Molly Engstrom believes education is a lifelong adventure.

“I believe everyone we encounter and all our experiences are a part of our education,” Engstrom said. “I believe everyone can learn.”

Engstrom, who has taught special education at Horizon Middle School for 13 years, has been named the 2016 Horizon Teacher of the Year. 

“I also believe that to be a good educator, you must have a good team,” she said. “Education does not happen alone for either the receiver or giver of education. I’ve been blessed to work with an amazing team.”

Principal Jeremy Larson considers Engstrom an outstanding professional who does the right things for students even if it means sacrifice for herself.

“She helps build and keep a strong professional atmosphere with multiple teachers, paras and related service providers,” he said. “She has great rapport with families and agencies.”

Prior to teaching in Moorhead, Engstrom taught in Fairmont, Minn., as a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing. She began teaching in Moorhead in 2002 as a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing before moving into a developmental cognitive delay teaching position in 2005.

Engstrom graduated from Minot State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and deaf and hard of hearing education, and she completed her student teaching at the School for the Deaf and Blind in Great Falls, Mont. She later completed her master’s degree in special education from Minnesota State University Moorhead, earning certificates in physical and health disabilities and developmental cognitive delay.

Engstrom grew up around education as both her parents were educators. In high school she knew she wanted to work with students who had special needs, and she also knew she loved sign language.

“I went on my first journey into deaf education,” Engstrom said. “I learned sign language, which has greatly benefited me when working with all students.”

During college, Engstrom worked at Minot Vocational Workshop, which connected her with people who have disabilities and led to her second journey.

“When a developmental cognitive delay classroom position opened in Moorhead, I moved in and have loved it!” Engstrom said.

Engstrom considers herself a facilitator of education.

“Education looks very different in a life skills functional program compared to typical education,” she said. “Within our setting, we have many adults who interact and work with our students. I feel having the utmost respect for each adult is vital. Gaining their respect and trust has been a key factor in being able to educate the students in a successful way. My hope is that all staff members who work in my classroom feel like their knowledge and education matters and is respected.”