Recognition for La Crosse teachers and staff funded by new Tom and Jean Heyt Thompson Endowment

Two La Crosse school teachers were surprise recipients Aug. 29 of school grants supported by a new endowment fund of the La Crosse Public Education Foundation.

The new endowment — created by education-loving community philanthropists Tom and Jean Heyt Thompson — will provide permanent support for recognition programs for teachers and staff in the School District of La Crosse.

Kate Hooper, a kindergarten teacher at North Woods International, is embraced by Tom Thompson upon receiving her special grant funded through the endowment created by Tom and Jean Heyt Thompson. Looking on are Jean Heyt Thompson, right, and LPEF Executive Director David Stoeffler, left.

The creation of the fund was announced at the District’s annual back-to-school welcome on Aug. 29 at Central High School.

Tom Thompson was a member of the Board of Education for 15 years before retiring this past spring. And he was deeply involved in local schools for nearly 40 years, including longtime service as chairman of the District Wide Parent Committee. Tom recently became a member of the LPEF Board of Directors. Tom and Jean were partners in creating the Thompson Animal Medical Center – and the two of them have a long record of community philanthropy.

One goal of the fund is to provide recognition in a variety of fun ways, and the kick-off presentation illustrated that idea.

Two teachers were awarded surprise grants of $250 each. The grants can be used at their discretion to improve classrooms or provide experiences for their students.

Both teachers received special state recognition earlier this year from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction – each was named last year as Teacher Fellows through the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.

Tricia Gibbons, far right, is applauded by (left to right): Tom Thompson, Jean Heyt Thompson, and fellow teacher Kate Hooper.

Kate Hooper is a kindergarten teacher at North Woods International School. Kate’s principal, Sandy Brauer, says: “Kate’s influence on the lives of students can only be described as EPIC! Compassionate, innovative and highly effective, Kate scaffolds development and meets the needs of her students through highly effective differentiation and behavior management, and through truly inspiring partnerships with parents, as well as with community groups and leaders.”

One of Kate’s colleagues described her as someone who puts the interests of her students before all; whether it’s teaching the importance of being a kind friend to others, or inviting parents into her classroom to share family traditions. … In short, Kate’s kind heart and generous actions are truly inspiring.

Tricia Gibbons is a teacher for students with intellectual disabilities at Logan High School. Her principal, Wally Gnewikow, describes her as “a tireless champion for her students. Each day, she works to help her students with both their education and to give them skills to transition into the post-secondary world. Tricia works at giving all her students the same opportunities as the rest of their peers. She started the Logan Locker, a food bank at Logan HS, and this year is reaching out to the community and parents with a series of classes titled Strengthening Families and Systems.”

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