Combs a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

By Scott Carlson

From the time he was a youngster, DeWayne Combs knew he would become a teacher.

Starting as a camp counselor at age 14, Combs has continually worked with kids, most of those years in coaching and as a physical education teacher.

Now, 29 years into his career with the St. Paul Public Schools, Combs is one of 10 finalists for 2020 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. He was selected from a group of 36 semifinalists. (For further information go to

The following is a Q and A session with Combs. Education Minnesota is expected to announce the 2020 Teacher of the Year later this summer.

Q: For how long—and at what schools—have you worked as an educator in Saint Paul?

A: I have been an employee of Saint Paul Public Schools for 29 years. I started on May 11, 1991. I worked for 10 years at Saint Paul Secondary ALC (Alternative Learning Center) as a physical education teacher and activities coordinator. I worked 10 years at Battle Creek Middle School, four years at Ramsey Middle School and four years at Johnson Senior High as a physical education teacher and athletics director. Recently, I’ve been at Murray Middle School as a physical education teacher.

Q: Why did you want to become a teacher?

A: Working with kids has been my calling. Working with kids is the only work I have ever done. I started as a day camp counselor at the age of 14. I continued to work with kids as a referee or coach or camp counselor. I have always known I would be a physical education teacher since I was very young.

Q: What’s the best part of your job?

A: The kids, I look forward to each and every day to making a difference in the lives of the learners that I teach. They are a big part of my success as a teacher. The relationships that I have built over the last 29 years continue to this day.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge?

A: The number of kids that I see. Two hundred kids a day and tomorrow a different 200. Four hundred kids every two days. I know all of their names and I have a personal relationship with each and every one of them. Right now, I can meet their energy. As I age, I have wonderings.

Q: What is the most important thing your students have taught you?

A: The students have taught me patience. They have also taught me to meet them where they are and design individual educational learning plans to fit their needs, instead of getting them to do things that fit the teacher.

Q: If you weren’t a teacher, what profession would you choose?

A: There isn’t any other job or profession for me. I have been put on this earth to be a teacher and that is all I have ever known. It is the only job that suits me. I also like the summer off.

Q: What does being nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year mean to you?

A: At first, it was no big deal. I have gotten a lot of attention since the announcement of my nomination. I really do not teach for extrinsic rewards. But it does feel good after 29 years of hard work to be considered for an award.

Scott Carlson is managing editor of the Bugle.

Leave a Reply