Mary Cathryn Ricker is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education. She heads an agency of more than 450 employees, charged with the mission of improving educational achievement for children from PreK-12. Commissioner Ricker works closely with Governor Tim Walz to promote a wide variety of education policies and initiatives focused on closing the achievement gap, supporting high-quality teaching, using innovative strategies to improve educational outcomes, and ensuring all students graduate from high school well-prepared for college, career and life.
She previously served as executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers and as the president of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 28. She has taught in classrooms from St. Paul to St. Cloud to Washington to South Korea to Yemen.
In addition to being a National Board Certified middle school English teacher, Ricker also serves on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards board of directors. Her teaching and leadership skills have been recognized with several other honors, including receiving the Education Minnesota Peterson-Schaubach Outstanding Leadership Award, qualifying as a semifinalist for the NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence, and serving as a contributor in the Annenberg Foundation's professional development series "Write in the Middle."
Ricker serves on the Education Minnesota governing board and is the past president of the Education Minnesota Foundation for Teaching and Learning. She has also served as a member of the boards of TakeAction Minnesota, the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, the Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation and the Twin Cities GenerationNext. In 2012, Ricker was selected to co-chair the Minnesota Department of Education Teacher Evaluation Work Group, and she has served on the department's Education Finance Working Group since 2011.
Ricker is a native of Hibbing, Minnesota. Ricker's husband, Robert Cudahy, is a teacher of English language learners, and their two children are students in the Saint Paul public schools.