Reinke finds her fit

Reinke at the National Teacher of the Year Space Camp

MINOT, N.D. – With a long list of accomplishments tied to teaching, one might assume Kristi (Patterson) Reinke ’01/’04/’08 always knew she was going to be an educator.

“So it is an interesting story,” the world geography teacher said. “I graduated with a criminal justice major and had some political science aspirations, and I actually ended up interning for one of our U.S. senators from Minot, Kent Conrad. The summer following graduation, I moved out to Washington, D.C. to intern (and eventually start to work as an executive assistant) in his D.C. office to see if it was something I was interested in.

“I thought that was where my career was going to go, but then 9/11 happened and changed the path I was following.”

Conrad’s Chief of Staff gave Reinke one of his two tickets to the joint session of Congress, and it was there she listened to then President George W. Bush declare “Freedom at War with Fear.”

Even going to this historical event wasn’t enough to change her mind. In fact, it helped solidify her decision to go home and be closer to family. She packed up her belongings and jumped on the first Amtrak train available for the 36-hour trek back to Minot.

Being named 2021 North Dakota State Teacher of the Year in the middle of a pandemic is just one accolade that attests to the value in her career change.

“It was such a unique adventure,” she said. “Our 2021 National Teachers of the Year (NTOY) cohort is very close because we appreciated every second we had together and we never took advantage of our time together. We are family.”


National Teachers of the Year for 2020 and 2021

As Reinke and her fellow teachers of the year embarked to Washington D.C. to meet First Lady of the United States Jill Biden and spend time on Capitol Hill, attended a weeklong Space Camp, and participated in the 2022 College Playoff Foundation Extra Yard for Teachers Summit, she continued to build on her relationships in and out of the classroom.

“A big thing for me is the relationships with my kids, just like so many other teachers. I pride myself on having positive relationships with students of all different abilities and backgrounds,” she said. “I was a special education teacher the first seven years of my teaching career, teaching students with emotional disabilities and other health impairments. Because of that, I believe it made me a better general education teacher because I now build my classroom with flexible seating and untraditional teaching styles.”

“In fact, I had a practicum student from Minot State this past December that explained my classroom as organized chaos.”

Organized chaos may be an applicable turn of phrase for her journey from D.C. intern to middle school teacher.

As Reinke pivoted and moved back home in 2001, she found her way back to her alma mater, Minot State, with the intention of becoming a teacher like then-boyfriend, now-husband, Jason Reinke ’96. As her second graduation date approached, she began applying for jobs.

“I had just gotten married that December and then I student taught January through April, and then, we found out we were pregnant with twins,” she laughed. “Being pregnant with twins and committing to a long-distance full-time teaching position was not in our best interest at the time, so I took a para job at Magic City Campus.”

While today her twin boys, Jaxon and Keaton, are high school seniors and daughter Hatti is in seventh grade, Reinke started as a paraprofessional at Minot High School when her sons were infants. She next made her way to Jim Hill Middle School for her second year in the district.

It was there Les Anderson ’68 convinced her to go back for her master’s degree in special education.

“My principal at the time came in and said, hey we’re going to have an opening next year in special education, would you be interested? And I said, I don’t have my special education degree. So he called Minot State, got the information for me, and that summer, I started graduate classes and stepped into the classroom as a teacher that fall.

“As a result, I have always credited Les as being the reason why I got into the MPS teaching system — it’s really awesome to have teacher champions like him in your corner.”


Left: National Teachers of the Year at the Salute of Excellence
Right: Jim Hill Middle School teachers

Reinke emulates Anderson in her roles as Minot Education Association President and North Dakota State Superintendent Teacher Cabinet and North Dakota United member.

“My goal is to help teachers. I advocate for teachers’ mental health. It’s just so important that teachers take care of themselves, and I think a lot of teachers put themselves on the back burner. I want other teachers to brag about themselves, to shout it from the rooftops. These teachers do such great things in their classrooms, every single day,” she said. “I love to build others up. I may be partial to Minot Public Schools, obviously, but we just have hundreds of really amazing educators that I wish the community had a chance to meet and watch them in their craft.”

She doesn’t just find the talent and connection within her fellow educators, but also in those who taught her.

“What I love about Minot State is just the advisors, the professors, the adjuncts,” she said. “They were always so helpful, and I felt like there were actually genuinely wanting to help me,” she said. “I don’t think you can get that in a lot of bigger universities.

“I didn’t even apply anywhere else because I just knew this is where I was going — I just had such a great experience, every time.”


About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 02/15/23   

» More MSU News