Kayla opening a double door

An Open Door and an Open Heart

2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year Kayla (Delzer) Dornfeld, ’08, ’14, lives out passion for teaching through being a light for others.

When Mapleton, North Dakota, third grade teacher Kayla (Delzer) Dornfeld received news that she had been chosen to receive the Young Alumni Achievement Award from her alma mater last year, she was floored. “I had been at the College of Education table at the event the year before and told my mom that getting the award was on my bucket list. And then a year later I got it! Then, the same day I was getting that award I got the phone call that I had been selected as 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year! They are both huge honors,” Dornfeld exclaimed!

Huge … and well-deserved. The New York Times recently called Dornfeld “One of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States.” In the seven short years since she began tinkering with technology in her classroom, Dornfeld has become a household name in the world of teaching. Her personal blog, TopDogTeaching.com, has 2.5 million views; her Instagram page @topdogteaching has 84,000 followers and counting, and her Facebook fan page @topdogteaching has an impressive 9,000 people “liking” her posts.

In addition to being named 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year, Dornfeld’s accolades include Top 100 Innovative Educator in the World, TEDx speaker, and 2017 and 2018 Global Hundred Award winner, to name a few. While it’s all humbling, the awards and achievements are not what matters most to Dornfeld. “It’s all because of my kids! They are amazing. Every speech that I do I talk about how this isn’t about me. This is about my students,” Dornfeld said.

Becoming 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year has opened new doors for Dornfeld that she says have allowed her to be an advocate for kids on a larger level. She’s worked with the governor and state superintendent of public instruction and feels passionate about being a voice for all kids in the state. “I feel like being Teacher of the Year has elevated my voice and also exposed me more to what’s important in all schools across the state,” she said.

My teaching has evolved, and my focus has changed from mastering the curriculums to really getting to know each kid.

Married to a Lutheran minister, Dornfeld explains that her faith is extremely important to her. And, when it comes down to it, her platform is truly about grace and love. “I wholeheartedly love them all. I teach my students what grace is and that it means forgiveness and giving someone the opposite of what they deserve. If you give a child grace, it all works out. The kids who are the hardest are the ones who need grace most,” she concluded.

As for what’s next, Dornfeld, says that is out of her hands. “I am seeing what God has next for me because none of this has been in my plans. So, I will listen and obey and do it bravely,” she said.