Three WEAC members win Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Three WEAC members – Richard Erickson, Bayfield High School; Kevin Reese, Clintonville High School; and Rebecca Saeman, Sauk Trail Elementary School, Middleton – were named Wednesday as recipients of Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Winners of the award receive a certificate, a trip to Washington, D.C., for professional development and recognition events, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

The Wisconsin recipients were nominated by the state Department of Public Instruction in 2017 and 2018, the award program cycle, DPI spokesman Benson Gardner said.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. The Awards were established by Congress in 1983. 

The award recognizes those teachers have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas.

Awardees reflect the expertise and dedication of the Nation’s teaching corps, and they demonstrate the positive impact of excellent teachers on student achievement. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Below are profiles of the WEAC members who won this cycle’s awards:

Rick Erickson, Bayfield

Rick Erickson

Richard Erickson has been teaching for 35 years and has been at Bayfield High School for 25 years. There, he teaches 11-12th-grade Chemistry and Physics, and a science-focused experiential learning alternative education program for 9-12th-grade at-risk students. Previously, he taught for ten years at Mahtomedi High School in Minnesota. Richard collaborates with scientists from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the National Park Service, and Northland College to provide his students with authentic scientific experiences and research opportunities. He facilitates independent student research and encourages his students to participate in science fairs. Richard has worked with the University of Wisconsin to develop a summer program focused on indigenous arts and sciences, targeted toward Native American students. For the past three years, he has coordinated science festival events in the northwest region of the state and has served on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “Reimagining Science Fairs” committee. Richard was a Minnesota Teacher of the Year Finalist in 1992 and the 2014 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. Richard earned a B.A.S. in teaching physical science from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is a National Board Certified Teacher and is certified in broad field science, physical science, chemistry, physics, and alternative education.

It goes without saying that it is a true honor to be recognized for the work that has been my passion for 35 years. I am excited to receive the Presidential Award while also acknowledging the many teachers who are deserving of recognition for their efforts to foster the sense of wonder in students. It is a testimony to the science teachers who fanned the flame of my curiosity, my colleagues with whom I have collaborated on exciting projects, and my role models who have made me a better teacher.

Rick Erickson

Kevin Reese

Kevin Reese

Kevin Reese has been a mathematics teacher at Clintonville High School for his entire 17-year teaching career, currently assigned to teach 9-12th-grade Advanced Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Advanced Placement Statistics, and AP Calculus. Kevin is also an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, permitting qualified students in his Pre-Calculus, Statistics, and Calculus courses to earn dual credit from the UWO campus. In his classes, Kevin works to incorporate student-centered activities that everyone can grasp, but that have high learning potential. Throughout his time teaching mathematics, Kevin has maintained a passion for leadership. In addition to leadership roles within his mathematics department, building, and district, he currently serves on a statewide committee that is working to develop a guide that will consist of instructional practices aimed at promoting educational equity in mathematics throughout the state of Wisconsin. He also works to develop future leaders through his advising of the student council at Clintonville High School. Kevin is a member of the Wisconsin Mathematics Council and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Kevin earned a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a M.S. in mathematics education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He is a certified teacher for grades 9-12 mathematics.

Even with this recognition, I still feel there is more work to be done for me to improve as a teacher. I arrive each morning ready to take on the challenge of another student that I have yet to fully engage in learning and to bring out their best as a person. This is a tribute to all the students I have ever taught who inspired me to give my best effort in and out of the classroom, and for all my hardworking colleagues who have dared with me to take risks to improve instruction for our students.

Kevin Reese

Rebecca Saeman

Rebecca Saeman

Rebecca Saeman has been employed within the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District as a Math Interventionist for over 12 years. She has spent the past nine years as a Math and Reading Interventionist at Sauk Trail Elementary. She previously served as Math Interventionist at Northside Elementary and Park Elementary. Rebecca loves working directly with her students to grow their academic skills and confidence levels. She focuses on making sure all students are aware of the learning targets for the lesson and why the learning is relevant and important. She also enjoys counseling educators in the area of conceptual mathematics, so they may pay forward these same learnings to their own students. In addition to her daily student curriculum and educator training, Rebecca also cofacilitates the annual STEAM clubs for students in first and second grades to inspire their enthusiasm for STEAM through discovery-based learning. Rebecca has conducted several professional development presentations at National Math Recovery Conferences and within her school district. Topics include early numeracy skill development and activities to promote student growth. Rebecca earned a B.S. in elementary education from Edgewood College. Additionally, she earned both a Reading Teacher License and a M.S.Ed. from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Being honored with the Presidential Award reconfirms my purpose as an educator and encourages my passion for and dedication to my mathematics students and fellow educators. As mathematics teachers, we must remain dedicated to empowering students to acquire new learning skills, expand their mathematical understanding, and develop self-confidence to fully apply themselves throughout their future academics. I share this award with my inspiring children, dedicated educators, and supportive family.

Rebecca Saeman

WEAC – Badgers Outstanding Educator: Dawn Perkins, Unity Education Association

Dawn Perkins, a member of the Unity Education Association and eighth grade math teacher, is the latest recipient of the WEAC-Badgers Outstanding Educator Award.

Perkins, who is married to Unity EA member-teacher Shawn Perkins, has worked as a teacher and school volleyball coach for 25 years. She will be honored by the sold-out crowd at the October 19 UW-Badger volleyball game.

From organizing the annual Dig Pink fundraiser, to coaching volleyball and basketball, Perkins is dedicated to her students and school community. She was formerly named Outstanding Unity Staff Member of the Year and is involved in middle and high school drama, Destination Imagination, and has played piano for the solo and ensemble contest. Equally committed to her union, Perkins has been involved since 1988.

“I truly enjoy working with middle school students, no day is never the same,” said Perkins. “My favorite part of teaching mathematics is watching a student experience the ‘AH-HA!’ moment. There is nothing like watching them struggle and struggle and then suddenly, it clicks! There is an intrinsic reward with knowing that you have been a small part in their success. Also, I’ve gotten to the point in my career where I am now teaching the children of some of my first students. That is exciting, but also scary – it means I’ve been teaching for a long time!”

When it comes to her union, Perkins said she belongs for several reasons. “First, it is to pay respect to those workers who fought for our basic rights all those years ago,” she said. “When I first became involved with our contract negotiations team, I remember the older members talking about the struggles they had early in their career and the items they had to fight for over the years, those things that many of us take for granted today. We owe them to carry on their hard work from many years ago. Second, my mom was a member of the ESP staff at her school for 30 years… And finally, the Unity Education Association is my professional organization.  I should belong to the organization that represents me.”


Menominee Indian High School teacher Benjamin Grignon presented WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award

WEAC President Ron Martin presents WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award to Menominee Indian High School teacher Benjamin Grignon.

WEAC President Ron Martin on Wednesday presented WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award to Menominee Indian High School teacher Benjamin Grignon. The award was presented in Grignon’s classroom, in front of students, family members and colleagues.

In presenting the award, Martin quoted one of Grignon’s nominators who said: “Ben’s role as a teacher is not simply to teach art; rather his is the simultaneous honor and obligation to preserve and teach traditional Menominee arts, culture and language through his classroom. He is more accurately described as an art-informed anthropologist, tasked with keeping Menominee Nation traditions alive through education. I cannot overstate how important this work is as the primary teacher working to insulate his nation’s culture and traditions from being lost through time and diffusion.”

One of Grignon’s students wrote: “He is passionate about his students and values that knowledge as power. He provides his classes great learning opportunities and opens doors for all of us. His ability to spread his teaching is one of the most important resources this community has.”

In accepting the award, Grignon thanked his students and said he is honored to pass on traditions to them and hopes they pass them on from there. “It’s important that those teachings remain, and that we uphold that as the Menominee People,” he said.

Grignon has previously been named a Wisconsin 2019 High School Teacher of the Year, and Martin said the WEAC Excellence in Education Award is in effect WEAC’s own “Teacher of the Year” Award. Fourteen excellent educators from across the state were nominated for the WEAC award this year, and four were selected as award recipients: Grignon; Waukesha teacher Sarahi Monterrey; Joanna Rizzotto, a South Milwaukee alternative learning coordinator/teacher; and Sandra Kowalczyk, a Sun Prairie school reading specialist.

Students, family members and colleagues join Benjamin Grignon as he accepts WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award.

Waukesha’s Sarahi Monterrey honored with WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award

WEAC President Ron Martin on Tuesday presented WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award to Waukesha North High School Teacher Sarahi Monterrey. The award was presented at the end-of-the-year staff meeting at Waukesha North.

“Sarahi has done some tremendous and phenomenal things not only with her students and her community but has also been a tremendous advocate for public education and particularly the teaching profession,” Martin said.

“Thank you to all the phenomenal educators across our state that every single day are doing all these wonderful things to change the lives of students,” Sarahi said. “That’s really what it’s all about – making sure that all students have an opportunity to a quality education.”

Sarahi has already been named Wisconsin’s High School Teacher of the Year, and Martin said the WEAC Excellence in Education Award is in effect WEAC’s own “Teacher of the Year” Award. Fourteen excellent educators from across the state were nominated for the WEAC award, and four were selected as award recipients: Ben Grignon, a high school Menominee Indian culture teacher; Joanna Rizzotto, a South Milwaukee alternative learning coordinator/teacher; Sandra Kowalczyk, a Sun Prairie school reading specialist; and Sarahi Monterrey.

A committee of three past NEA Foundation Excellence in Education Award recipients from WEAC reviewed the four WEAC award winners, ranking each in professional practice, advocacy for the teaching profession, attention to diversity, community engagement, and leadership in professional development. It then selected Sarahi as WEAC’s Excellence in Education nominee to the NEA Foundation. She will go on to compete with representatives from other state unions, and four individuals will be selected to receive the Horace Mann special recognition and a $10,000 award. One finalist will receive the NEA Member Benefits award and a $25,000 prize.

WEAC members help create safe and supportive school communities

The latest Department of Public Instruction ConnectEd newsletter highlights the work of two WEAC members – Verona language arts teacher Nate Campbell and Rice Lake school social worker Joshua Morey – to create safe and supportive school environments for LGBTQ students and staff.

“In Verona,” Campbell said, “we believe that every child must be successful. My work with the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance, also referred to as Gender Sexuality Alliance) is supporting the efforts of students who are LGBTQIA+ and their allies to feel safe and successful in school.”

In Rice Lake, Morey serves as a GSA advisor for the high school and middle school GSA clubs. Because of the GSA’s efforts, every RLASD staff person, including custodial, food service, teacher, aide, administrator, and all new hires, receive training regarding gender and sexuality inclusive practices. “RLASD staff regularly use our students’ preferred names and pronouns and respect students’ rights to facilities and activities that align with their identities,” Morey said.

Read more:

Safe and Supportive School Environments for LGBTQ+ Youth

We all know how important it is to keep kids healthy, safe, supported, and encouraged in school. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students are 50% more likely than their peers to have been bullied at school or online in the past year.

The Department of Public Instruction will host the Creating Safe and Supportive School Communities Social and Emotional Learning Symposium June 19-20, at the Stevens Point Holiday Inn Conference Center. Find out more.

Two Education Support Professionals win WEAC ESP scholarships

Two exceptional Education Support Professionals have been awarded 2019 WEAC ESP scholarships.

The winners of the $1,000 scholarships are Terri Taylor, who works in Milwaukee Public Schools and is a member of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and the Milwaukee Educational Assistants Association, and Taneka Golden, who works in Racine public schools and is a member of Racine Educators United.

Taylor plans to use her scholarship money to help defray costs for a course she is taking at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee titled The Exceptional Individual. This course, she said, will help with understanding special needs students in today’s school.

“I will be able to explore the legislation, collaboration, transition, standards, learning disabilities/behaviors disorders,” she wrote. “Completing this course will help with completing the school social work certificate requirement. I currently work with Milwaukee Public Schools as a parent coordinator and just graduated from graduate school with my Masters of Science in Social Work. This course will help in my career becoming a school social worker in Milwaukee Public Schools and to also work with students with special needs in the schools.”

Golden, a paraprofessional, said she will use her scholarship money to purse an Elementary Education Degree.

“I decided to pursue this degree a few months ago when I was able to work a summer internship through the Center for Urban Teaching as a Fourth Grade Teacher,” she wrote. “I believe that obtaining this scholarship will allow me to not only relieve some of the financial stress on my end but also continue to support my children. This scholarship will help with the purchase of books and other supplies that are needed to complete my degree.”

The WEAC ESP Scholarship is awarded for study at either a two-year or four-year accredited institution of higher education or for job specific professional programs, courses or certifications.

Recipients must be an employed, active ESP member of WEAC who is interested in pursuing classes that will enhance their skills or further their career in the education field. Find out more about the scholarship.

The scholarship is part of a long-term program to elevate the work of education support professionals in Wisconsin Public Schools. WEAC received a grant from the National Education Association’s Great Public Schools (GPS) Fund to build respect and recognition of Education Support Professionals. GPS Fund grants, established by NEA members in 2013, are designed to help enhance the education profession and promote student success. 

Greendale’s Erin McCarthy is Wisconsin’s 2020 Middle School Teacher of the Year

From the Department of Public Instruction

In a surprise ceremony at her school Thursday, Erin McCarthy of Milwaukee, an eighth grade social studies teacher at Greendale Middle School who is a member of WEAC Region 7, was named the 2020 Middle School Teacher of the Year.

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor made the announcement during an all-school assembly. As part of the Teacher of the Year honor, McCarthy will receive $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.

“Every day, teachers work to help students gain confidence, skills, and knowledge so they can contribute successfully to our world,” said State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor. “It’s such a pleasure to meet with educators who represent the best of this tremendous calling.”

Herb Kohl, philanthropist, businessman, and co-sponsor of the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year program through his educational foundation, said he supports the program because “I want to help teachers pursue their unrealized goals for their classroom, their school, or their professional development.”

Erin McCarthy strives to spark every child’s curiosity about history, along with their sense of agency in the present, so that they leave her class enthusiastic not only to explore the world, but to improve it.

“Since my daughters started your class,” one parent wrote, “they are eager to discuss all that they are learning and aspire to learn…. They are working harder than ever to prove themselves to be respectful and responsible young people.”

McCarthy considers it her mission “to connect students to their place in history so they take action to impact their local and global community.” She finds she is able to spark curiosity and motivate reluctant learners by connecting them to diverse figures, especially those whose voices have been left out of history. McCarthy has developed a curriculum for writing these voices back into the narrative. At the end of the year, students perform an exercise of rewriting a chapter from their own textbook with a goal of making the story more complete. This project has successfully engaged students who were otherwise reluctant to learn.

McCarthy labors to ensure every student is included in her classroom’s community. “I’ve shifted the focus in my classroom to valuing the experience of each student and not teaching to the ‘average,'” she explained. “The work is exhausting but yields the greatest rewards.” She will, for example, take extra time to find the right story from history to engage a struggling reader. She includes visual, musical, and tactile experiences in her classroom so a diverse range of students can learn effectively. In addition, McCarthy embarked on a multi-year project to ensure students in special education can fully participate in her class’s National History Day project.

It was McCarthy who originally brought National History Day to the school. Students pick a historical topic of their choice and learn to manage complex projects comprising research, collaboration, developing an argument, and sharing outside the classroom. Gradually, over four years of collaboration between McCarthy and special educators, Greendale’s National History Day project became fully inclusive of students with disabilities.

“Our students with significant cognitive and learning challenges found their path to success,” McCarthy said. She told of a moment when “Elizabeth” (not the student’s real name) presented about the historical figure named Ruby Bridges. “As Elizabeth shared the story of a little African-American girl who spent an entire year alone in a classroom with just one teacher because of the fear of integration it was a poignant moment. Elizabeth’s education experience was similar to Ruby Bridges because at her previous school the special education model used was to isolate Elizabeth in a classroom by herself. Preparing her documentary provided Elizabeth opportunities to read, research, and connect to history.”

McCarthy is a leader in engaging students in self-directed research, known as “inquiry-based learning.” Educators nationwide asked to learn about her “Four I’s of Inquiry” model for fueling students’ curiosity. The approach shows versatility; her class even used it to respond to a “crisis of unkindness” at school. Inspired by historical examples yet working with current data, students developed plans for improving their school culture, presented them to administration, and formed a “Fix It to Fight It Club.”

Another way McCarthy connects students to history — inviting family histories into the curriculum — also helps families connect to the school. One mother thanked McCarthy after students interviewed family members about the 2001 terrorist attacks. “Being from a military family, September 11 was a life changing day for us … Thank you for providing this teachable and talkable moment.”

Musing on the world of education, McCarthy would like to see more focus on making the community an extension of the classroom, for career development and civic participation. She’s excited about the “whole child” movement, which emphasizes education for social, emotional, and other goals, in addition to academic assessment scores. In McCarthy’s classroom, skills like working hard and pushing one’s self get equal weight as growth in one’s knowledge and academic abilities.

In addition to classroom responsibilities, McCarthy serves on teams for diversity and equity in her school district; she has helped trained teachers to provide students with disabilities with opportunities to grow and succeed. McCarthy is a member of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County, and has participated in numerous professional development opportunities in her field throughout the country. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Roosevelt University, Chicago, and a master’s in public history from Loyola University, Chicago.

Read about all the 2020 Wisconsin Teachers of the Year.

MTEA member Chad Sperzel-Wuchterl is state’s 2020 High School Teacher of the Year

From the Department of Public Instruction

In a surprise ceremony Wednesday, Chad Sperzel-Wuchterl of Milwaukee, an art teacher at Reagan High School in Milwaukee Public Schools and a member of WEAC and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA), was named Wisconsin’s 2020 High School Teacher of the Year. 

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor made the announcement during an all-school assembly. As part of the Teacher of the Year honor, Sperzel-Wuchterl will receive $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. 

“Every day, teachers work to help students gain confidence, skills, and knowledge so they can contribute successfully to our world,” said State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor. “It’s such a pleasure to meet with educators who represent the best of this tremendous calling.” 

Herb Kohl, philanthropist, businessman, and co-sponsor of the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year program through his educational foundation, said he supports the program because “I want to help teachers pursue their unrealized goals for their classroom, their school, or their professional development.” 

Sperzel-Wuchterl calls education “a vibrant, ongoing, lifelong process that interweaves the individual within a greater community.” His students’ artwork has been displayed throughout that greater community, not only in the school but also in university campus art galleries, the Wisconsin Capitol, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and revolving displays in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. 

Sperzel-Wuchterl infuses college experiences throughout the curriculum by collaborating with professors from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and the Minneapolis College of Art Design to provide lessons, workshops, and even professional critiques of student work. For students, an added benefit of working with professors on critiques and revision is learning about financial support for college. “Last year alone, $3.5 million was offered to 41 of my seniors as scholarships were put forth to draw in talented artists to multiple universities,” Sperzel-Wuchterl says. Students also make an annual visit to the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, where they participate in art workshops and learn about college options and scholarships from admissions staff. 

Working against what he calls the “’starving artist’ misconception,” Sperzel-Wuchterl invites parents to attend the campus visits to learn about college affordability, scholarships, and the wide array of careers available for students with art degrees. 

Another hallmark of Sperzel-Wuchterl’s philosophy is his belief in the intrinsic motivation to learn. “My experience has been that the more I empower students, the more excited they become in the learning process. I think this approach is essential as it lays the groundwork for independent learning which is expected at the college level and also paves the way for life-long learning.” 

A major tenet of his teaching practice includes a focus on closing the achievement gap. Sperzel- Wuchterl embeds literacy within his visual arts classes and uses ACT data to better understand his students’ literacy-related strengths and areas in need of improvement. He is then able to tailor literacy-infused art lessons to support students reading about and analyzing art and art theory, describing their artistic processes, explaining their work to professors and other professional artists, listening to critiques, and writing their reflections. Students also develop valuable collaboration skills in many creative projects and work with diverse media to develop existing talents and build new skills. 

Students embrace a global mindset. “Our student population includes 31 different cultures, some of whom are immigrants, refugees, or first-generation Americans,” Sperzel-Wuchterl notes. “Every culture has a unique perspective to share with the world at large.” A partnership with artists in residence and the international project, Inside Out, resulted in portraits of the school’s culturally diverse students and staff appearing on the exterior of Reagan High School. Sperzel-Wuchterl also features, in his classroom and around the school, artworks by marginalized people. 

Even while working tirelessly to widen students’ experiences and opportunities, Sperzel-Wuchterl’s belief in education as a lifelong process remains at the center of his own development. In his professional learning, he says he has witnessed an increasing “openness, adaptability, and flexibility” in education; he dreams of facilitating even more collaboration, to “knock down the rigid silos … separating truly gifted educators from each other and limiting their professional development.” 

Sperzel-Wuchterl began teaching at Reagan High School, which offers an International Baccalaureate program, in 2004. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in visual arts from Cardinal Stritch University. 

Read about all the 2020 Wisconsin Teachers of the Year.

Wisconsin has three winners of NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards

NEA has announced three Wisconsin winners of this year’s prestigious NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards. The Wisconsin winners are:

  • Bayfield educators and WEAC members Rick and Lorie Erickson.
  • Former State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville.
  • GSAFE, a Madison-based advocacy organization devoted to creating safe educational environments for LGBTQ individuals.

They will be among 13 winners nationally honored at the annual NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards program July 3 in Houston, held during the NEA Representative Assembly.

Following are descriptions of the Wisconsin winners:

Rick and Lorie Erickson

Leo Reano Memorial Award

Veteran Bayfield, Wisconsin, educators Rick & Lorie Erickson have enriched the lives of children in the Native community they’ve become an integral part of.

In the district they serve, seventy-five percent of the student population is of the Anishinaabe Nation, indigenous to the Great Lakes region. As such, Rick and Lorie have developed a profound knowledge, respect and appreciation of the culture’s past and present, working diligently toward the goal of fostering an environment where Native youth can celebrate their identity for generations to come.

Working in concert with the Bayfield school system and the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Rick and Lorie have advocated for Native traditions and heritage to be incorporated into the curriculum. Rick and Lorie not only understand how vital it is for these children to express themselves, but that it’s equally important for those outside the culture to learn about those around them, and to advance understanding and appreciation.

Nourishing their bodies goes hand in hand with healing the soul; recognizing that much of the economic disparity stems from decades of historical trauma, they view their educational philosophy through the lens of cultural sensitivity. Their holistic approach has empowered and instilled a sense of pride in thousands of young people.

Rick and Lorie’s efforts to embed themselves in the community are always on display: both have taken courses in the Anishinaabemowin language. Lorie’s Early Childhood Special Education classrooms are consistently decorated with artwork that beautifully represents Anishinaabe life, and she creates activities for the children that include maple syruping, beading, and the rich tradition of storytelling, key to passing on lore, legacy, and history.

The Ericksons’ efforts have been recognized locally: Rick was awarded the 2003 Excellence in Science Education Award by the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers, and was named the 2014 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. Lorie’s forward-thinking concept of interfacing with tribal elders to guarantee culturally appropriate and effective programs for Native youth, garnered her recognition from the Wisconsin Indian Education Association.

Together, Rick and Lorie Erickson continue to make a better life for young people of all backgrounds in their community, so that no one ever forgets, to paraphrase the classic lyric, that “this land was made for you and me”.

Tim Cullen

NEA President’s Award

Senator Tim Cullen has been a champion of education for over 40 years. His body of work creating policy at the state and local level has continued to ensure that both students and teachers win at every level within the Wisconsin Public School System.

Initially, Senator Cullen wanted to be a high school social studies teacher, but once he started working for former Congressman Les Aspen, he found himself drawn to politics. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, Senator Cullen was elected to the Wisconsin Senate in 1974, representing the 15th district. Combining his love for education and politics, as a state senator, Cullen served on the education committee and was Majority Leader 1981, 1983 and1985. A strong advocate for public schools, Senator Cullen was awarded The Friend of Education Award in 1983 from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, for the passage of a collective bargaining law.

Cullen would hold the Senate seat until 1987. Republican Governor Tommy Thompson appointed Cullen to head the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services where he served for one year before leaving public service for the private sector, and becoming the vice-president for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin.

While working in the private sector Cullen continued his support and advocacy for public schools by serving on the Janesville School board, the same district where the Senator graduated high school.

In 2007, Senator Cullen, concerned with the lack of educators of color in the Janesville School District, met with then-Superintendent Karen Schulte to learn more about the ratio of students of color to teachers of color. The report showed students of color made up 14% of Janesville’s student population; however, only 1% of the 800+ teachers in the district identified as people of color. Senator Cullen quickly took action in developing the “Janesville Minority Teacher Scholarship” (JMTS). The proposal would provide a multi-year renewable college scholarship to a student of color for up to $5,000 per year for tuition, books, and fees to students of the Janesville Schools. In return, the student must pursue a degree in education, obtain a Wisconsin State Teacher Certification, and then apply for a position with the School District of Janesville when they have completed their degree.

Since its inception in 2008, The Janesville Minority Teacher Scholarship has had six graduates who are working in the Janesville Schools with a total of 17 years of experience among them. Four more students are currently taking advantage of the scholarship, with one recipient expected to graduate in the Spring of 2019.

Senator Cullen’s commitment to diversity in the classroom, his dedication to quality public education and his lifetime of public service have been instrumental in shaping the Wisconsin Public School system.


Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights

From its start in 1991 as a volunteer-based grassroots organization operating out of private homes, under the name Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination in Education (GLADE), GSAFE has successfully added “gender identity/expression” language to non-discrimination policies in the state of Wisconsin. The organization switched its focus from programs in South Central Wisconsin to serving the entire state, connecting with over 200 Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) networks across the states. GSAFE has aimed to work with Wisconsin students, educators, community members, and elected officials to create safe educational environments where LGBTQ individuals can learn and gain the confidence to become successful.

GSAFE ensures that students at hundreds of schools have access to reliable programs and spaces that increase feelings of belonging and safety. This organization has developed and provided programs that have helped other students learn to respect diversity and refrain from abusive behaviors such as bullying and stereotyping. This student club network works with numerous school districts and various professional education organizations every year in order to provide educators of all grade levels the tools to navigate the sensitivities of identity and sexual orientation in the day to day classroom setting and within their school communities.

More recently, GSAFE launched Foundations of Leadership (FOL), an innovative class for advanced learners in the area of leadership. FOL enhances the education of LGBTQ students, particularly students of color, whose experiences are at the center of the class. The course strives to reorient the community’s understanding of who is considered talented and gifted and lifts up the leadership of LGBTQ youth of color who are underrepresented and often absent from advanced learners courses. The project has expanded in unique ways to include providing one-on-one instruction for youth experiencing suspension and/or incarceration and has piloted classes inside the restrictive confines of the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center. FOL is an essential project particularly in the state of Wisconsin and the city of Madison, which has one of the country’s highest rates of school push out and incarceration of youth of color, particularly African-American youth.

GSAFE advocates for including milestones in LGBTQ history as part of public school curriculum, from the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany, to the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. Because of their advocacy and dedication, over half of Wisconsin school districts have gender-inclusive policies. In 2010,GSAFE heralded the first Lieutenant Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth in Wisconsin and is planning their inaugural LGBTQA Students of Color Summit in Madison. GSAFE has continued to help districts pass and implement inclusive policy, and has continued to collaborate with statewide partners. GSAFE has become a “go-to” organization for the education and political community alike for creating safe and supportive environments for LGBTQ youth.

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Three dozen WEAC members honored as Kohl Foundation Teacher Fellows

Three dozen WEAC members have been selected as 2019 Teacher Fellows by the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.

Each honoree and their school receives an award of $6,000. Kohl Teacher Fellowship recipients are educators who have been chosen for their superior ability to inspire a love of learning in their students, their ability to motivate others, and their leadership and service within and outside the classroom. In total, 304 students, teachers, and principals are being honored this year by the Herb Kohl Foundation. 

The Kohl Foundation Scholarship and Fellowship program was established by Herb Kohl, philanthropist and businessman, in 1990. To date, the Foundation has awarded $17.8 million to Wisconsin educators, principals, students, and schools. “Education is the key to the future of Wisconsin and our nation. I am very proud of the accomplishments of these students, teachers, and principals and look forward to the great contributions they will make in the future,” Kohl said.

The WEAC members honored as Kohl Foundation Teacher Fellows this year are listed below. (If you are a WEAC member or know of one who received a Kohl Teacher Fellow honor this year but is not listed below please let us know by emailing us at and we will make sure we get that educator’s name added to the list of honorees.)


Jean Biebel, Wauwatosa 
Wauwatosa East High School, Wauwatosa 

Alexander Branderhorst, Milwaukee 
Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Milwaukee 

Raymond Duncan, Milwaukee 
Marshall High School, Milwaukee 

Erin McCarthy, Milwaukee 
Greendale Middle School, Greendale 

Kaitlynn Radloff, Milwaukee 
Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Milwaukee 

Aimie Rognsvoog, Milwaukee 
IDEAL, Milwaukee 

Chad Sperzel-Wuchterl, Milwaukee 
Reagan High School, Milwaukee 

Elizabeth Sutherland, Shorewood 
Whitefish Bay High School, Whitefish Bay 

Jill Werner, Wauwatosa 
Waukesha North High School, Waukesha 

Nancy Wisniewski, Milwaukee
Mitchell Elementary School, Milwaukee 


Angela Flynn, Janesville 
Turner High School, Beloit 

Matthew Flynn, Beloit 
Memorial High School, Beloit 

Julie Martin, Madison 
New Glarus High School, New Glarus 

Rachel Schramm, Madison 
Shabazz-City High School, Madison 


Paul Anderson, Arcadia 
Arcadia High School, Arcadia 

Tricia Gibbons, Holmen 
Logan High School, La Crosse 

Kate Hooper, La Crosse 
North Woods International School, La Crosse 

Regina Quandt, Winona 
Arcadia Elementary School, Arcadia 


Elizabeth Hansen, Portage 
Portage High School, Portage 

Daniel Rhode, Baraboo 
Baraboo High School, Baraboo 

Ashley Tessmer, Wisconsin Rapids 
Lincoln High School, Wisconsin Rapids 


Jessica Longdin, North Fond du Lac 
Evans Elementary School, Fond du Lac 

Jane Savatski, Menasha 
Berry Elementary School, Appleton 


Scott Christy, Green Bay 
East High School, Green Bay 

Jonathan Delray, Sheboygan 
Kiel High School, Kiel 


Dawn Bohm, Kronenwetter 
D.C. Everest Junior High School, Weston 

Matthew Cepress, Weston 
D.C. Everest High School, Weston 

Lori Linsmeyer, Rhinelander 
Crescent Elementary School, Rhinelander 


Niki Anderson, Eau Claire
Memorial High School, Eau Claire

Rebecca Omtvedt, Holcombe
Lake Holcombe Schools District Office, Holcombe

Nicholas Sirek, Eau Claire 
DeLong Middle School, Eau Claire

John Scott Thiel, Altoona 
Altoona Middle School, Altoona


Debra Bell, Menomonie 
Boyceville Community Schools District Office, Boyceville 

Jennifer Clemins, St. Croix Falls 
Saint Croix Falls Elementary School, Saint Croix Falls 

Suzanne Imhoff, Frederic 
Saint Croix Falls High School, Saint Croix Falls 


Lorie Erickson, Bayfield 
Bayfield Elementary School, Bayfield

Click here for the complete list of 2019 Kohl Education Foundation student, teacher and principal honorees.