Shining Stars can be found anywhere!
From teaching assistants to administrative assistants to student support staff, these are the people who make our schools run smoothly. They are custodians and crossing guards and health assistants who make sure we are safe, warm and healthy. They are, of course, the teachers we entrust our children’s education to, who engage minds and hearts and encourage curiosity, inclusion, and discovery.
We asked parents, students, community members and District employees to nominate a “Shining Star” and explain why they deserved recognition, and we were thrilled with the responses. In just three weeks, from February 27 to March 20, 2023, we received 180 nominations.
- Below, please find the nominees from our high schools and administration
- Nominees from elementary schools can be found here, and the list of nominees from middle schools are here.
Three nominees will be selected to receive special grants funded by the La Crosse Public Education Foundation’s Tom and Jean Heyt Thompson Endowment. From the remaining nominees, we will randomly select 10 employees to receive $50 Downtown Mainstreet gift certificates.
Central High School
Lisa Colburn, Teacher – Lisa Colburn does so much for students at Central High School. She is a fantastic business teacher, works tirelessly well beyond school hours coordinating the yearbook, leading the FBLA and DECA club chapters at Central and coaching softball. Additionally, Lisa mentors new staff and clinical teachers and has taken on a leadership role in LEA. Her work is far reaching and deserves to be recognized!
Gina Luy, Teacher – A crazy coincidence, and a change in career roles, has me teaching next door to Gina Luy at Central High School. Not only are we classroom neighbors, but we are also Senior English teaching partners, professional learning community partners.
I first met Gina Luy when she was hired as a first-year educator in the Yuma Union High School District in Yuma, Arizona! Gina was already a shining star in my District Mentoring and Induction Program. I had the privilege of guiding her through her first years as a teacher in my role as our district’s director of professional development, mentoring and induction programs. As two Wisconsin women, we both fell in love with the Sonoran Desert and our Yuma High School scholars!
Here’s the fun coincidence: MANY years and a few education roles later, I found myself next to my former “student,” AND learning from her the art of teaching LCHS seniors! Gina’s innovative and creative approach to lessons, her teaching expertise, and her ability to foster strong student writers is SHINING STAR-WORTHY, and her mentoring has made my own return to the classroom so much more enriching for both my students and me.
Ms. Luy is a shining star in the classroom in inspiring young writers and thinkers, and she is inspiring as a teaching partner, encouraging this “old dog” to try “new tricks.”
Steven Speer, Custodial/Buildings and Grounds – Steve is whistling throughout the day and always is willing to help anyone. He has a positive attitude that makes me smile on the most challenging days!
Denise Janka, LaCrosseRoads Teacher – Mrs. Hart is the ABSOLUTE EXAMPLE of what a SHINING STAR is all about! Her care and dedication to her students is beyond extraordinary!! As a parent of one of her students I can testify to the fact that she is the ideal example of what an educator should be!
Anne Merry-Jumbeck, HR Specialist – She always comes to work with a smile and sets the mood for the day! She brings a calm and welcoming demeanor everyday. My day doesn’t start until she walks in and asks “How goes it today?!”
Shelley Shirel, Administrator – In addition to her regular role/title, Shelley has spent so many hours in, or on, our building this year. She has helped us problem solve, and has covered multiple times when we needed a building principal.
Jenni Smerud, HR Associate – She is always so relaxed and looks at life with such wonder. I personally like to live by her words, “Exploring is who I am.” She inspires me to live life to the fullest and see everything I can!
Deanna Sobeck, District Transition Coordinator – Deanna (Dody) looks at every day as an opportunity to make someone else’s day better, both personally and professionally. She is dedicated to seeing others be successful and happy in their pursuits. In her personal connections, she is always ready to share warm thoughts, a funny story, a sincere compliment, or listen you you do the same. Professionally, Dody works without judgment and finds potential in students and staff that others may be overlooking. Dody’s work has led to bringing resources to our students and families that give them access to their education, our community, and future opportunities. She takes time to celebrate the successes of others with an amazing amount of humility because her work is at the heart of so many of those successes. Dody loves her work, our students, and their families, and it shows. She is a one-in-a-million person who inspires me every day that I work with her.
Logan High School
Daniel Adler, Teacher – They make class fun and interesting, and if I ever need help he’s willing to help
Joseph Beck, Teacher
- Mr Beck helped me get more confident in art. I now, am more confident in my artworks thanks to him.
- he’s very understanding and relatable. he’s absolutely hilarious and once you get to know him he’s hard to forget.
- Awesome art teacher who connects with students in an engaging and creative way
- Keeps his class room a safe space for everyone, genuinely a great person
- Beck realizes that art can be creative, a release, and therapy all at once. In this mental health crisis, the outlet he provides in his class that allows teens to get out the inner struggles and deep emotions has been invaluable to past, present and, I predict, even more for his future students.
Hannah Beilke, Teacher – I want to nominate Ms.Beilke because she is a great and awesome teacher that she makes my understanding of chemistry a whole lot easier to understand and she is a great teacher that I feel like I can go talk to her whenever I need someone to talk to.
Samantha Bingen, Teacher – Ms. Bingen has been an amazing teacher and support for my daughter at school. She always checks on her, has a true concern for her, and asks how her day is. If she’s having a problem she can talk to her and helps Olivia process it and make things better. I can always reach out to her myself when I’m having issues or need advice regarding a situation and know I can get a good non bias opinion from Ms Bingen. We are blessed to have Ms. Bingen as part of Olivia’s team
Garrett Carlson, Teacher
- Garrett has been a constant positive presence in our sons’ lives in both academics and athletics. His commitment and passion is evident in everything he does from setting high standards in the classroom to sending thank you notes to students at the end of year. Logan High has a gem in Mr Carlson, and we will always be grateful for his talents.
- Carlson may be one of the best teachers I have come across in my years of school. From the very beginning of my Freshman year, I could tell that Mr. Carlson truly cares about his students and what he teaches. He is understanding and optimistic but also will put you in your place if necessary. Sometimes it is very humbling but let’s just say he is the definition of being optimistic while also being realistic. Mr. Carlson never fails to acknowledge anyone, whether it’s a simple greeting passing him in the hallway or having a full sit-down conversation. Need a laugh or someone you can vent to? Just stop by him (if he’s not busy doing teacher things, of course). Mr. Carlson isn’t the picture-perfect teacher, but he is for sure an amazing teacher to have. He has not only made a positive impact on my life but also on the lives of many students. He is someone I look up to and I know other students at Logan High School do too. These are just some of the many things why Mr. Carlson makes my day brighter.
- He is an understanding teacher that has a good sense of humor. He also makes learning fun and easy to comprehend or understand.
- Carlson is one of the best teachers I have had out of 9 schools I have been to. As a person though, he is spectacular. On top of teaching he coaches as well. Often times when I hear him speak to students and other staff he does everything he can to put a smile on their faces. He asks me and others how we are doing because he values mental health. One of my favorite things to hear from him is, “Can I help?” He asks every single time without fail and if your answer is “You can’t.” he shows further support by saying, “Let me know and I will do my best to make it happen.”
- They are very helpful and patient with me, even when I struggle. His class is enjoyable and engaging, and he’s a genuinely kind and helpful person who always helps me when I’m down.
Adam Carty, Teacher
- Carty is always pushing me to do better. his smiles lights up my day on the darkest days and he’s always there for me and i thank him so much for that.
- Adam began the year facing unforseen obstacles and has persevered and come out stronger on the other side. He was shown over and over his dedication to his students and has worked hard to gain parent and student trust. He had spent numerous hours outside of the standard school hours speaking with parents and students to ensure issues are addressed and everyone can be informed. He has created a safe place for numerous students and has built a sense of trust that allows for students to be their most vulnerable and feel heard and accepted. Logan High School is absolutely a better place because of him.
- They take their time to listen to me and help me when I need it.
- He always knows how to make me smile when I am feeling down. He is my favorite teacher I have ever had.
- He is an extremely kind and fun teacher. He has made my high school and choir experience incredible so far.
- He encourages me to learn and try new things. His jokes are a little ridiculous but they still are funny.
Terry Curtis, Teacher – Mr Curtis has been a teacher of mine since I took his photography class my freshman year, this year I have had the opportunity to be his graphic arts teacher assistant. There has never been a time where I walked into his classroom and he didn’t have the biggest smile on his face. He has always been super supportive and does more than he needs to as a teacher, not only helping us in class but also being there to listen when you are having a rough day. He even brings us donuts on Friday’s to end the week on a super positive note. He truly wants the best for everyone and is sure to be everyone’s number one supporter throughout their high school careers! Every single person who knows Mr. Curtis respects him not only as a great teacher but also an amazing person.
Steve Duffrin, Teacher – Mr. Duffrin has been an important role model for all of our children. We are thankful to have him as teacher and coach. He is always looking out for the best interest of kids and helps them grow and mature!
Antoinette Dziedzic, Teacher – Also has a smile and gives all students a fist bump every day.
Jessa Ellenbecker, Teacher – Mrs Ellenbecker is always willing to help Students, even if she doesn’t have them as Students. There are many Kids who feel comfortable with Jessa to the point where they will go to her room for help with Homework and to get advice on how to handle situations they are dealing with. I personally know 5-6 girls (at the least) who love her as the caring, friendly person and teacher she is. She keeps them honest yet helps them in any way that she can. I know my daughter would be lost without her some days.
Terry Erickson, Substitute Teacher – His stories brighten everyone’s day.
Alysha Feldkamp, Teacher
- Feldkamp always brightens our day. She is so kind and understands us students like no other teacher understands. I feel seen by her and genuinely cared about. Sometimes it feels like a lot of teachers and administration don’t care about students, but it’s never a mystery that she truly does.
- She makes it fun to come to school. I’ll skip classes, but try to always show up to hers. She makes me want to go to school. Not many teachers have that kind of attitude.
Nick Fetzner, Teacher Assistant – He always make me laugh. He is quick to joke and also compliment. Mr. Fetzner helped out with the wrestling team too and really helped me get better. I know he has my best interest at heart with everything he does. He really does brighten my day whenever I see him. He is a shining star at Logan.
Tricia Gibbons, Teacher Assistant – She always makes sure i’m on task, shes engaged in class the entire time, shes kind and she helps me with things i dont understand.
Tricia Gibbons, Sam Bingen and Krissy Congdon (Logan High’s I.D Teachers) – As a Teaching Assistant., I’ve worked with all three of these wonderful teachers and they all bring something unique to the “Access” Team. Together they bring compassion, creativity, excellence in teaching, and professionalism to the school system. I feel very confident that our students get the best in education at Logan High.
Wally Gnewikow, Administrator
- Wally does his very best to see to the needs–academic, mental health, social, etc.–of his students and staff. He is supportive when his staff face the difficult issues surrounding behavior and grading. He encourages us to innovate to benefit the students. He’s there when we’ve had a bad day at work or we are personally going through a rough time. He is the leading proponent of the Logan Family ideal!
- Wally models what it means to be a Ranger everyday. He is a positive role model and a consistent positive communicator to families. We are so appreciative of his positive leadership!
Tamara Gruen, Teacher
- She always makes an effort to make students feel welcome in her classroom, whether or not you’re actually in her classes, she helps all students with whatever they need.
- Mrs Gruen is always able to give good advice to students on projects or giving advice on different classes. She is always willing to help you with assignments especially in class. Mrs Gruen is a great teacher to recognize because she is always there for students and willing to make a student a day when they are having a rough day. She is one of the most amazing teachers that I’ve personally met because she is willing to help me in the classes I took which was AP Pyschology and Intro to Global Health.
Rebecca Hallahan, Teacher – Ms. Hallahan always tries to get along with students and goes over homework/ assignments in the most understandable way she can. She is very tolerant towards students and even brings in snacks sometimes! She’s a very relaxing and fun person to be around, and it’s always a great end to my day when I get to have her as my last teacher for class. If it weren’t for her, I probablywould have failed math last semester. I’d love nothing more than to be Ms. Hallahan’s student sometime again in my next 3 years at Logan!
Carrie Harings, Teacher – Mrs. Harings is an engaging and kind teacher who always shows that she cares about her students. She is also very well equipped to teach and knowledgeable about the curriculum.
Brock Harney, Teacher – Mr. Harney helps brighten my day by talking, and asking about things that are relevant and exciting to me. We are able to connect with sports and recent events, and he always finds a way to make me laugh. He talks to me like a person, rather than just a student. Mr. Harney goes out of his way for his students, and spreads optimism throughout his classroom.
Emily Hauser-Smith, Student Services – Mrs. Hauser-Smith cares as much about my child and his success as I do! She makes a difference not only in the life of my child, but in mine as well! She helps him create plans that he can follow, that will lead to his success. She follows through and checks in often.
Byron Holz, Teacher Assistant – Our main teacher in the lacrosse roads program is out and will be out for some times still, but Mr.Holz has been there to help us through everything we need help with. While he isn’t a TA in normal Logan high, he’s still a teacher in our minds.
Robert Howman, Teacher
- Robert went above and beyond looking out for the safety and well being of my student, proactively inserting himself into a situation and notifying myself and school administration.
- Howman is an amazing teacher who makes us all laugh and he works so hard to prepare us for adulthood.
Lindsay Knoble, Student Services
- Knoble is always very helpful and is someone that I can go to when I need help. Mrs. Knoble helped me get back to school and talked me through my schedule and helped me make my schedule better and more clear. Mrs. Knoble is very caring and understanding.
- She always understands what students need, and she listens 🙂
Kyle Kolar, Teacher – Mr. Kolar is consistently positive and encouraging! Our kids have not had him in the classroom but have benefited so much from his leadership as a coach!
Andrea Kramer, Teacher
- She is very understanding and takes time out of her day to notice and hear us
- They always talk to me in the hall and ask me how my day was.
- She is always going out of her way to check on others, and makes their days brighter. She is someone I look up to a lot.
Nick La Fleur, Staff at the BGC that works like a teacher
- I would only be passing school with Nick. He helped me with getting a scholarship to Viterbo.
- He is always there for me when I have a bad day. He always makes me laugh with the littlest things that he says.
Katie Leaver, Administrative Assistant
- Katie brings energy, enthusiasm and positive energy to everything she does. As a parent, I feel she has my kids’ interest at heart and is another ‘parent’ for them while they’re at school. We are lucky to have her at Logan High.
- Katie currently works in the Athletic Department but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t part of Students’ lives outside of the Athletic Department. Some of these Students consider her one of their “school moms” and I appreciate that she willing to be that person for my Daughter. I can’t always be there so having someone looking out for her is important. There are many Teachers and Staff at Logan that are this way but Katie isn’t afraid to be there even when they don’t want her to be.
Jodi Mahlum, Teacher – Always having a smile on face and helping out with every student
Matthew Marohl, Teacher
- He’s a big teddy bear that manages to make math my favorite subject.
- He’s chill
Eric Martin, Teacher
- By encouraging my child to take on new challenges with confidence!
- He makes my day brighter because he makes my kids love learning!
Tim Miller, Teacher – Mr. Miller is like a best friend he always has your back you can always talk to him.
Jena Monroe, Teacher
- Monroe is such a supportive and welcoming teacher. She is always positive and encouraging me and my classmates to improve and have fun!
- Not only is Ms Monroe a new teacher, she is an active member of the Logan community. She is an incredible, easygoing, and effective teacher. She took on the roles of being a track coach as well and leading the student council. She has been amazing for the school in all its areas.
- Fun teacher, always brightens my day and also helps me learn.
Alicia Nielsen, Administrative Assistant – Ms. Nielson goes above and beyond for students and she does it so cheerfully! Her dedication and positivity make every day brighter for those around her!
Justin Pitz, Teacher – Great person to be by never a dull moment. Ive learned so much from him. HE IS THE BEST!
Brian Renkas, Teacher
- He is always helpful in band and is willing to lend an ear when a student is in need.
- Renkas voices support for his students at every opportunity. He brings enthusiasm to his teaching, and cares as much about his less musically inclined students as his most talented ones. He wants every student to feel welcomed in band and develop as kind humans. His patience and good will are to be admired. He makes people feel like they matter.
Ryan Schreiner, Teacher – He is always ready for me to rant during homeroom, and is super supportive. He is always happy to see my friends and I when we come to his homeroom too!
Robert Wall, Teacher
- Wall always asks his students how their day has been and gets to know them on a personal level. Mr. Wall always talks to his students with a positive attitude and always asks them about how their siblings are that he used to have in class. Mr. Wall is a very kind and caring soul and is always willing to work and help with students.
- They make sure to ask everyone how their day is and do a great job of making students feel like they belong.
- Positive energy and makes everyone feel welcome like how a true ranger should.
- By always having a positive attitude and making an effort to brighten someones day.
- He always has an amazing attitude every class. He is able to pick anyone up if they are having a bad day.
Ally Wilcox, Teacher – Ms. Wilcox was the kindest teacher I ever had. She treats her students like equals, it’s something I really loved about her. She’s the reason I’m going to be a teacher. I want to offer students the support she was able to give me. Thank you so much Ms. Wilcox!!
Tricia Willer, Teacher Assistant – Ms Willer is AMAZING! Ms. Willer goes above and beyond for my son each and everyday. My son is in special education at Logan High School and the year has been quite the transition from middle school. Ms. Willer works with my son everyday to help keep him on track with his classes and is there for him for when he is having behavioral challenges. She has built a trusting relationship with my son by never giving up on him no matter what the day may bring. Shen comes to watch him at his games!! She stays in contact with me to let me know what we need to work on, when he’s having a bad day and especially when he’s having a good day. I appreciate her so much and appreciate that she’s taken the time to get to know my son and not just the behaviors he displays when he’s dysregulated. She’s is a shining star that deserves to be recognized for her hard work.
Megan Zellner, Teacher – She is a great Independent Living teacher, and I would like to nominate her as a Shining Star!
Mark Ziegler, Teacher
- Ziegler is very kind hearted and outgoing person! He often reaches out to me when he has projects he needs help with, which I appreciate, it makes me feel more involved in the school and important environmental related projects 🙂
- Goes beyond in helping my son in his school work and he makes sure he understands it. He is my son’s favorite teacher.