull Lake near Brainerd.