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North Dakota teacher of the year accused of sexual relationship with student



By RYAN GORMAN

The 2014 North Dakota teacher of the year has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.

Aaron Knodel, 35, had been on paid leave from his job as an English teacher at West Fargo high school since the investigation began in February. He faces five felony counts.

Knodel began grooming the teen girl with text messages in December 2008, the student told police according to an affidavit cited by WDAY. She was a senior in his English class at the time.

The messages gradually became more sexual over time until the pair eventually had their first sexual encounter in February 2009 while his wife was out of town, the station reported.

The student said they had sex five to 10 times more over the next few weeks until Knodel ended the affair on March 9 – his birthday – after his wife found messages from the girl.

He accepted the prestigious award last September to a room packed with smiling and applauding colleagues and students.

"Nothing I do is unusual compared to what every other teacher does," Knodel told reporters the day he received the award.

His fall from grace was swift.

The married man was removed from the classroom in February and is now about to be charged.

The school district kept quiet about the investigation until recently, and police are only willing to confirm a school employee is under investigation.

He has not yet been charged but faces two Class B felonies and three Class C felonies for the alleged encounters, according to reports.

Officials plan to share more information during a Friday afternoon news conference.

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