A Surprise at the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Brunch

By: Shana Hoffer, BestPrep’s Development Manager

BestPrep CEO Bob Kaitz speaking at the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Brunch

“And now for one final award…” the event emcee began. I briefly glanced at my boss, Bob Kaitz, BestPrep’s CEO, for any sign that he knew what was coming. I sensed that the others at our table were also casually trying to determine the same thing. His expression revealed nothing. Had we succeeded in keeping it a secret?

It all began three weeks prior when Bob was invited to be the guest speaker for the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Brunch, sponsored by the WEM Foundation and administered by the Synergy & Leadership Exchange. Each year, Synergy accepts nominations for outstanding Minnesota educators in the categories of Teacher Achievement, Academic Challenge Coach, and Ethics in Education.

While these educators knew in advance that they would be receiving an award, the Synergy & Leadership Exchange contacted me to let me know Bob would also be presented with an award for Excellence in Education, which would be unveiled as a surprise during the event. With this information in hand, I set out to invite Bob’s wife, Candee, as well as a few BestPrep board members and staff to attend the event, ensuring they would keep the secret from Bob!

Bob Kaitz received the WEM Outstanding Educator – Excellence In Education Award

During a wonderful brunch, guests had the privilege of hearing from the honored educators as they accepted their awards. Their acceptance speeches were inspiring and emotional and the common thread became clear – though these individuals were passionately living their life’s work, their accomplishments did not often receive this type of public recognition. As the awards presentations came to a close, the emcee explained that one final award remained. As his name was called, Bob was visibly stunned. The other guests at our table exchanged conspiratorial smiles; we had kept a very big secret!

To me, it makes perfect sense that Bob was chosen to be honored alongside these teachers. Since founding BestPrep 41 years ago, the organization has impacted more than 1.6 million Minnesota students through our educational programs. Despite this success, Bob is a humble and compassionate leader, qualities that have been the foundation of the wonderful partnerships that make BestPrep’s work possible.

Congratulations Bob! I think I speak for BestPrep’s staff and board members in saying that this honor is well-deserved.