Kay McLain of Florence is named Wisconsin Rural School Teacher of the Year

Florence County High School business education teacher Kay McLain, a member of the Florence County Education Association and WEAC Region 3, has been named the 2017 Rural School Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA).

The award was presented at WiRSA’s annual conference in Wisconsin Dells. WiRSA annually recognizes one rural teacher statewide who makes significant contributions to their school district, most importantly to the students they serve. McLain is automatically a semifinalist for the National Monsanto Fund Rural Teacher of the Year competition sponsored by the National Rural Education Association.

McLain was nominated by Florence School District Administrator Ben Niehaus who said she far exceeds criteria for the award. “This award acknowledges the devotion of Kay, along with her supporting colleagues, to never be satisfied with the status quo in the interest of student success and opportunities. The persistence of Kay’s leadership is contagious throughout the high school,” Niehaus said.

Appleton’s Marcia Engen to receive education leadership award

Retired Appleton educator Marcia Engen will be honored this week as recipient of the tenth annual Thomas G. Scullen Leadership Award, the Appleton Education Foundation has announced. Engen is a longtime active WEAC member and currently a member of WEAC Retired/Region 10.

The Appleton Post-Crescent quotes Carol Lenz, a member of the Fox Cities Advocates for Public Education who nominated Engen for the award, as describing Engen as a tireless advocate for public education.

The Post-Crescent quotes Engen as saying: “It is so much fun to be involved with the Fox Cities Advocates because they also have strong public education outlooks and that’s what I am drawing great strength from -—being part of a group that is so committed to a long-held quality service that the state of Wisconsin has provided for its young people.”

It continues:

Engen said the state and national push for vouchers “is part of a broader effort to privatize education,” which motivates her to keep advocating for public schools.

“No one is ever excluded from a public school … and I believe common schools that were the vision of our state constitution have provided all of us with an opportunity to serve our communities and our public schools,” she said.

Read the entire Post-Crescent article:

Engen receives Scullen Award for education advocacy

APPLETON – Marcia Engen, a retired educator and public education advocate, will receive the tenth annual Thomas G. Scullen Leadership Award on Wednesday, the Appleton Education Foundation announced. Engen, of Appleton, is a tireless advocate for public education who always jumps in to help, said Carol Lenz, a member of the Fox Cities Advocates for Public Education.

NEA applauds eight WEAC members as young leaders making a big difference

Eight WEAC members are mentioned in a new NEA article citing a new generation of educators who are already making a big difference both in and outside the classroom. Three of the young educator-leaders are included in the NEA’s list of ’30 Under 30′ while five others are mentioned because, well, they just couldn’t be left out.

“These young educators are building networks of support, growing their skillset, and raising their voices as leaders in their profession and their union,” the NEA says. “This next generation of educators comes with a lot of heart, spirit, and determination.”

The young educator-leaders mentioned by NEA in the ’30 Under 30′ group are:

Josh Jackson, Fifth-Grade Teacher
MILWAUKEE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, WISCONSIN
At the local level, Josh Jackson strives to make the lives of Milwaukee students the best they can be. He does this by pushing back against bad policies. A member of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, he’s fought a state-sponsored takeover plan, and helped to raise the voices of early career educators.

Jesse Martinez, Seventh-Grade Science and Social Studies, Spanish Immersion Teacher
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN
Last year, Jesse Martinez was a first-year teacher. On Day One, he jumped into Association work by becoming a building representative, where he helped organize walk-ins throughout the district and improve member communication.

Emily Sibilski, High School English Teacher
ALTOONA SCHOOL DISTRICT, WISCONSIN
As the former state president of the Aspiring Educators of Wisconsin, Emily Sibilski continues to stay involved in the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Sibilski is a member of the Early Career Educator Task Force, a new initiative that works to increase membership and leadership of early educators in the union.

The article also mentioned:

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Fond du Lac’s Joseph Fenrick named an Outstanding Young Alumnus by UW-Oshkosh

Fond du Lac High School science teacher and WEAC Region 5 member Joseph Fenrick has been selected to receive an Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Fenrick, an active member of the Fond du Lac Education Association who serves as a Building Representative at Fond du Lac High School, will be honored at UWO’s Alumni Awards Celebration on Friday, October 6, at the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center.

The following article was published in UW-Oshkosh Today:

A gift for making science relevant 

Joseph Fenrick, also a former UWO student-athletic, graduated in 2006 with a bachelor of science in education and earned a master of science degree in education in 2009. He lives in Fond du Lac where he is a science teacher at Fond du Lac High School and an associate lecturer in the geology and geography department at the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac.

After graduation from UWO, Fenrick jumped straight into teaching with the Fond du Lac school district. For the first five years, he taught physical science connection classes, which consist of students with disabilities and students who were deemed to be at-risk. He has since developed and implemented both geology and meteorology curriculum and revised and implemented an environmental science curriculum.

Nominator Julie Ziegler, a co-worker at Fond du Lac High School, said Fenrick’s ability to engage students and make science relevant has made him a beloved teacher.

“Joseph is an excellent science teacher who uses a variety of hands-on learning and critical-thinking experiments to challenge students, while at the same time making science interesting,” Ziegler said.

Well-liked and respected by his students and colleagues, Fenrick was named Fond du Lac High School Teacher of the Year in 2012-2013 and was runner up for the award in 2008-2009. He also was nominated for the Student Choice in Teaching Excellence Award at UW-Fond du Lac.

Chloe Haskin’s, a former student of Fenrick’s at both Fond du Lac high and UW-Fond du Lac, points to his ability to teach multiple subjects to all ages and abilities as a key to his success.

“Joseph has the ability to engage students, and these students come to class wanting to learn. Hands-on activities are often included, and he is flexible with his methods and has always been patient with students who may not understand a subject immediately,” Haskins said.

A four-year track and field letter winner and two-time WIAC Scholar-Athlete Award honoree while at UWO, Fenrick also spent four years as the assistant track and field coach at Fond du Lac High from 2008 to 2012.

During his fourth year of teaching, Fenrick became active in the local teachers’ union and, in 2010, became their public relations director, a role he still holds. In 2015, he campaigned for the District 15 County Board seat. He ran against the longest serving member of the board–who held the seat for 20 years-and won. He was elected to the Fond du Lac County Board of Supervisors with 78 percent of the vote.

Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel sees a great future in public service for Fenrick.

“I have been impressed with Joe’s skills and his desire to learn everything about county government, and I respect him for every decision he has made on the board, including some controversial issues. I see a great future in public service for Joseph, because of his desire to serve and the passion he has demonstrated,” Buechel said.

Honors
Fenrick will be among those honored at UWO’s Alumni Awards Celebration on Friday, October 6, at the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center. The cost is $30 per person and includes dinner. For more information or to RSVP for the event, please call (920) 424-3449 or send an email to alumni@uwosh.edu.

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Barb VanDoorn of Lake Holcombe is winner of a major national Award for Teaching Excellence

Lake Holcombe school counselor Barb VanDoorn meets with students.

Lake Holcombe school counselor Barb VanDoorn is the winner of a prestigious California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence, the NEA Foundation announced Monday. She will receive the award at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala next February in Washington, D.C.

The awardees are nominated by their peers for their dedication to the profession, community engagement, professional development, attention to diversity, and advocacy for fellow educators.

“Getting to ‘making a difference’ and ‘succeeding’ is tricky but very basic. Combine two things: caring relationships and high expectations,” VanDoorn said.

WEAC President Ron Martin and Lake Holcombe school counselor Barb VanDoorn chat with young students.

VanDoorn was nominated for the award by WEAC President Ron Martin, who said she “anchors her educational philosophy in the importance of showing respect, demonstrating caring, and recognizing the intelligence of individuals.”

“She explains it is the job of educators to identify the strengths and needs of each student, and believes the counselor’s role is to take it one step further — advocating for each student in the classroom, the community, and in realizing each student’s future goals,” Martin said.

VanDoorn, Wisconsin’s 2016-17 Special Services Teacher of the Year, is the sole counselor for the Lake Holcombe School District’s 300 pupils, 60 percent of whom live in poverty. She is an outspoken advocate for school funding and for mental health services to better serve students and their families.

Martin noted that VanDoorn takes every junior on at least one college tour and has put into place significant supports in ACT and reading prep. She also sends every college freshman from the previous year’s graduating class a care package at school in the fall. “Their transition is often difficult; they need to know someone still has faith in them,” she said.

“She’s an idea woman, always thinking outside of the box,” said Amanda Wysocki, family consumer sciences and health teacher, citing the campaign VanDoorn started to raise funds to revamp the science rooms through service-learning work in partnership with the community, a program that continues today. “Barb is 100 percent dedicated to the students. I know she goes home at night thinking about them. But she also thinks of the staff and the community. She does so much, and people see her energy and spirit. She is dedicated to all her job entails, and to living life, too.”

That advocacy reaches beyond her community, as she’s led the statewide narrative (including being featured in a Department of Public Instruction video) that has resulted in movement from Wisconsin’s Legislature around mental health supports. She is an active member of the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year Group, working on solutions to the teacher shortage, and is also involved in the Every Teacher a Leader cadre at the state level to include educators’ voices in school policy decisions.

VanDoorn also is a dedicated member of the union, and finds value in working together toward common goals. In a time when many rural school locals are struggling to retain members, she encourages participation and is an example of how cooperation can be achieved between educators and administrators even in the absence of collective bargaining.

“I know from working with kids all these years that stress filters down,” she said. “The kids feel that stress. For a lot of kids, they don’t have support so their stress gets compounded. Wisconsin has the second highest depression rates in teens in the nation. It’s very important to realize that is a concern. We can help to make that better.”

Van Doorn’s colleagues describe the wide range of responsibilities she holds, from trauma-informed care to college preparation, including serving as the scholarship coordinator and working with community groups to support youth. She started the student council at the school, and also organized a shanty town where students built cardboard houses to stay in overnight to raise money and awareness about homelessness.

Martin noted that when he visited VanDoorn recently to shadow her for a day, he talked with senior Brianna who in 2014 was involved in a horrific car accident near the school. Brianna was in a coma for five weeks, followed by 20 weeks in the hospital. Brianna credits Mrs. VanDoorn with guiding her through emotionally and educationally so she could graduate with the other 20 students in her class.

“Accidents happen, family members die, parents get divorced. Kids don’t know how to handle school and all of that,” Brianna said. “A great teacher cares about each and every student’s abilities, and does everything he or she can possibly do to make sure every student enjoys going to school and learns. That’s the person Mrs. VanDoorn is. I don’t know if the school could survive without her.”

Of the 38 state winners of this year’s Awards for Teaching Excellence, five finalists will be announced at the beginning of the school year and receive $10,000 at the gala. The nation’s top educator will be revealed at the gala on February 9, 2018, and receive an additional $25,000. The gala will be livestreamed at neafoundation.org.

Below is a video from earlier this year when Barb VanDoorn was named Wisconsin’s Special Services Teacher of the Year:

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WEAC Region 6 member Nick Meinel says Whitewater school closed the achievement gap by believing in its students

Thanks to the efforts of educators like WEAC Region 6 member Nick Meinel, Washington Elementary School in Whitewater has made huge strides in closing the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, one of the ongoing goals of public education.

“Getting a student with no electricity at home to engage in learning has more to do with intangible factors,” says Meinel, a fourth-grade teacher who is quoted extensively in a Janesville Gazette article.

Meinel said the school motivates students “by making this their positive place … by letting them know that no matter what happens here, we still believe in them. We still care. We will still do everything we can to make this a safe and happy and enjoyable place.”

Meinel acknowledges that there is no magic formula to closing achievement gaps in schools, but Washington Elementary has had such success that state Superintendent Tony Evers recognized it for excelling at just that. The Gazette notes:

Washington is one of eight Wisconsin schools nominated for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes overall academic excellence or progress in improving student achievement at the schools.

About 46 percent of Washington’s students qualified for free or reduced-price meals, which was about 4 percentage points higher than the statewide average, according to fiscal year 2016 data from the state Department of Public Instruction.

For the 2015-16 school year, the state Department of Public Instruction gave Washington a perfect 100/100 score for closing gaps (compared to 62.1/100 statewide). That contributed to its 91.6 overall score—one that “significantly exceeds expectations.”

Read the entire Janesville Gazette article:

WATCH: Closing achievement gaps at Whitewater’s blue-ribbon nominated school

WHITEWATER-There is no silver bullet for getting a child whose home has no electricity to care about her math homework. Nick Meinel, a fourth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School in Whitewater, teaches that student every day, nonetheless.

Sheboygan’s Matt Miller named state’s Special Services Teacher of the Year

From the Department of Public Instruction

In a surprise ceremony at his school, Matthew W. Miller Sr., an English learner teacher at North High School in Sheboygan, was named Wisconsin’s 2018 Special Services Teacher of the Year.

State Superintendent Tony Evers made the announcement during an all-school assembly. As part of the Teacher of the Year honor, Miller – who is a WEAC Region 3 member – will receive $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.

Matthew Miller

While some would term his teaching style as “relationship building,” Miller says he is trying to be a “future builder.” He considers every learner a potential leader and tailors instruction to meet students’ individual language, leadership, and life needs.

While living in Harlem in pursuit of his teaching degree, Miller offered tutoring or encouragement for the children of neighbors and workers. Later as a middle school English teacher, he learned that the more he served his students’ families, the more he earned his students’ respect and trust. When he moved to Sheboygan, Miller offered English classes to Spanish-speaking adults, many of them parents of students.

With a passion for leadership and community service, Miller has facilitated nearly 170 leadership, service learning, and community-building projects for students in the district. He created the Hmong Leadership Collective, a statewide student-led group and an outgrowth of the district’s Hmong Leadership Council, which provides more than 1,000 hours of community service. The collective seeks to strengthen Hmong culture, identity, and communities to positively transform society and build leadership skills. A teacher colleague noted that Miller helps Hmong students learn about and celebrate their own culture, while adapting to life in America.

A former student wrote that “Mr. Miller not only showed me and many other students what a leader should be like, but also how to become a leader ourselves.” The student praised opportunities to volunteer with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, attend leadership retreats and conferences, and participate in community arts collaboration as well as cultural and educational presentations.

In a letter supporting Miller’s nomination for a Kohl Fellowship, North High School Associate Principal Eric Spielman said that Miller’s “greatest success is the deep, meaningful relationships he establishes with students, staff, families, and the greater Sheboygan community.” He added that Miller’s role with students extends beyond teacher, to mentor, friend, liaison, and advocate.

Miller’s grant writing for a precollege program through the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan provided a “Language and Leadership” summer program that boosted college readiness and civic engagement among area English learners from lower-income families. A project with Bookworm Gardens, a children’s book-themed community center and park, brought together elders in conversations with teens who then created visual, literary, and musical artifacts based on the elders’ stories.

“Matthew inspires his students to do better, and he inspires teachers that way as well,” a colleague wrote. He leaves one “feeling that they can do more, do more for students, more for the school, and more for the community, and that doing more, for the sake of young people, matters.”

Miller began his career as an English teacher in New York City. He also taught at Hunter College in New York and for Northcentral Technical College and Upper Iowa University’s Wausau campus. For four years, he was an English teacher in Mexico City. He currently teaches English learners at North High School in Sheboygan. Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Lawrence University in Appleton and a Master of Arts in Secondary Education-English from City University of New York-Hunter College.

“Teaching is a career for optimists. People who see the potential in each student and meet challenges with innovative solutions that improve the lives and education of our kids,” Evers said. “A Teacher of the Year recipient inspires the young people in their school and their colleagues in the school and community. It is an honor to recognize educators who do so much for Wisconsin’s public schools.”

“The Teacher of the Year program highlights the many contributions educators make to our children, schools, and communities,” said Herb Kohl, philanthropist and businessman, who co-sponsors the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year program through his educational foundation. “Our teachers make extraordinary efforts to help all children achieve.”

Earlier this week, Evers named Genoa City’s Mary Ellen Kanthack (a WEAC Region 7 member) the state’s 2018 Elementary School Teacher of the Year, and last week he named Wausau’s Brent Zinkel the 2018 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. Zinkel is a member of WEAC Region 2.

On Monday, Evers named Jill Runde of McFarland the state’s Middle School Teacher of the Year.

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Aspiring Educators learn skills, share ideas at annual meeting

Aspiring Educators of Wisconsin gathered in Wisconsin Dells over the weekend for their April Representative Assembly and Leadership Training. Members spent the day gaining insight to the different facets of the state and local positions they will be holding next year, learned about leadership and communication, as well as teaching strategies, and shared the excitement they feel about their future in the education profession. (Aspiring Educators of Wisconsin is also known as WEAC Region 9.)

Here are several Facebook posts from the Aspiring Educators themselves and from WEAC President Ron Martin, who attended the event:

Bill Emery works to ease the stresses on fellow ag teachers

Bill  Emery

Bill Emery

When one of his agriculture teaching colleagues committed suicide five years ago, Baldwin-Woodville ag teacher Bill Emery began a program to help others deal with the pressures of the job.

“Because of his death, I became a bit more vocal in the state wellness, more on the wellness of the mind,” Emery says in an article about him in the New Richmond News.

Emery, who is a member of WEAC Region 1, said the constant pressure to be innovative and to grow their programs can be extremely stressful for ag teachers. “Ag teachers develop monsters of programs,” Emery explained. “The monsters keep growing or you’re not seen as successful.”

The article notes that in addition to being a full-time ag teacher, Emery owns a 43-acre hobby farm and heads up several other student-based activities, including serving as the SCC cross country coach. He also oversees the St. Croix Central trapshooting club and leads several camping trips for the school district each year.

Read the entire article from newrichmond-news.com:

Emery takes lead in preserving teachers’ mental health

When Baldwin-Woodville ag teacher Bill Gillis committed suicide five years ago, it was a painful reminder to the members of the ag teaching fraternity of the stress in their jobs.St. Croix Central ag teacher Bill Emery had worked on many projects through the years with Gillis. Gillis’ death spurred…

Two WEAC members helping develop new computer science standards

Two WEAC members are on a state committee overseeing development of new computer science standards for Wisconsin schools. Among the members of the State Superintendent’s Standards Review Council, which will oversee the Computer Science Standards Writing Committee, are Heather Mielke of Elkhorn, Math Teacher, Burlington High School; and Lisa Sanderfoot of De Pere, Computer and Information Science Teacher, Valley View Elementary School, Ashwaubenon School District.

From the Department of Public Instruction

A panel of Wisconsin experts representing classroom educators, school leaders, and higher education are drafting standards for computer science as the next step in a process to define the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn in that subject during their PK-12 public education.

Computer science standards are the first set of standards that are being developed using Wisconsin’s new standards review process. The process began last August with a public comment period on the need and expected outcomes for computer science standards. The State Superintendent’s Standards Review Council examined those comments and recommended that Wisconsin develop academic standards for computer science.

In authorizing computer science standards development, State Superintendent Tony Evers said, “It is critical that our schools keep pace with changes in what citizens and employers expect from our students and how we teach that material. The technology sector continues to grow in Wisconsin and with that comes an increasing demand for people prepared to work in computer science and related fields. To better meet those needs, the state must provide standards to align how we teach computer science to our students.”

Academic standards, like those being developed for computer science, are a defined set of knowledge and skills that students are expected to know and be able to do. Standards set goals for teaching and student learning that help teachers plan curriculum and develop classroom lessons. In Wisconsin, all state standards serve as a model. Locally elected school boards adopt academic standards in each subject area to best serve the local community.

The Computer Science Standards Writing Committee is working on a set of academic standards that span all grade levels. A draft of the Wisconsin Academic Standards for Computer Science will then be available for a period of open review for feedback from the public, key stakeholders, educators, and the Legislature.

“Rigorous, clearly written academic standards are an important part of setting expectations for what our kids know and learn,” Evers said. “The standards review process gives the public a way to share their thoughts, resulting in a set of standards that reflects Wisconsin’s expectations for its students.”

State Superintendent’s Standards Review Council

  • Mike Beighley, District Administrator, Whitehall School District
  • Kim Brown, Director of Learning, Oshkosh Area School District
  • Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, Wisconsin State Assembly
  • Jill Gaskell of Blanchardville, Member, Pecatonica School Board
  • Anne Heck, Principal, Lake Geneva Middle School
  • Jenni Hofschulte of Milwaukee, Parent, Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Stephen Kolison, Associate Vice-President for Academic Programs and Educational Innovation, University of Wisconsin System
  • Howard Kruschke of Roberts, President, St. Croix School Board
  • Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, Wisconsin State Senate
  • Heather Mielke of Elkhorn, Math Teacher, Burlington High School
  • Carrie Morgan, Associate Vice President, Wisconsin Technical College System
  • Joseph Moylan, Principal, Oconomowoc High School
  •  Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon,Wisconsin State Senate
  • Desiree Pointer-Mace, Professor, Alverno College, Milwaukee
  • Chris Reader, Director of Health and Human Resources, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce
  • Lisa Sanderfoot of De Pere, Computer and Information Science Teacher, Valley View Elementary School, Ashwaubenon School District
  • Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, Wisconsin State Assembly
  • Connie Valenza, District Administrator, Platteville School District