Robbinsdale Area Schools

Cooper’s Eric Zuccola is a finalist for 2022 Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Odd as it sounds, for Cooper High School (CHS) teacher Eric Zuccola, the chance to be named Minnesota’s top teacher nearly became an afterthought. 

“Not long after my nomination in January came our district's shift back into distance learning, so I largely forgot about the Teacher of the Year process until the eventual announcements were made about the semifinalists,” he said.

Now? Not so much an afterthought. Zuccola, who teaches English at CHS and is advisor to its award-winning student newspaper The Quill, is one of just 11 finalists for the 2022 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. The recognition program is organized by Education Minnesota, the state’s 70,000-member teacher union.

“To receive an email from the selection committee letting me know that I was a semifinalist provided me with a much-needed boost,” he said. “The Friday on which the semifinalists were notified happened to be one of those challenging days all educators experience.”

Dr. Frank Herman, principal at CHS, said he can’t think of a more deserving nominee than Zuccola.

“He’s an amazing teacher,” Dr. Herman said. “He’s dedicated to his students and genuinely cares about them. His passion is contagious, and he makes our school a better place.”

In January, it was first announced that Zuccola was among the 77 state-wide candidates for the award. Nominees can be teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade and adult basic education, from public and private schools. 

“Receiving the initial nomination was a surprise,” he said.

Zuccola said he loves teaching and especially enjoys the chance to help students develop the skills that will lead them to success after they leave school.

“I like sharing my love for journalism and hope their time spent with that content will be of use to them in the future,” he said. “I appreciate working in a profession that brings with it the ongoing opportunity to make the world a better place through the students I serve.”

Zuccola said he’ll be shocked if he actually wins the teacher of the year award. He also said it wouldn’t be possible without the support of Robbinsdale Area Schools, CHS or his colleagues.

“I appreciate working in a building and in a district that provides the support that makes it possible for teachers like me to stay with the teaching profession for such a long time,” he said. “I am fortunate to work with many veteran Cooper colleagues who are just as deserving of this recognition from the state as I am.”

On May 1, this year’s state Teacher of the Year will be announced during a ceremony at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

Read more about the award and see the state-wide list of finalists at the Education Minnesota website.