Almost 200 people came together Oct. 11 to support a teaching concept practiced by longtime International Falls teacher and coach Mike Peterson.

The idea of "teaching outside the box" and Peterson's teaching legacy was celebrated at the first Mr. Pete Foundation Legacy Awards Dinner and Silent Auction.

The foundation, launched in June, was established to provide grants for teachers who want to use innovative practices in their classroom.

Peterson was named the first Legacy Award winner by the foundation. Peterson’s dedication to the profession of teaching and his ability to connect with students on a personal basis were noted as contributing to the legacy.

The evening began with a silent auction that featured more than 100 donated items ranging from paintings to children’s items, from hockey tickets and jerseys to a houseboat trip donated by Rainy Lake Houseboats.

More than $10,000 in donations for the foundation were collected through the silent auction. Sponsorships from Boise Paper, Minnesota Power, Gopher Sport, and others, along with other activities at the auction, helped the evening tip the scale at more than $20,000 in proceeds.

The evening included remarks by Falls Superintendent Kevin Grover; Melissa Andersen Kuskie, a former student in Peterson’s fourth grade class; Gina Peterson Skopinski, Peterson’s youngest daughter; and host Kim Sundin Oppelt.

Fundraisers throughout the night included a wine grab and heads or tails game.

A feature of the evening was a tournament of "the light game," a frequently-played math game in Peterson’s classes.

Skopinski concluded the awards ceremony with a message to her father.

“You are our hero," she said. "You always have been and you always will be. We are overflowing with pride for your legacy and the person you have always been on the inside and we hope you go to bed tonight knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that you made a difference.”

The Mr. Pete Foundation, co-founded by Oppelt and Skopinski, is now accepting applications for funding. Teachers may apply for grants at