EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings Prep Spotlight series has allowed four high school teams the unique experience of playing at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
It isn't just the young athletes who have benefited, however.
At the prep games on Sept. 28 and Oct. 12, a teacher from each school was honored as the COUNTRY Financial Teacher of the Game.
COUNTRY Financial presented a check for $1,000 to each of the four schools to expand opportunities for students.
In the inaugural Prep Spotlight game between Eagan and Farmington, Paul Kovach and Mark Froehling were recognized. When Lakeville North and Prior Lake faced off at TCO Stadium, Chad Pothen (Panthers) and John Wabbe (Lakers) were also honored for their exceptional work with students at their respective schools.
"Supporting education in our communities is vital, and we're honored to partner with the Minnesota Vikings to recognize teachers for their hard work," said Agency Vice President at COUNTRY Financial Kevin Thompson. "Congratulations to all of the Teachers of the Game."
See below for more about each grant recipient:
Paul Kovach | Eagan
The 2018-19 school year marks Kovach's 19th as a business education teacher at Eagan High School. He also serves as a student government advisor and is the new advisor for the Green Club, which focuses on recycling efforts with students. Kovach is in his 13th year as Eagan's ninth-grade football coach.
As a veteran of the United State Marine Corps, Kovach is a member of the Eagan chapter of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon as well as the American Legion, Eagan Post 594. Kovach annually serves as the emcee for Eagan High School's Veterans Day honor assembly and helps organize the Military Enlistment Honors Ceremony.
Kovach is married to Beth and is a father to five children, all of whom graduated from Eagan High School: Josh, Emily, Jon, Joe and Paige.
"Being a teacher at Eagan High School these past 19 years has been an honor and privilege, as I get to work with the greatest students and staff every day," Kovach said. "I am humbled to receive recognition from COUNTRY Financial and excited to be able to pass their donation on to the students. Thank you to COUNTRY Financial and the Vikings for an incredible night!"
Mark Froehling | Farmington
Froehling has dedicated 33 years to teacher, the past 21 of which have been at Farmington.
A former football coach and currently serving as a chemistry teacher, Froehling was instrumental in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Farmington.
Froehling has positively impacted many lives through his work at Farmington High School. He sets an example of being a student-centered educator and sets a high bar through his personal actions and approach to the classroom.
"That was a fun evening at TCO Stadium. It is so wonderful that the Vikings would partner with schools and other organizations to share their new facility and make it a community gathering area for many to enjoy," Froehling said. "I also really appreciate COUNTRY Financial's commitment to recognizing teachers and supporting schools with its generous donation.
"I feel very honored to receive the Teacher of the Week award because there are so many other teachers at Farmington that are doing wonderful, innovative work and certainly would be deserving of this award, as well," Froehling added. "The kindness and generosity of COUNTRY Financial to support our local schools is much appreciated."
View images from the first-ever high school football game between Eagan and Farmington at TCO Stadium from the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
John Wabbe | Prior Lake
The 2018 season marks Wabbe's 16th season coaching for the Lakers. Wabbe currently works with the Lakers offensive line and also teaches social studies at the Twin Oaks Middle School.
During the winter, Wabbe coaches the middle school strength team. He has been a longtime track-and-field coach at the middle school level, as well.
According to his peers, Coach Wabbe is a Prior Lake – Savage Area Schools "fan favorite" and has garnered a reputation for his "booming voice" and funny sayings. He currently resides in Waconia with his wife, Sarah, and his two children: Luke, 7; and Zach, 5.
"People will always be stronger than me. People will always know more than me," Wabbe said. "But the only variable that I can control or that my students can control is their will, effort, and determination!"
Chad Pothen | Lakeville North
Currently in his 18th year as a 9th-12th grade English teacher at Lakeville/Lakeville North High School, Pothen also has served as a football coach and as the school's equipment manager.
Lakeville North Athletic Director Mike Zweber described Pothen as "one of the most loved and respected educators in our school."
"He always has a welcoming smile on his face and is willing to help any staff member or student with nearly anything at the drop of a hat."
According to his peers, Pothen is a "relationship-oriented" teacher who stated that one of the most impactful moments as an educator came when LNHS tragically lost a student in a car accident some years ago. Pothen noted that the way the school and community came together after that tragic loss continue to impact who he is, what he believes, and what he does in life and as an educator.
"I was totally surprised by the award and had no clue I was receiving anything, [but] I felt honored to be acknowledged," Pothen said. "However, I also felt humbled. I work with so many amazing teachers, coaches, support staff and administrators who are deserving of praise. Throughout Lakeville, quality teachers work to inspire kids and create a love of learning in their classrooms.
"My children, Sophia and Brady, have already been taught by fantastic teachers at Cherry View Elementary. There are also many people behind the scenes who make our jobs easier," Pothen added. "By the end of the day, I just felt grateful to work among so many talented, driven, and caring individuals. I also need to thank COUNTRY Financial for the generous award and the Minnesota Vikings for the amazing high school football venue! As a coach on the field, TCO Stadium was a perfect place to play a high school football game, and my wife and kids loved being a part of the event, as well."