Deb Ciminski has been chosen as the recipient of the Mr. Pete Foundation Innovation in Teaching Award, and will be recognized during the fifth annual dinner in October. 

Ciminski, a teacher for over 30 years - 20 of which were in the International Falls School District - has been an outspoken advocate for students both in and out of the classroom. Ciminski taught art, theater, and alternative education. She is also a former theater director for ISD 361.

The Mr. Pete Foundation was created to carry on the passion and dedication that Mike Peterson displayed as a teacher and coach within the community. Grant funding is awarded to teachers who desire to enhance their classroom in new, fun, and innovative ways. The Mr. Pete Foundation Legacy Award is given annually to an educator who demonstrates outstanding innovation and passion for the field of teaching. Previous recipients include Kevin Gordon, Molly Pavleck, and Gail Rasmussen.

Ciminski was chosen for the award based on the admiration that she has from former students - especially those who have struggled academically as well as personally, according to a news release. Her impact is still felt years after her retirement.

Gina Peterson Skopinski, Mike Peterson’s daughter, said, “Deb’s commitment to the underdog is what made her a standout for us. She has an advocate for students who may have found themselves in uphill battles. This is a quality that we saw in my dad as well - it was important for him to get to know all students and understand their struggles.”

Peterson taught in the International Falls School District for over 35 years before retiring in 2009. He also coached hockey within the district.

Peterson demonstrated a level of technology usage, innovative thinking, and overall empathetic teaching that was unmatched in the district. He died in 2017.

The foundation was created by Peterson’s family, friends, and former students. More information regarding the foundation, including the mission, funding, and event information can be found on the foundation’s website,

The fifth annual Mr. Pete Foundation Legacy Award Dinner and silent auction will take place at 5 p.m. Oct. 12 at the AmericInn in International Falls. The last event raised more than $10,000 for grants that went to teachers to supplement innovative practices in their classrooms.

This year’s fund will also benefit the Mr. Pete Youth Hockey Fund, which provides assistance to families in need of paying youth hockey-related expenses.

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