Grand Forks teacher named 2023 North Dakota Teacher of the Year

Ivona Todorovic of Grand Forks named 2023 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.
Ivona Todorovic of Grand Forks named 2023 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.(North Dakota Department of Public Instruction)
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 2:55 PM CDT
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Ivona Todorovic, an English Language teacher at Red River High School in Grand Forks, has been named North Dakota’s 2023 Teacher of the Year.

“Mrs. Todorovic has made an enormous impact on her students, on the Grand Forks community and the entire state through her passion for teaching students the English language and the skills they need to succeed in life, while giving them the opportunity to embrace and share their cultures with the community,” Governor Doug Burgum said.

Todorovic has worked in the Grand Forks school district for 27 years, including the last 17 years as an English Language teacher at Red River. She teaches students who are not fluent in English. Many are learning English for the first time.

A native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Todorovic grew up in Zenica, about 43 miles northeast of Sarajevo in southeastern Europe. When the former nation of Yugoslavia broke up into six independent republics in the early 1990s, war and ethnic conflict ensued, and Todorovic and her husband, Alex, emigrated to the United States as refugees.

The Todorovics arrived in Grand Forks in June 1995, and Ivona Todorovic began working two months later as a paraprofessional at Lake Agassiz Elementary in Grand Forks. She became Red River’s English Language teacher in 2005. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from the University of North Dakota, and a degree in elementary education from the University of Sarajevo.

Todorovic organizes district-wide professional development to provide advice to general education teachers about the most effective ways to work with new Americans and immigrant students. She helped to create “Culture Night” at Red River, which has become a community-wide event and opportunity for her students to share their cultures through dance, music, food, poetry, and crafts.

Grand Forks School Superintendent Terry Brenner called her “an example of the American dream” and said her own life experience helped her relate to her students, some of whom are refugees themselves.

“In many ways, she has lived their lives,” Brenner said of Todorovic. “You won’t find a bigger heart or champion of students.”

The three other North Dakota Teacher of the Year finalists were: Abby DuBord, a first-grade teacher at Bismarck’s Elk Ridge Elementary; Megan Margerum, of Hunter, a third-grade English/Language Arts teacher at Northern Cass Public School; and Megan Wald, of Kintyre, a Linton High School business education instructor.