It’s a sound educators deserve to hear: applause.

Look closely and you’ll see 23-year teacher Sue McPherson wiping away tears.  

These tears come with smiles. 

I was born a farm girl,” McPherson said. “You know, we have to be tough, and so things like today are hard on you. You’re showing your emotions like, ‘I’m tough! I got this.’ I really don’t. 

McPherson teaches middle school language arts and AVID at Northern Cass. 

“My generation, you get up [and] you work hard. You don’t want or expect any accolades. So when you do, it’s humbling because there are so many fantastic people here,” McPherson said. “We are a family, too.” 

Sharing the 2020 North Dakota Teacher of the Year finalist recognition with her Northern Cass family hit this self-proclaimed farm girl right in the heart. 

“I’ve gone through a lot,” she admits, “By losing my mom or (having) cancer. And they’ve always been right there. This is this is where I go. This is my go-to, this thing. … There’s people that have said my car’s here early in the morning or late at night. But I like being home. And I really like being here.” 

McPherson says educators have played an important role in her life. She can still name every teacher she’s ever had. 

Joining the past with the present is part of her teaching philosophy. Her godmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse. 

“And she was telling me how she would pick kids up in the back of her truck on her way to school, and she would have the older learners helping the younger ones,” McPherson said. “And everything that she was saying … we’re kind of doing that now. We’re calling it personalized learning. … Like, yesterday my seventh- and eighth-graders were in the kindergarten room, and it’s not so different than the one-room schoolhouse.” 

McPherson says she teaches like she lives — respecting everyone, working hard and showing up. Combined with an emphasis on building relationships with “her students,” Sue says one thing makes it all worthwhile. 

“Well, if I can get one learner out there that’s contemplating going into education, and they’re really good with people,” she said. “If I could get one or two or whatever to even think education is is a great profession where I could actually make a difference and help people, then this experience would be worth it.