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 A-Tech program provides unique career training opportunities for students

Paul Lindberg

The Appleton Technical Academy, or A-Tech, a public charter school operated by the Appleton Area School District within Appleton West High School, is providing unique career training opportunities for students interested in manufacturing, according to an article in the Appleton Post-Crescent.

The article includes an interview with Paul Lindberg, a WEAC Region 3 member and lead instructor at A-Tech, which has 76 students in grades 9 through 12. Students can pursue tracks in welding, machining, automated manufacturing and mechanical design.

Lindberg said the  tracks were determined by the governing board made up of local business leaders in the manufacturing field and Fox Valley Technical College, and are the career areas with the most jobs and the most need.

According to the Post-Crescent article:

Lindberg described the program as a “gradual release” into A-Tech classes. As freshmen, students spend two hours in A-Tech a day during which they get a broad sense of the topics covered. Sophomores are in A-Tech all but one hour, which is devoted to life science. By the time they’re juniors and seniors, if the students have done well in classes and don’t have another commitment like band or a foreign language, they’re fully immersed in A-Tech.

Read the entire article:

Appleton high school students learn by doing manufacturing jobs

CLOSE APPLETON – Grace Dempsey sees a direct relationship between her schoolwork and the path she’ll take in her future career. The 16-year-old high school junior has learned to work with lathes and mills, read blueprints and calculate exact measurements.

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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.

Madison West teacher helps students with special needs find meaningful jobs

Fred Swanson

For Fred Swanson, a Madison West High School transition teacher for students with special needs, helping students graduate from high school is important but it isn’t the end of the road. Swanson goes that extra mile to help them find meaningful employment and transition into the community.

Working with Goodwill Industries, Swanson – a member of Madison Teachers Inc. and WEAC – helps place and support young adults in permanent part-time jobs.

His work is featured in an article on Channel3000.com, the website for WISC-TV, Channel 3, in Madison.

“We had kids in like (a) clerical law firm, in warehouses, in production, in the service industry, in banking, in landscaping and gardening. Indoors, outdoors, nights, weekends. We’ve been virtually everywhere,” Swanson says.

“We can just make a difference for every single individual because there’s not anybody with a disability that does not have the capacity to work in the community in a meaningful way.”

Teacher helps students with special needs find permanent part-time jobs

MADISON, Wis. – Remember when you landed your first job? The excitement? For those with special needs, it’s as exciting – maybe even more so. But it’s not always easy – they need a little help. Meet Fred Swanson of West High School in Madison.

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Evansville’s Beth Oswald selected to serve on Teacher Advisory Council of national non-profit group

Beth Oswald

Evansville teacher – and WEAC Region 6 member – Beth Oswald has been selected by national nonprofit organization Hope Street Group as one of only 15 educators nationwide to join its first Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) through the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.

“On the TAC, I will be working with educators from across the country, collaborating with members boasting a variety of experiences and expertise, to provide feedback on HSG’s programs, operations and connectivity among its active and ‘alumni’ Teacher Fellows,” said Oswald a 7th grade world history teacher.

“This honor is a reflection of the outstanding education community in Evansville, Wisconsin, as well as the support provided through my continued membership in WEAC and the NEA,” she said.

Oswald served as a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow in 2014-2015, leading peer engagement including data collection, decision-maker engagement, and strategic communications like Twitter chats, op-eds and blogs. She said her motivation to apply for this position stems from her love of teaching and her belief that teacher-leadership roles, like HSG’s Teacher Advisory Council, are vital in sustaining and advancing the profession.

You can see more on HSG’s Teacher Fellows programs here, and the Teacher Fellow Alumni Network (TFAN), under which the TAC is a primary leadership role, here.

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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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Sheboygan’s Matthew Miller to represent Wisconsin in National Teacher of the Year program

From the Department of Public Instruction

Inspired by a grandfather who worked on civil rights and progressive issues, Matthew W. Miller Sr., an English learner teacher at North High School in Sheboygan, pushes himself to make a difference in the lives of his students. Named Wisconsin’s 2018 Special Services Teacher of the Year last spring, he will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year program. (Miller is a member of WEAC Region 3.)

“Matthew pushes himself to do more, so here he is our state’s representative to the National Teacher of the Year program,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “He focuses on providing students what they need to succeed and is an excellent role model for teachers in his school, the Sheboygan Area School District, and across our state and nation.”

“Teachers make such a difference in the lives of children,” said Herb Kohl, philanthropist and businessman, who co-sponsors the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year program through his educational foundation. “I am pleased to support our teachers in their efforts to help all children achieve.”

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 hundreds of 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 a thousand 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.

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. He says he’d like to incorporate leadership development into the high school curricula because leadership training would give youth a “crucial opportunity to discover some of the most significant growth they will ever experience, and our society some if its greatest future leaders.”

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.

As Wisconsin’s National Teacher of the Year representative, Miller will receive $6,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. He was among four educators named to the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year program in spring to represent the 2017-18 teaching corps. The others are Mary Ellen Kanthack, a fifth-grade teacher in the Genoa City J2 School District, Elementary School Teacher of the Year; Jill Runde, a school counselor at Indian Mound Middle School in McFarland, Middle School Teacher of the Year; and Brent Zinkel, a history teacher at Wausau East High School, High School Teacher of the Year. All four educators will be honored at a Capitol ceremony during the State of Education address at noon on September 21.

The National Teacher of the Year program began in 1952 and is the oldest national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching. The National Teacher of the Year will be chosen by a selection committee in spring 2018.

Four WEAC members are finalists for Presidential Teaching Awards

Four WEAC members have been named finalists for the 2017 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.

The 2017 awards recognize middle and high school teachers (grades 7 through 12). Wisconsin finalists include:

  • Kristin Michalski, high school physics, Project Lead the Way, and astronomy teacher at East Troy High School.
  • Kevin Reese, mathematics and Advanced Placement Calculus and Statistics teacher Clintonville High School.
  • Rick Erickson, high school science teacher at Bayfield High School.
  • Danielle Carlson, science teacher at Fennimore Middle and High School.

Sonja Hungness, a mathematics teacher at Kromrey Middle School in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, is also a finalist.

“These teachers inspire a love of learning in their students,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “They engage our kids in the subtleties of science and the marvels of mathematics to bring these subjects into focus for today’s world and in shaping the future.”

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. Since the program’s inception, more than 4,700 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

Applications from Wisconsin’s five finalists will be judged at the national level by a committee organized by the National Science Foundation, which administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The five Dimensions of Outstanding Teaching drive the evaluation process:

  • Mastery of mathematics or science content appropriate for the grade level taught.
  • Use of instructional methods and strategies that are appropriate for students in the class and that support student learning.
  • Effective use of student assessments to evaluate, monitor, and improve student learning.
  • Reflective practice and life-long learning to improve teaching and student learning.
  • Leadership in education outside the classroom.

The panel may select one teacher of mathematics and one of science to receive a Presidential Teaching Award from each state and four U.S. jurisdictions, with up to 108 awards given each year. In addition to recognition and professional development opportunities, award recipients receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation. Nominations for the 2018 awards, which will recognize kindergarten through sixth-grade educators, are expected to open in fall.

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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