Madison’s Michael Jones is latest winner of the WEAC-UW Badger Red for Public Ed honor

Congratulations to Madison teacher Michael Jones, the latest winner of WEAC’s 2018 WEAC-UW Badger Red for Public Ed honor! The honor goes to WEAC members in appreciation for their dedication to students. Recipients are treated to a UW Badger athletic event. Michael will be honored at the UW Volleyball game October 21 at the UW Fieldhouse.

Michael, a WEAC and Madison Teachers Inc. member, is a Special Education teacher, entering his 10th year in the profession.

“I’ve been a proud union member for each of those years and am currently with the 8th graders at Black Hawk Middle School  in Madison,” Michael says. “I love what I do, I love the students and families I get to work with, and definitely I love my colleagues, all of whom I consider friends. I’m very lucky to be where I am and with the people I get to work with.”

Madison teacher Kerry Motoviloff nominated Michael, saying “He is a leader for ALL students lifting them at their toughest moments with grace and care.”

Visit to nominate yourself or another deserving educator for a chance to win a drawing for Wisconsin athletic events throughout the school year.

‘Together, we have come to understand our traditional ways through the revitalization of our arts’

Benjamin Grignon

The Department of Public Education ConnectEd newsletter this week features Wisconsin’s Teachers of the Year, including Benjamin Grignon, a teacher of traditional Menominee crafts at Menominee Indian High School in Keshena, a member of WEAC Region 3, and a Wisconsin 2019 High School Teacher of the Year.

In a column describing his philosophy of teaching, which uses the arts to strengthen connections between students and the Menominee culture, Grignon writes:

Keka͞ehkenohamowōnaw (We all teach): Benjamin Grignon

Neta͞esehcekanenaw (Our way of doing things; Our culture)

Within the Menominee culture, the young are expected to take care of our elders, which can come in the form of making our elders a plate during our gatherings, running errands, or doing chores – to name a few.

The quality of nurturing is ingrained in most of my students. Many of them have responsibilities at home taking care of younger siblings, cousins, even neighbors. They cook, they clean, they help teach our ways to the young, they make sure everyone is safe. My students already have the skills needed to be teachers, they just need opportunities. How do I create opportunities for my students to become teachers? Equity in the classroom.

Nātamowenaq. (Help me). The arts that I am teaching in my classroom are practiced by very few people within our tribe. I know that in order for our arts to survive, my kids need to be able to teach others and share the knowledge. The ultimate goal in my classroom is to create students who are able to carry on our arts and the language and culture that accompanies these arts. Students in my classroom naturally help each other when they have questions. I have noticed that they will seek out someone on their table, then someone they know who is very good at a particular skill, and then finally, ask me if they can’t source the knowledge among their peers. I am looking at helping to foster this. The more chances my students get to teach, the greater pride they have in themselves, our cultural art traditions, and our language.

Keka͞ehkenohamowōnaw. (We all teach). My students are given the opportunity to teach every day. They are proud to be able to share what they have learned with their peers. Ensuring that each of my students is able to help another student requires constant vigilance on my part. I make sure that I am working on the same projects that my students are working on and I move around the room on different days, working with tables of students. I constantly listen for questions that arise and how the students direct their answers. This allows peer-to-peer teaching. I also ask some of my advanced students to teach a project if they are willing.

Kemāmāwohkāma͞eq. (We all work at it together). Over the years, my students have helped me to understand what being Ka͞eyes Mamāceqtāwak (Ancient Movers, now called Menominee) means. Together, we have come to understand our traditional ways through the revitalization of our arts. My students have been my greatest teachers, and my only hope is that I have reciprocated by providing them with the teachings they deserve. Equity in my classroom is when my students share in teaching. We are on this journey together. This has to be our way. We won’t survive any other way.

Eneq taeh ‘s ām-pa͞ec-kaehkēnaman ayom Mamāceqtaw wenah nap takuah ona͞epuahkan. (And that’s almost all I know well about this Indian’s wisdom).

‘Each student is treated with the ultimate respect’

Michael Wilson

The Department of Public Education ConnectEd newsletter this week features Wisconsin’s Teachers of the Year, including Michael Wilson, a school counselor at St. Croix Falls High School, a member of WEAC Region 1, and Wisconsin’s 2019 Special Services Teacher of the Year.

In a column describing his approach to teaching, which boils down to treating each student with the ultimate respect, Wilson writes:

All students All of the Time: Michael Wilson

Throughout my years in education, I have seen a strong transformation from what used to be a cookie-cutter approach with students to more individualized focus and attention. It is clear that our students have more individual needs and our teachers are working to meet those needs.

As a school counselor and dean of students in a small school in a rural town in northwest Wisconsin, I have the unique opportunity to know every single one of our high school students. Each fall I make a point to interview our freshmen, one by one. I want to get to know them, their families, their hobbies and interests, and their needs. I also want them to know who I am and explain that I am their personal assistant in high school.

In education, the word equity can be interpreted as very complicated for some. My vision of equity in schools is a simple definition: All students, all of the time. As I work day to day with my students, I keep the thought process simple. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they look like, or where they came from, each student is treated with the ultimate respect and offered opportunities they need so they can reach their highest potential, goals, and dreams. The kid in cowboy boots who milks cows in the morning before school needs the same attention and guidance offered as the kid wearing flip-flops and cargo shorts, whose parents are both doctors.

Intentional conversations create intentional relationships. Talking with students and asking about their day, their weekend, or quite simply asking them how they are doing naturally creates positive, mutual, respectful relationships. Asking the right questions opens up many social and emotional doors. Educators not only can but should ask personal questions and build strong bonds with their students.

A two-way trusting relationship creates a safe environment for learning and growing. I have had conversations with students on topics ranging from hunting to fishing to horseback riding to reading. I ask students about things like their most recent athletic contest or what their parents do or about their new car. Students love to know we care. As educators, we hold a powerful position in influencing our students and a trust-based, two-way teacher-student relationship is essential. All students deserve this level of care and concern all of the time.

My advice to teachers, veterans or rookies, is to speak with every kid with an open and honest approach. Students who are struggling need to be asked if they are struggling. Students who are not doing well need to be asked why. Students who have great successes should be celebrated. Students with depression or suicidal thoughts need to be asked directly about them. Our kids need to know that we genuinely care and are there for them, as a whole child.

Ask questions, share stories, and let these kids know you are not only a teacher but a human being. Imagine being a student in a school where you know your teachers genuinely care about you as a person. Imagine how motivated you might be to learn. Imagine how strong you would feel about not letting these caring, trusted adults down. All students deserve our honest and natural attention, all of the time.

WEAC members are finalists for Presidential Teaching Awards

Two WEAC members are among state finalists for the 2018 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), considered the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government for mathematics and science teachers.

Alicia Korth, first-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in the New London School District; and Rebecca Saeman, mathematics and reading intervention teacher at Sauk Trail Elementary School in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District received the recognition.

WEAC members: Resources to elevate your professional practices

“WEAC is proud to advance the teaching profession and provide high-quality supports to help all Wisconsin educators achieve their full potential,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade social studies teacher. “Wisconsin educators teach and inspire their students every day, earning the respect they deserve for a job well done.”

“These teachers demonstrate their care and love of students and the teaching profession,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Their passion helps to inspire our future inventors, doctors, and software developers who will certainly impact our ever-changing world. I wish our finalists well in the next stage of the Presidential Teaching Awards process.”

Established by Congress in 1983, the PAEMST program recognizes teachers who develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of STEM education, the abbreviation for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which includes computer science.

Other finalists from Wisconsin of the 2018 awards, which recognize educators who teach in grades kindergarten through six, are Michelle Butturini of Reedsville Elementary/Middle School and Michelle Howe of Lodi Middle School.

Use intrinsic motivation, not gimmicks or rewards, to inspire students, Wisconsin’s 2017 Teacher of the Year writes

Chris Gleason

Using gimmicks or rewards to get students to study or perform tasks can backfire by damaging their “innate intrinsic motivation,” Sun Prairie music teacher Chris Gleason writes in a new Teacher Leader Voices blog posted this week at

“I believe that we need to ‘work with’ kids and not ‘do things to’ them. We need to fan the flames of curiosity in every child and foster their love of learning,” writes the 2017 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, who is a member of WEAC Region 6. “Educators, let us use research, not gimmicks, to inspire our students. Inspire students using autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”

Read the entire blog post on

Don’t Use Gimmicks to Motivate Students

My son Miles hopped up on his bed with six of his favorite short stories that he wanted to read before bedtime. He had a voracious appetite for reading and loved asking “what if” questions about the characters in the stories. On this night, however, something changed.

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
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
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
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:




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.

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



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

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