ST. PAUL -- A Burnsville elementary school teacher was named the 2020 Teacher of the Year last week by Education Minnesota.

Qorsho Hassan is a fourth-grade teacher at Echo Park Elementary School in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District.

“It means a lot,” Hassan said of the award. “It’s very validating.”

Hassan, who has been teaching for eight years, credited her students with making her the teacher she is.

“They are the reason I was selected as the recipient (of the Teacher of the Year award) and are my why,” she said.

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Growing up in Ohio as a Muslim girl of Somali descent, Hassan said she faced a lot of Islamophobia in school and didn’t see herself reflected in the teachers she had.

“I didn’t have a representative teacher, and I just always yearned to teach others and kind of be what I needed when I was growing up,” she said.

In November, Hassan was also recognized as a “Topnotch Equity Leader” by Kinect Education Group.

Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, selected Hassan in April as one of 10 finalists for the Teacher of the Year award from a field of 134 nominees.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who was a teacher himself before entering politics, congratulated Hassan on Twitter last week.

“Thank you for ensuring each and every student that enters your classroom can have a bright future and an opportunity to succeed,” Walz wrote.