A longtime Williston educator has been recognized by two local businesses as the 2021 Teacher of the Year.

In a ceremony at Williston High School on April 29, Karla Olson was honored by students, staff and team members from Williston Auto and Walmart as Teacher of the Year, which is chosen by committee from the year’s Teachers of the Week. The crowd gathered in the school’s gymnasium as Olson, a Special Education teacher, was escorted blindfolded from her classroom. To an explosion of applause, Olson removed her blindfold to see the flowers, gift baskets and Teacher of the Year banner waiting for her.

The surprise was evident as Olson struggled for words, hugging and thanking those around her.

“I’m very thankful for everyone,” Olson said. “It does take a team to teach for this many years. I have great staff, and the people here at WHS are awesome to work with, and that makes our jobs fun. I love my job.”

Olson was presented $500 cash from Williston Auto, as well as the a new car to drive. Walmart matched Williston Auto’s generosity, throwing in several large totes packed full of school supplies for Olson’s classroom.

“Karla has given so much of herself over the years to help those with special needs, and has just done a fantastic job here in the Williston community,” Walmart General Manager Josh Comer told the Williston Herald. “She’s been an absolute pillar in the community for so many years. I couldn’t have picked a better person to get this award today.”

Walmart has teamed up with Williston Auto for the last few years to honor Teacher of the Week throughout the year. The two companies said recognizing educators for the hard work they do is important in a community, especially coming out of the 2020 pandemic, which challenged teachers and students alike as they came up with new ways to teach and learn.

“When we saw the shortage of supplies and the crowding in the classrooms, we just decided, we’re here for the kids and the teachers.” Explained Williston Auto General Manager Drew Balogh. “It’s just been wonderful. These folks do so much for our community, and it’s just great to be able to give some back and honor these hard workers.”

Olson was treated to a special reception after being presented her surprise honor, complete with cake, treats and balloons. While the experience may have been hectic as well-wishers pulled her in different directions, Olson said she is grateful to be part of a community that values its educators as Williston does.

“It’s awesome to see that the community does support us and the work that we do, and are thankful for us,” she said. “And we’re thankful for them. It all ties together; it’s good teamwork.”

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