School Staff Shining Stars

They are the teachers who always go the extra mile for their students – and who remain inspiring years after a child has moved on to other grade levels.

Roxanne Hicke, the lead cook at Lincoln Middle School, was nominated by several people due to the care she shows for students. Wrote one person: “Throughout the years I’ve known Roxie, she has shown she keeps not only bellies but hearts full, too.”

They are cooks who bring a smile to the faces of children. The administrative assistants who are the glue for their building. The custodians and craftsmen who do their jobs, and do them well, without fanfare.

When we asked parents, students, community members and District employees to nominate a “Shining Star” and explain why they deserved recognition, we were not really surprised to be flooded with responses — but it was heartening nonetheless to see all of the great testimonials for these dedicated public school employees.

Between April 9 and May 3, 2021, we received more than 175 nominations.

From all nominees, we randomly selected 10 employees, and each received $50 in gift cards to Downtown La Crosse businesses. The winners of gift cards were: Kelsey Ferkingstad, Longfellow teacher; Laurie Fried, Southern Bluffs teacher; Cassie George, North Woods International teacher assistant; Paula Johnson, Lincoln teacher; Kelly Masche, Emerson teacher; Samantha Parkhurst, Logan Middle teacher; Joe Przywojski, Emerson custodian; Heidi Rouzer, Southern Bluffs teacher; Damian Stanton, Summit teacher; and Jen Voight, Central teacher.

In addition, three nominees — Roxanne Hicke from Lincoln Middle School, Anna Jordan from SOTA I, and Heath Bornheimer from Northside Elementary/Coulee Montessori — were selected to receive special grants funded by the La Crosse Public Education Foundation’s Tom and Jean Heyt Thompson Endowment.

Enjoy reading!

Elementary Schools

Brenda Ahern, Southern Bluffs teacher

  • “Brenda goes above and beyond to meet the needs of each individual student. She makes learning fun and makes everyone feel welcome!”

Tami Beran, North Woods International teacher

  • “Tami is so creative and a great co-worker – she is great with kids and we all love her.”

Shanon Bills, Hintgen Elementary teacher

  • “Mrs. Bills was my cooperating teacher 15 years ago, and her compassion and love of her students and families has been a model for me in my own kindergarten classroom. She continues to share resources, ideas and to be a sounding board for all of my joys and challenges in teaching. There is no way I’d be the teacher I am today without her!”

Stacey Blegen, Southern Bluffs administrative assistant

  • “Her job has taken on so many new dimensions, and she has cheerfully jumped in to be as helpful as possible. We would be lost without her!”

Diane Block, Southern Bluffs teacher

  • “Diane has such love and passion for learning. She always goes above and beyond for ALL students. She is a smiling face who is always willing to help other staff members.”
  • “I am a first-year teacher and Diane was my mentor teacher. She made my first year better than I ever thought it could be. She is very knowledgeable and has great relationships with her students and families. She is very involved in many aspects of our school and I strive to become the amazing educator that she is.”
  • “Diane deserves recognition because of all that she does within our school community. Diane is kind, outgoing, funny, and creative. She continuously dedicates her time to her students, and is always looking for new ways that she can support them in and out of the classroom. Diane is always willing to take on more responsibilities, including being apart of many building leadership teams and by supervising and supporting student teachers. Diane demonstrates excellent knowledge of regulation and implements plans that are designed to help each individual student succeed. Additionally, Diane has applied for and has been awarded grants that provide beneficial resources to support students across our entire building. Diane is an incredible teacher who goes above and beyond every day.”

Kelsie Bolstad, North Woods International School administrative assistant

  • “Kelsie is the glue that holds North Woods together! She is organized, creative and the students love her! We are lucky to have her running the show at our school!”
  • “Everyone knows AAs run the schools, and Miss Kelsie is the epitome of this! She is incredibly organized and always has ideas for celebrating and improving things at North Woods. She has an incredible rapport with staff, students and families. We are so lucky to have her as the face of our school!”
  • “Kelsie is amazing! She keeps our school afloat on a daily basis. I admire her hard work and dedication. Thanks for taking care of all of us, Kelsie!”
  • “If efficiency had a way to become more efficient, it would become Kelsie Bolstad! Not only does she keep us all running and on track, but she is a vital role in our PBIS team and creating our school culture!”

Heath Bornheimer (center) was presented with a special “Shining Star” grant by Tom (left) and Jean Thompson. Click on the image to get more details.

Heath Bornheimer, Northside Elementary teacher assistant

  • “Heath always puts everyone else’s “needs” before his own and he does it with the most positive attitude and a special kind of grace. He is without a doubt one of the hardest working adults in this building.”
  • “He is everywhere support is needed. On call all day to assist with behaviors, he is the first to arrive and helps to calm the situation. He speaks rationally with kids and has relationships with so many of our needy students. He is a reliable support staff and is always respectful to kids while redirecting unsafe choices. He is a valuable member of our staff.”
  • “He goes above and beyond to not only help students, but staff. I frequently see him eating his lunch late in the afternoon because he puts others ahead of himself. He deserves to be recognized for his dedication!”

Nicole Brudos, North Woods International teacher

  • “She is one of the most caring and positive teachers I’ve ever worked with. Many times I’ve walked into her classroom to support a struggling child with the rest of her students completely calm, focused, and learning because she is so excellent at staying calm herself.”
  • “Nicole is one of the hardest working teachers I know. She is an amazing teammate, and has been my rock this year! Thanks for helping me through this crazy school year!”

Jocelyn Buxton, Spence Elementary School teacher

  • “Mrs. Buxton is a transformer!! One day she’s teaching our kids how to read and write via Zoom, and the next she’s in class, face to face with her students. And just when you get used to being in person, she had to quarantine and had to teach via Zoom again for a couple weeks, but this time in the classroom on the white screen while a substitute helps the kids in person. Effortlessly maneuvering through these twists and turns. My son never said Mrs. Buxton was gone today, because she was always there! She’s another parental type of person in my son’s life, as he’s reminded me several times that “Oops, I called Mrs. Buxton mom today.” Mrs. Buxton goes well above and beyond for her students. And communication with me as a parent is great! She’s made this year at school for my son, (a 1st grader who barely got a half a year in Kindergarten in the school building before the pandemic), a smooth transition back into school after such a long break. She makes school fun and I think that’s very important. She deserves recognition and any child who gets her as a teacher is a lucky kid. You’ll feel her love of teaching and how much she cares for your child. I’d pick Mrs. Buxton for my son’s village all day every day.”
  • “She is the best virtually and in-person!”

Eric Check, Emerson Elementary School principal:

  • “Mr. Check is has the perfect amount of enthusiasm, compassion, energy, motivation and people skills to be an amazing addition to our Emerson family and is just always so encouraging to the students. We are happy he is part of Emerson, now! Yay!”

Amy Dale, Southern Bluffs administrative assistant

  • “Amy has had to adapt to so many changes; she has helped and supported us all so much in these challenging times, and she’s done it with a smile! Her cheerfulness is contagious!”

Holly Denzer, Southern Bluffs health assistant

  • “Holly has worked so hard; she does her very best to meet the many needs of staff and students, and she does it with a smile. We are so thankful for her!”

Sara DePaolo, North Woods International teacher

  • “Whether by choice or assignment, Sara wears more hats than anyone else in the building. She does this with grace, positivity and reliability. She cares deeply about not only the success of her students, but also the success of our school!”

Reid Duddeck, SOTA I teacher

  • “Mr. Duddeck provided a supportive learning environment where my child and others could thrive as they searched for their voices. I appreciate his compassion, authenticity, and flexibility in meeting children where they are under his guidance. This is the first year where my child genuinely loves school. Mr. Duddeck has made a big difference in our family and we appreciate him very much!”

Melani Fay, Northside Elementary counselor

  • “Melani is so important to Northside Elementary. She is a great role model when it comes to knowing how to talk with students, especially those who are having a difficult time. Melani is compassionate, caring, and helps students to make better choices. When a student is having a tough time, I am so grateful that Melani is here to help that student learn how to use coping skills to problem solve. Our staff learns a great deal from her each day.”

Kristine Fischer, Emerson Elementary School teacher

  • “Mrs. Fischer rose to the challenge of teaching remotely the first half of the year keeping her kindergarten class motivated and engaged. Her positivity and incredibly caring attitude have made her students feel loved and supported during an otherwise difficult school year. I am so thankful my son had Mrs. Fischer to start off his school experience.”

Denise Fisher, Hintgen Elementary School teacher

  • “Miss Fisher has worked extra hard this year to really make her student’s learning fun! Walking into her room, you can feel the excitement that the students have as they learn!”

Carol Francksen, Summit Environmental health assistant

  • “Carol always goes above and beyond her duties at Summit. She is always willing to jump in and help! She genuinely cares about all students and staff.”

Laurie Fried, Southern Bluffs Elementary School teacher

  • “She is truly amazing. She has put so much time and effort Into helping her students and my son to gain back what they lost from missing so much school due to COVID. She has given extra time for my son to help with his academics and is always open and willing to communicate with me about what’s working and what’s not. She is truly amazing and you can tell she loves her students. She has gone above and beyond in this crazy year of COVID with a smile on her face the whole time.”

Teresa Fox, State Road Elementary teacher

  • “I love my own kindergarten team, however, I feel so fortunate having a “bonus” team member in Teresa! She and I share so many similarities in our teaching philosophy, and her ideas and insight have been invaluable … especially this last year!”

Cassie George, North Woods International School teacher assistant

  • “She is our Refocus person. Many days, she missed out her full 30 minutes lunch time so she could help classroom teachers with their challenging students.”
  • “Cassie is 100% calm and supportive for those students that are struggling the most. She always has a smile for students and staff, regardless of the behaviors she’s been dealing with all day. Our school is a better place to be, both for students and staff, because she is there!”
  • “Cassie is absolutely MAGICAL! She has an incredibly difficult job, but does it with integrity, and most importantly, love. Most staff at North Woods would agree that Cassie is one of, if not the MOST valuable member of our North Woods team!”

Kinsey Gibbs, North Woods International School cook

  • “Kinsey has fed children through the pandemic bringing food to the children when the school was closed. Kinsey to me is a real hero she whole hardily love children and cares for their well-being.”
  • “Kinsey has gone above and beyond during the last year providing food and meals for not only her students at North Woods but to the entire La Crosse District. She has been a face that many will recognize being at Logan High for summer meals as well as the holiday meal pack hand outs for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals as well. The kids love her and how much she cares about them and the way she greets them with her smiling eyes and her fun masks!”
  • “Kinsey has revitalized our kitchen staff! For years our kitchen staff were begging for our help in getting their numbers up and on the brink of losing positions. Since she has come to North Woods, not only are numbers way up, but we have actually ADDED staff to keep up with the demand. She has led the district in creating a program for staff meals, regularly asks for feedback both from staff and from students, and is an active member of our staff community. During the summer, she started reaching out to teachers when the student lunch numbers started going down so that we could make sure students were getting the food that they need. When she has downtime or someone is in need of help she’s one of the first to jump in.”
  • “Kinsey is always cheerful and hard-working. She makes fabulous lunch choices and makes sure that they are delivered with care. In the past few years, she has developed breakfast and lunch choices for the staff that have been fantastic. On top of all of this, she helps promote local business in La Crosse and makes us fabulous treats. We couldn’t survive without her!”

Kelly Gilman, Northside/Coulee Montessori teacher

  • “Kelly Gilman is a tireless advocate for children and the teams she works on. She shows up for hard conversations and always keeps a child’s best interest in mind. She is a natural leader and she gives that away to not only her colleagues in special education, but to her peers in regular education. Kelly embraces a challenge and does not shy away from doing the right thing. She is an educator and human with great integrity and I am proud and honored to work with her!”

Caitlin Hanney, State Road Elementary School teacher

  • “Ms. Hanney has done an amazing job all year including ALL students in her lessons. I was especially impressed with her “Keep the Quote” during online learning. Every week, she posted a quote, and the students voted on who best fit that quote. Then, she hand delivered the winner (to their house!) a certificate with all the students writing as to why their classmate deserved the award. And every week was a different classmate, so they all felt included!”

Tim Hanson, North Woods International social worker

  • “Tim Hanson has a “How Can I Help?” attitude. Like, literally, every time you call or try to ask him a question that is his response. He is an expert at not only developing relationships with struggling families, but also at being organized with documentation so that he has follow-through and reminders to follow up. Even though his schedule is insanely busy, I never feel like an inconvenience to him when I need support.”

Jamie Hauser, Hintgen teacher

  • “Mrs. Hauser is an amazing teacher! Eloise has excelled in her class and Mrs. Hauser continues to find new challenges for Eloise. She also really cares about her students and gets to know them personally, and creates memory books above and beyond what is expected!”
  • “She always goes above and beyond for all her students. Two of my kids have had the pleasure of having her as a teacher and she makes school an exciting place to be.”

Jessica Hembd, North Woods International teacher

  • “Jessica is dedicated to children and helping them learn and develop as human beings. She is an awesome co-worker.”

Kristin Hoeth, Northside Elementary teacher

  • “Kristen was one of the reasons our school very easily transitioned to online learning and then back to face-to-face learning. She created an entire course for using Canvas, helped with many trainings, and was always “on-call” when any staff members needed her. She went way above and beyond the expectations for the district tech coaches. Since we have been back in-person, Kristen frequently fills in for teachers who are absent but without a substitute.”

Keri Holter, North Woods International principal

  • “Keri has taken on a new position during a year of certification and great change. She has weathered many storms this year and faced the challenges with integrity and grit. Keri is always ready to listen and offer support. She encourages us to be better while understanding.”

Kate Hooper, North Woods International School teacher

  • “Sra. Hooper goes above and beyond to create an inclusive learning environment. She inspires higher level thinking and deep connections from students and encourages them to engage authentically with the world around them. She is a fierce advocate for developmentally appropriate Kindergarten practices and learning through play.”

Amy Joley, Emerson teacher

  • “Amy Joley’s creative lessons and enthusiasm in the kindergarten classroom create an incredible environment for her students. In a year filled with uncertainty and the challenges of virtual learning, Mrs. Joley’s innovation and caring demeanor combined to create a classroom, virtual and in-person, filled with learning, engagement and love for learning!”

Anna Jordan celebrates with her SOTA I students after being presented with a special recognition grant by Tom and Jean Thompson. Click on the image for more details.

Anna Jordan, SOTA I teacher

  • “She goes above and beyond to make the kids feel comfortable and have fun at school. She is very compassionate and she shows she adores her kids in the classroom in so many ways. She keeps parents up to date and helps keep our kids safe while at school. She’s definitely a gem of a teacher!”
  • “Miss Anna is a great teacher every year, but this year she has gone above and beyond. I feel like having the class via zoom for the first half of the year let me see more of the ‘classroom’ than I would have otherwise, and I was SO impressed. She is wonderful with our 1st grader of course, but SO supportive & encouraging of the whole class no matter where they’re at. She’s patient and never let Zoom challenges get her down (or at least she didn’t show it!). Our daughter made tremendous progress with her reading this year, both online and back in the classroom and that truly comes down to Anna. We are so grateful for her!”

Leah Justin, North Woods International School teacher:

  • “Leah Justin is a kind caring Kindergarten teacher who is so flexible in jumping through all the hoops with online teaching and in person. She knows the value of play in learning for kindergartners.”

Jennifer Kies, North Woods International teacher

  • “Jen always remains calm even in the goofiest of circumstances. She teaches with grace and patience. She is a supportive and caring colleague who works hard and gives 100% even when issues arise in her personal life. Her students are always in the forefront of her mind. She is an outstanding human.”

Cassie Koch, Northside Elementary teacher assistant

  • “A super team player, out every morning to help kiddos into building safely. TA that does so many jobs above and beyond her zones room role!”

Kadie Koepke, Northside Elementary teacher

  • “Kadie always has a smile on her face! She is kind, thoughtful, and so smart! 🙂 When I have a question about a teaching strategy, classroom management situation, intervention, or just need to brainstorm, I think – “What would Kadie do?” She is always there to help! Kadie looks and finds the good in all people and situations, and never misses the chance to say a kind word or compliment her colleagues. We are so fortunate to have Kadie at Northside. She makes it fun to come to work and embraces every day with a positive attitude and caring outlook. Thank you Kadie! You are a ROCK STAR!”

Sarah Kratt, North Woods International teacher

  • “Sarah always goes above and beyond to make all students feel welcomed and safe in her classroom. Her lessons are engaging and keeps the interest of the students. Her ability to continuously find ways to engage the students both in face to face learning and virtual learning continues to amaze me. The time and effort she puts in her lesson plans is easily seen by the joy and engagement of the students. When you walk into the room, you can easily see the love and compassion she demonstrates to support the students and teach. I have the benefit of working with her with shared students. Sarah will do anything she can to keep the students in her classroom. Understanding and adapting her lessons and strategies to help students is evident by the relationships the kids have with her. We have one shared friend who does not connect with all adults, but his relationship with her is the reason for much of his success this year. Virtually, Sarah went out of her way to ensure all her students had access and had the materials needed to participate in her class. Her students loved learning with her so much that they did not sign off on the breaks. They stayed on to work and talk with Sarah. I am proud to be a co-worker and am lucky to have the opportunity to partner with her every day!”
  • “When COVID suddenly switched Sarah from Spanish to 3rd grade, she rose to the occasion and seamlessly became a wonderful addition to our team. She is an asset to our staff and an incredible advocate for her students. Her personality shines.”
  • “Sarah is probably the most amazing human being I’ve ever met. As a teacher, she is constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to keep her students engaged in learning. To say she goes above and beyond for her students would be an understatement. She works tirelessly to incorporate IB materials into all facets of learning while making sure her students feel safe, loved, and supported.”

Tanya LaFleur, North Woods International teacher

  • “Tanya goes above and beyond on a daily basis to make her kids feel loved and safe at school. She uses a variety of techniques and methods to earn trust with the kids that stays with them throughout their years at North Woods. Several teachers of older students, ask Tanya if they can send helpers to her room, because they feel the most calm there and have less behavior problems. Tanya also reaches out to staff on a personal level, as well as a professional level. She can always be heard in the hallway in the morning and afternoon, asking staff how their day is going, and actually listening to the answer. Tanya is the most deserving teacher of this award because she goes above and beyond the call of duty, especially this year.”

Michael Lawrence, SOTA I teacher

  • “I cannot say enough about the contagious passion and positive student-centric energy Mr. Mike puts into his teaching. He is constantly seeking new ways to create a fun and engaging learning environment for his students. Not only does he create a phenomenal educational learning experience, but he promotes collaboration and positive relationships among all his students – an aspect of school that is just as important as the educational take-aways. My daughter, like many students, had a shaky start to this school year, and I can say now without a doubt that she has had her best school year yet due to Mr. Mike. He makes it a priority to develop a unique relationship with each of his students, and he truly values their individuality and encourages and celebrates the development of their unique personalities every day. We are so extremely fortunate to have Mr. Mike as a teacher in our school district!”
  • “Mike goes above and beyond the call of teaching duties to provide rich learning experiences outside of the classroom for all of his students. We appreciate his efforts and compassion greatly. Thanks for loving and showing up every day for the students and their families.”

Cathy Leon, Summit Environmental teacher

  • “Mrs. Leon has been a positive and creative teacher for my 4k student in a chaotic year. Thanks for being our introduction to school. We appreciate all the work it took to provide at home work and then transition to in person learning.”

Becky Lueck, Southern Bluffs counselor

  • “As our school counselor, Mrs. Lueck has gone above and beyond to ensure our students and families are getting what they need during these difficult times. She gives each one her undivided attention when they need her, even though there are 672 other things she needs to be doing at that time. Mrs. Lueck’s smile fills the halls and helps students become their true self. Our school is a better place because of her.”

Kelly Masche, Emerson Elementary School teacher:

  • “Mrs. Masche does an awesome program with her class teaching her 4th and 5th graders about their Love languages and how they like to be recognized and appreciated. They learn about themselves as well as think about their family members and how they could better show their family they love them and appreciate them. Awesome discussion happens and the kids learn about not only how they feel loved but how they can show love to others. Any time kids agree that putting phones down and focusing on their family is a good idea, this is a major win and an awesome teacher!! And an important reminder for parents, not just kids.”

Dawn Melvin, Southern Bluffs Elementary School teacher assistant

  • “She works harder than anyone I know and cares so deeply about the tasks assigned to her!”

Lori Meyer, Southern Bluffs teacher

  • “Always there to support her students and coworkers. She has supported me through two surgeries, COVID, and the ever changing demands of teaching. Two of my own children had her for fourth grade and I never worried about them when they were at school because I knew Lori was watching over them.”

Maggie Miller, Hamilton Elementary School teacher:

  • “Maggie has gone above and beyond this year. Aside from balancing virtual and in-person instruction, she has stepped up to support all of her students and staff. She has graciously taken on students from other teachers, she works to support students’ lives at school and at home, and she has done so with admirable humility and steadiness. Seeing the work she puts in each day is admirable.”

Kate Olson, Southern Bluffs Library/HPL teacher

  • “Even while Kate picks up the pieces of all the technology issues, she still manages to take our library experience to the next level. She has been flexible, helpful, kind, supportive, and overall incredible!”

Tawni O’Rourke, Spence health assistant

  • “Tawni is my co-worker, and I cannot say enough wonderful things about her. As our health assistant she goes above and beyond. She doesn’t just treat a child’s injury or illness, she treats the whole child and in many cases his/her family as well. In addition to the relationships she builds with kids in the health room, she also heads up our Spence food pantry, purchasing food for 40+ families. During COVID closures, when staff could not travel together, Tawni delivered food bags to families to make sure their needs were met while we were out of school.”

Kate Poff, Southern Bluffs Elementary School teacher

  • “Kate Poff is the example of a great special education teacher. She is kind, compassionate and patient. She is an Advocator for students. She goes above and beyond. She makes sure she teaches at the students level. She is a cheerleader and an encourager and I get to witness this firsthand with my child learning at home online. With this pandemic, I’m grateful to have had her teach my child this school year! These are just a few reasons why Kate Poff should be honored as a Shining Star!”

Michelle L. Powell, Spence Elementary School teacher:

  • “Even though my children don’t have her as a teacher anymore, she is always there for them. She is amazing!”

Joe Przywojski, Emerson Elementary School custodian

  • “He keeps schools clean and safe!”

Carrie Quick, State Road Elementary teacher

  • “Mrs. Quick is the most amazing, caring, and nurturing teacher.”
  • “Carrie has gone far beyond her duties as a teacher. She truly knows the kids and what they need in order to learn. She doesn’t interrupt their love of learning and positive energy along the way, no matter how long it takes them to get there. She takes on the challenges that others would not acknowledge. Our child, and our family as a whole, is grateful for her.”
  • “Carrie is the absolute BEST teacher. She’s so patient, kind, and willing to do whatever she can for each and every student. She goes out of her way to make contact with parents weekly.”

Erica Rasmussen, Summit Environmental School teacher

  • “She’s an amazing advocate for children. Incorporating outdoor activities and going above and beyond for each child. She’s always coming up with new ideas and great activities that include kindness and compassion, she’s amazing and will be missed.”

Heidi Rouzer, Southern Bluffs teacher

  • “Heidi goes above and beyond to promote inclusion and learning for her students. She is innovative, creative, and able to enhance the learning of students with all learning types!”
  • “She is an amazing teacher and always does what is best for her students. She goes above and beyond to make sure her students learn and make progress.”

Jeanie Ruprecht, State Road Elementary School teacher

  • “Mrs. Ruprecht is a wonderful teacher! She engages the kids in their learning. She is also very loving and nurturing to her students.”
  • “I’d like to nominate Mrs. Ruprecht for the School Staff Shining Stars. During this particularly hard school year, Mrs. Ruprecht has gone the extra mile for the students in her 2nd grade class. She is a kind, caring teacher who deserves recognition. My daughter has struggled to adjust to a new school and has found making friends particularly difficult this year. Mrs. Ruprecht’s empathy is unparalleled. She sees the positive in every student and works hard to help them develop friendship skills all while staying focused on the importance of academic learning. She understands the feelings of anxiety and frustration many parents experience and does her utmost to alleviate their worries. She quickly responds to any questions or concerns parents have, considering it essential to keep parents informed. She strives to work as a team, providing support and compassion every step of the way. I’m so grateful my daughter is in her class.”

Abby Ryan, Emerson Elementary School teacher:

  • “Ms. Ryan is a caring and compassionate teacher who strives to give her students her best everyday and their best chances at learning and developing both in and out of the classroom. Using creative solutions to problems that arise, changing classroom layouts, setting up stations and being an advocate and cheerleader for all of her students. She truly cares about her students and their individual needs and will do everything in her power to help them be successful on their learning path.”

Casey Scheuerell, Southern Bluffs teacher

  • “Casey spearheads our PBIS Team, and takes charge of big projects. She knows how to delegate so teamwork is equal, and she stands up for those who are treated unfairly. She is always willing to help anyone who needs it whether they are student or staff. She has an equity lens that includes all people, and does her best to teach others how to be more inclusive.”

Ashley Schultz, Spence Elementary School teacher

  • “Always smiling. Kids and parents love her. Makes kids feel good about themselves.”

Kim Schutzkus, Southern Bluffs teacher

  • “Kim is caring, friendly, and the kids love to see her each day! She is always busy doing “behind the scenes” work to keep the day running smoothly!”

Carter Semb, Hamilton Elementary School teacher

  • “I love knowing that my son is in great hands in Mr. Semb’s classroom. He is understanding, makes learning fun yet challenges him and the other students in the classroom, and is an upbeat and positive person.”

Patrick Shay, Emerson Elementary School teacher

  • “Mr. Shay uses creativity, sense of humor and narratives to teach/impart his knowledge to his students for all of his subjects. He is kind, compassionate and understanding, but is also particular about discipline, rules and order in the classroom. A perfect blend of fun and rules. He is also generous when a child may need help.”

Brian Skiles, Southern Bluffs custodian

  • “Brian always has a smile on his face (and a tune to whistle in the hallways). While he consistently does a great job at his custodial duties, I also see him connecting with staff members and especially students. Whether it be a simple wave or encouraging word … his optimistic outlook is contagious!!”

Damian Stanton, Summit Environmental School teacher

  • “He makes my son love learning, teaches things you cannot learn in a textbook and uses his lifelong learning to benefit his classroom. He is one of my son’s biggest inspirations. Everyone deserves a Mr. Stanton!”

Colin Stiemke, Emerson Elementary School teacher:

  • “Mr. Stiemke is always very animated to get children engaged in music. He also takes the time to connect or ask positive questions to children., yet he still keeps order and discipline to the classroom.”

Samantha Stout, Southern Bluffs Elementary School teacher

  • “Ms. Stout has helped my daughter grow and learn so much. My daughter is special needs and loves going to see Ms. Stout everyday!”

Judy Swift, North Woods/Coulee Region Virtual Academy teacher

  • “Judy brightens a room, whether it’s for her students or for staff. She is the first one to ask someone how they’re doing in the hall, and the kind of person to really want to know rather than just say it in passing. Even as she has been CRVA this year, she continues to encourage other staff and brighten our day!”

Marcie Tauscher, North Woods International teacher

  • “I am constantly amazed at the creativity and artistic skill Marcie instills in the North Woods students. Our students have blossomed in art since she joined our staff. North Woods hallways are an inspiring place to be when Mrs. Tauscher is hanging art!”

Tracy Taylor-Johnson, Summit Environmental School teacher

  • “Tracy is beyond committed to her students. Last spring she decided to pull her retirement papers as she felt she wasn’t able to get that last connection with her students (being in a pandemic and not in person schooling) So instead of retiring (which she very well could have done) she took on virtual learning for her students, distribution of meals to students in need, and navigated a whole new way of teaching it all online. She continued into this year with all the challenges teachers have had to encounter. She’s always the first one at school every morning and last to leave. And most Sundays, if you’re looking for Tracy, she’s at school busy getting ready for her students and their week ahead! She’s truly amazing!!!! And as for her retirement this year, after all the years she’s positively impacted so many students, it is so so well deserved! Although she will be missed in the halls of Summit greatly!

Kim Thornton, Hintgen Elementary School teacher

  • “Mrs. Thornton is a Title I teacher who is the Jack of all Trades. She is always helping other teachers and all of the students with anything needed! Her love of reading spreads to everyone!”

Jen Towner, North Woods International School health assistant

  • “With the pandemic looming, Jen took on greater responsibilities than ever. She manages the health room with care and compassion. Beyond that, she has made great connections with students. She goes far above and beyond daily to make the lives of our students better all while maintaining a cheerful and supportive disposition. In short, she is a rock star!”

Jasmine Valentine, State Road Elementary School teacher:

  • “I have observed Jasmine teaching for years. She is an amazing teacher. The time and effort she puts into her students is beyond expected. I have run into current and past students while with Jasmine … they always run up to hug her and talk. Jasmine always takes the time to make sure each of her students feel special to her in their own way. She is type of teacher we need more of in the schools!”

Jennifer Woolley, Coulee Region Virtual Academy teacher

  • “Ms. Woolley has impressed me again and again this year as we transitioned to a new online platform and curriculum! She’s amazing with the kids and organized to the max! I applaud her patience and flexibility.”

Jordan Young, North Woods International teacher

  • “Jordan really shines not only in adapting activities to help his students be successful, but in sharing his knowledge with others so that ALL students can be more successful.”

Kimberly Zachman, Summit Environmental School teacher

  • “Kim Zachman has been my son’s SLD teacher for the last four years. She’s incredible! She is so dedicated to her students and meeting each one where they are in their learning journey. Kim is encouraging, compassionate, firm when need be; she is such a gifted teacher. My son has been so fortunate to have Kim helping him with his academics, but most of all to have her as a constant cheerleader in his life, both in and out of school. I can’t say enough about how much Kim Zachman means to my son, to my husband and me and to Summit Elementary.”