Minnkota sponsors teacher for Lignite Education Seminar

Minnkota continued its tradition of helping a local teacher attend a four-day summit on lignite coal's place in our region's economy.


Kaylee Cusack


June 24, 2019

Minnesota teacher Jim Johnson returned home from Bismarck State College this month with a heavy load – a camera full of snapshots, a list of new contacts and a knowledge bank of electrical power and North Dakota geography. The lesson plan of his June 10-13 educational getaway revolved around one thing: the value of the state’s underground resources.

“I was amazed at the amount of lignite coal coming out of North Dakota and the impact that it has on our electricity in the Midwest,” he said. “It’s incredible what it does in providing our baseload electricity and lessening our rates per kilowatt compared to other parts of the country.”

Johnson, a special education teacher at Goodridge Public School, was one of more than 100 attendees of the 2019 Lignite Education Seminar titled “Energy, Economics and Environment.”

The annual Lignite Energy Council (LEC) summit equips teachers with information and resources to build lessons on how coal is mined and how it moves from the power plant to the plug. This year organizers focused on communicating the role lignite plays in North Dakota’s economy and how the industry is shaped by environmental issues.

LEC’s Kay LaCoe says another aim of the seminar is supporting lignite coal’s future workforce needs.

“Teachers learn what types of jobs are available in the industry and the skills and types of people that the industry wants and needs,” she said. “We need educators to take that information back to the classrooms so that we continue to have a well-rounded workforce coming out of school.”

Jim Johnson from Roosevelt and Goodridge, Minn, was sponsored by Minnkota to attend the 2019 Lignite Energy Council’s teachers seminar. Johnson toured the Milton R. Young Station and is pictured here touring the Center Mine.

Minnkota sponsors an area teacher to attend the four-day experience every year. Johnson had seen the call for applications in his North Star Electric Cooperative newsletter for the past few years and decided it was finally time to sign up and dig in.

“It seemed like a great opportunity,” he said – and he soon found out just how true that was. Johnson said he appreciated how many speakers from different areas of the industry were assembled for workshops, and he couldn’t stop taking photos during tours of the Center Mine and Milton R. Young Station.

“I was impressed with how clean and efficiently run the plant was and the reclamation of the land was also impressive,” he said. “The whole thing was top-notch.”

Since its start in 1986, the Lignite Energy Council seminar has drawn more than 3,900 K-12 teachers from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. Attendees can receive two professional-level credits from one of three universities – University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University or Minot State University.


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