Even when Shari Jerde is at her desk — she’s on the go. The 2022 North Dakota Teacher of the Year finalist wears out the carpet in the classroom during the school day.

“It really is the thought that I want to be the teacher that these students deserve,” Jerde said. “What would my students, my own children have wanted in a teacher? And I do think about that. I just hope that I could be a positive part of that journey that they’ve now come to Community [High School] to find success in.”

Community High School offers an alternative setting for students to find — as their motto says — another road to success. The customized learning environment emphasizes a lot of interaction between Shari and her students. And it puts the students in the best position to identify and utilize their strengths.

“I may give 28 students the same assignment that day, but here we’re giving different assignments, different expectations,” Jerde said. “We look at the students learning how they learn best and try to use that, use their strengths.”

Jerde prioritizes relationships; the trust that’s built helps her students succeed.

“No one likes to ask questions if they feel like they don’t know it, or they might feel insecure about that,” Jerde said. “So, that has been a huge part of … why I feel successful here, and why I’m able to help students. We bond, and during that, they learn.”

Jerde says it’s the students who keep her coming back day after day. And she says seeing them overcome challenges — past and present — makes it all worthwhile.

“It is kind of amazing to see them get in a situation where they feel comfortable,” Jerde said, “Comfortable to learn and let all that other junk that kind of was in their life go for even just three hours out of the day, to make success happen academically for them. So, they mean a lot to me.”

From beginning her career outside of education — to becoming a finalist for North Dakota’s Teacher of the Year — Shari Jerde is helping shape another road to success for students in and around Grand Forks.

This story was written and produced by Tom Gerhardt, NDU Communications. He can be reached by e-mail at tom.gerhardt@ndunited.org.