JACKSON — A second-grade teacher in her fourth year at Riverside Elementary has been nominated as one of 75 candidates for Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

Brittany Rogers is a Jackson County native, growing up outside Lakefield. After getting her elementary education degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato, Rogers taught for six years in Cleveland before coming to work for Jackson County Central.

"This is where we wanted to raise our family," Rogers said. Her husband is originally from Brewster, so they both knew they wanted to return to the local area.

For Rogers, teaching has always been the goal. Even as a child herself, she liked other kids. Babysitting and teaching swimming lessons solidified for a young Rogers that she knew education was the right path for her.

Second grade is a particularly fun grad to teach, she said.

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"It's a huge stepping stone into shaping the kids into who they will be in their future," she explained.

Second-graders learn essential skills like reading and telling time, but this grade is also socially formative, Rogers said. Students become aware of their own personalities and start to form friendships based on shared interests.

"They love life, and it rubs off on me," she said of her students.

The best part of her job is watching kids have a "lightbulb moment" when they figure out something new. Rogers loves that she gets to be part of those little achievements.

Working in a small-town school district also makes a big difference for Rogers. She doesn't just get to know her students, but their families as well. In her four years at JCC, she's already had several sets of siblings come through her classroom.

After they leave her class, her students keep coming back to visit. Rogers gets to be a role model for a long time, which might not necessarily be the case in a bigger district.

In addition to the students in her classroom, Rogers also has three kids at home — a 6-year-old and 4-year-old twins. The Rogers family loves to be outside swimming, going to the park, sledding and ice fishing.

"I'm so excited to be a sports mom," Rogers said. Her kids are just getting old enough to start sports, and she's looking forward to running them around to their practices and games.

Sports are another way Rogers is able to connect with her students. She had six wrestlers in her class last year, so she made it a point to go and watch them compete. Each of her six students came over to sit next to her for part of the event, and they were all thankful for her support.

In the classroom, Rogers gets to know the students well and personalizes lessons to suit them. For example, this year, she has a little boy who loves hockey, so she purposely selected a book about hockey for the class to read.

Rogers learned a couple of months ago that her peers at the local teachers' union chapter had voted for her as JCC's Teacher of the Year.

"It's definitely an honor," she said, "but I know how hard everyone else works, too. I feel like this award should go to every teacher."

While the past year has been a unique challenge for teachers, students deserve credit too, she added.

"These kids are so resilient," she said.

Rogers is now in the running for Minnesota Teacher of the Year among 75 candidates statewide. She is the only teacher selected from the six Minnesota counties in The Globe's coverage area.

Rogers will find out next month if she has advanced to become a finalist.

"I just so thankful that I get to do what I love every single day," she said.