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America’s best educator lands her dream job
Rick Bussler, Publisher
rick bussler, editor, opinion, hot pursuit

If she wasn’t born a leader, then Michelle Krell’s life experiences have definitely made her a leader.

Krell, who has been recognized in the past as one of America’s best educators, has landed her dream job.

The Blooming Prairie native is taking on a new adventure as the executive director of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) based in Roseville. Being named to such a position hasn’t come without lots of hard work, dedication and passion for education in Krell’s 30 years as a teacher, principal and most recently assistant superintendent in Owatonna.

For Krell, it all got started as a youngster growing up on the farm outside of Blooming Prairie. “I was a pretty proud farm girl,” she said. “I learned how to work hard and value the work ethic you get by working on a farm.”

She is one of the most dynamic educators I have come across in my 35 plus years of covering education. I have crossed paths with Krell many times over the past 14 years. And every time she never ceases to amaze me with her deep passion for educating Minnesota’s youth. That passion radiates from her bubbly personality and positivity, often difficult to find in many people.

Krell will be the first one to shrug the spotlight from her and point to the many people under her who make things happen in the schools. But the fact is without Krell’s excellent leadership skills, our schools, quite frankly, would not be what they are today. In order to excel as an organization, there needs to be a strong leader at the top. Krell is that person.

She is a highly decorated educator. Most notably, she was named one of 61 outstanding principals across America while serving as principal at Kasson-Mantorville in 2014. At the time she was the only one from Minnesota to achieve the honor, which brought her to Washington, D.C.  She described it as “an awe inspiring event.”

But that is only the beginning of her achievements. In 2021, she was the recipient of the Outstanding Central Office Leader Award by the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. Some other honors include 2013-14 Minnesota School of Excellence Award (K-M), 2012 MESPA Leadership Award, 2011 National Distinguished Principal Nominee and Top Three Finalist and a 2006 Blue Ribbon School Award (Waseca).

Not sure if you notice a pattern, but wherever Krell goes, she shines in an incredible way.

I’ve never had a connection to Krell in the classroom, but I believe what sets her aside is her down-to-earth style where passion pours out, in addition to her exceptional leadership skills.

During her stint at K-M, Krell spent at least one hour every morning going around to every classroom offering students and staff members “good morning greetings,” along with her infectious smile. It quickly became a staple of Krell’s love for education and making sure every child feels valued.

But Krell’s success hasn't come without some major heartbreak in her life. In 1989, at 18 years old, Krell found herself facing a traumatic experience that further forged her service mentality. She was involved in a car crash outside of Blooming Prairie that killed her future mother-in-law, Joyce Krell, and another member of the family. She was among the survivors.

“It was a defining moment in my life,” she has shared with me in the past, pointing to the car wreck. “You wrestle with why you survived, and others did not. I found there is a purpose in my life. That shaped my path and gave me a whole new purpose.”

Joyce Krell was “a saint who did wonders and was very service-oriented, so I knew my life needed to mean something,” Michelle Krell said. “My engine is revved up in the morning when I wake up to help others and serve.”

Adding more to Krell’s heartache came in 2004 when she witnessed the family’s livelihood go up in flames after their barn caught on fire outside of Blooming Prairie. They saved the cows, but within days of the fire, they made the tough decision to sell them and not rebuild the dairy operation.

Now years later principals as well as elementary-aged children are going to benefit from Krell’s determination to not buckle and continue to be driven to help Minnesota’s public education system.

Education is deeply imbedded into the Krell family. Not only has she been in education for 30 years, her husband, Rodney Krell, has served as chairman of the Blooming Prairie School Board for many years. In addition, their daughter, Jenna Volgarino, is an elementary teacher in Blooming Prairie.

It will be fun beginning July 1 to sit back and watch Krell’s latest venture as she goes in hot pursuit of sharing her passion for education across the entire state.

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