Archive for the 'Lessons I've learned' Category

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Hannah Lubar

This summer, we are continuing our series getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Hannah Lubar, one of our Student Affairs in Higher Education graduate students!

IMG_2913Hi and thanks for your interest in getting to know me! I’m going into my second and final year as a graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE!) program, working as a Graduate Assistant in the Business Career Center. I’m also a proud alumna of the College of Ed.

I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, but including my undergraduate years at Marquette, I’ve lived in Milwaukee for around nine years now. After getting my Bachelor’s Degree, I knew I wanted to stick around Milwaukee, and I taught high school English in the city for four years.

I come from a family of educators: my dad is a middle school music teacher, and my mom and sister both teach special education in the Chicago area. I’ve also got two very cool brothers and an incredibly loveable nephew and niece. I met my kind and hilarious husband, Eric, at MU.  He and his sister both just graduated with their master’s degrees from MU, so you can say the three of us are big fans of our school and of Milwaukee (and very blessed).

Major highlights of my educational experience include being part of the Dorothy Day Social Justice Living Learning Community and then my time teaching, which gave me invaluable memories, experience, and relationships. Both my extracurricular time at Marquette in undergrad and my time teaching high school sparked my interest in higher education support services as well as community engagement.

This upcoming academic year, I’m excited to explore new areas of higher education at UW-Milwaukee through my summer and fall practica.  I really appreciate how the SAHE program helps us foster connections with other institutions and gain new perspectives.  It’s something that drew me to the program. Additionally, I chose Marquette – the second time – because of its Jesuit values and commitment to others, and because I felt that my undergraduate teacher training from the College was truly quality.

Outside of education, I enjoy biking, rock climbing, trying new restaurants, watching Parks and Rec reruns, going to concerts/shows around Milwaukee, being in community with my church, gardening, and yoga. I think it’s important to make time for rest and personal interests so that we can be our best selves in our work – so I’m always trying to work on all of the above!

Week 1 in Lima, Peru: What Makes us Human

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Lily Regan

Holy cow…talk about an overwhelming week — from Chicago, to Miami, to Lima! And now even within Lima, moving from Pueblo Libre, to the city center, to El Agustino, to Pamplona Alta, to Miraflores. Within just the past week, I have seen so much more of Peru than I thought I would see in my entire month here. From rich to poor and everything in between. From sitting in hours of traffic and listening to the constant symphony of honking horns to driving up unpaved roads with dogs wandering the streets. From places with no running water or electricity to the bustling marketplaces selling everything alpaca. From the seemingly endless levels of homes housing who knows how many relatives to a small shop that can only fit about three people comfortably. This trip has been a trip of stark contrasts and surprising similarities; every place has had something totally unique to teach me about Peruvian culture but has also shed a light on what it is that connects and unites all of us as human beings despite geographic location or class differences.

The first stark differences that I saw when first arriving to Peru were mostly in regard to the collectivist mindset and the way people live. For example, when I first got to my host family’s house, I was extremely thrown off. As I was getting a tour of the home, I noticed that some of the house was exposed to the outside. As I walked from the living room into the dining room and kitchen, there was an external wall to the left and a roof over my head, but there was only a half wall to my right. I could feel the light mist in the evening air on my face as I walked through the hallway towards the kitchen, yet I was still walking through what they called their home. As I peered over the half-wall to my right, I saw what appeared to be other houses all situated around the central courtyard. This was very confusing to me at first. I wondered who the people were that were living in those other “houses.” I could not wrap my mind around why the wall was not built all the way to the ceiling. Was the courtyard that was in the center of all the “houses” a common area? And where was the privacy? Who would want to live with neighbors surrounding you? In the past week, I have begun to fill in the gaps and now have a more complete understanding of how crucial family is to the Peruvian culture and why exactly the house is laid out in this way.

I have come to understand that there needs to be spaces open to the outside; there is no air conditioning, so having the constant air flow is crucial. Because the temperature in Pueblo Libre rarely drops below a temperate 13 degrees Celsius, there is no need for air conditioning or heating, and the outside air maintains the house’s comfortable temperature. In addition, rain other than mist is very uncommon here in Lima, the second driest capital in the world, second only to Cairo, which means that full coverage of your house is not completely necessary. Also, what I assumed were other houses surrounding the courtyard are all connected to the “main” house and essentially function as different apartments within the house. The different sections of the house actually are homes to many of our host family’s extended family members. This was very much a shock; coming from the United States where independence and individual achievements are praised, I was not expecting to see adults choosing to live with their extended family. However, Peruvians have traditionally valued the success of the community and familial relationships over individual achievement. In addition, while there is not as much privacy in the house, it does not seem to be an issue for anyone living here. Privacy and personal space do not exist here in Peru as they do in the United States, which can be seen based on their typical greeting of kissing total strangers on the cheek and families living together long after they “should have moved out” according to the United States’ standards.

These things were all especially confusing to me because before the trip I was told that I would be going into a middle-class neighborhood with a middle-class family. However, middle-class families living in the United States do not have portions of their home exposed to the elements, and middle-class families do not all live together unless absolutely necessary. Certainly, this was not a middle-class family.

But it was! My host family, and the surrounding neighborhood is considered a “B-” neighborhood. In Peru, the classes are classified by letters, with A being the most affluent and E being the most impoverished, so this was a solidly middle-class family. These people did not necessarily need to be sharing all of their space or having so much of their home open to the air; yet, these were all choices that the family was making based on their culture. That was one of the things that took the most getting used to. It was a difficult hurdle to leap in my mind that independence does not necessarily equate to a better family or a better individual.

But despite all of the seeming differences, I have also seen so much that reminds me of home. The values that people share regardless of geographical location or class and the commonalities that make us all human are so much larger than all of the physical differences that I was able to see.

The neighborhood that seemingly had the most differences from the life that I live in the United States was Pamplona Alta; however, it was also where I was able to see the most connections to home. The “pueblo joven,” or young town, which is situated on the hills in the outskirts of Lima is considered a class E neighborhood. They do not have running water or electricity, and the roads are unpaved. Many people have to make an hours long journey to get simple necessities such as food and water from more accessible parts of Lima to their homes. This, in my mind, gave everyone living in Pamplona Alta the right to be miserable. But I actually found quite the opposite to be true. Every person that I saw on our short visit to the district was smiling, waving, welcoming us with open arms. I saw parents and grandparents working hard so that their family might have the opportunities that they did not have when they were growing up. I saw kids smiling, drawing, and playing with friends. All around me, if I looked past the physical objects that become the center of attention all too frequently, I saw people who reminded me so much of home and so many values that I strive to live out. I saw people that were determined, hard-working, grateful, happy, proud of their accomplishments, loving.

But it did, admittedly, take me quite a while to recognize all of these similarities between my own town and this newly developing community. When I initially saw the physical differences, I was immediately saddened by the “desolate” community that I saw. I wanted nothing more than to donate money to the schools, to help people fix their homes, to pave the roads, to install running water and electricity…but then I had time to reflect on the very long, trafficy bus ride home. And I came to realize how wrong I was about all of my initial reactions to the community. First of all, upon reflection, I was able to identify just how similar the community really was to my own community, and secondly, I was able to recognize the fault in my initial instinct to help the people in Pamplona Alta by making it “better” according to my own standards. I thought back to the article that we read for class written by Jacob Kushner titled “The Voluntourist’s Dilemma” that explains why these well-intentioned thoughts and subsequent actions by “well-off” people may ultimately cause harm to the “less fortunate” community that they are trying to help. Instead of asking the community what they need, volunteers come in and supply the service that they deem to be the most urgent; they take jobs that could be done by members of the community because they naively try to help the community. With these actions, the volunteers place themselves above the people they are trying to help. They do not see the members of the community as humans; they see the community as a project and the people within the community as helpless people that NEED help. I realized that this was my gut reaction to seeing the neighborhood.

Based on Kushner’s article, my own experience with the people of Pamplona Alta and the time I took to reflect, I have come to recognize that these ideas could not be further from the truth. I had to imagine how I would feel if someone that was not from my country or culture and did not even speak my language came into my community and began “fixing” everything they saw wrong with it; they began to go over all of my hard work with what they thought was better. From this perspective, of course these hard-working, proud people do not want me to come in to “fix” their community! It is this simple shift from sympathy to empathy that allows me to be able to truly see the communities that we visit in Peru. Understanding that even impoverished communities are rich in culture, history and relationships and finding the similarities has aided in this transformation.

Despite the language difference, the cultural difference and the geographical difference, it is incredible to me that there is so much that connects us all. This past week in Peru has really taught me how to value the similarities just as much as the differences in communities. From what I have seen from my time here in Peru and my time living in the United States, humans are humans. We are hard-working, take pride in our work, and want the best for our children. Children are children. When they are nurtured and cared for, they are happy; they love to play; they are filled with hope. No matter the number of physical belongings, in the end, we are all humans. No matter the cultural background or longitude and latitude, it is good to be reminded that at the core we have so many similarities that far outweigh the differences.

 

What I Learned in My First Year at Marquette

19260312_1571859482847597_3920726082226429607_n-700x503By Kathryn Rochford

Hi everyone!

Happy Summer! I recently just finished my freshman year here at Marquette and boy, did I learn a lot. I challenged myself academically, physically and mentally. I grew and changed in so many ways. I met some of my best friends here, I started a new sport, and I connected with professors and fellow students in class. I cheered on our boys’ basketball team all the way through March Madness. Also, it goes without saying, I even survived the polar vortex in Milwaukee, which is one of the most impressive feats of the school year.

While this year was full of so many ups and downs, I’m so happy to be here at Marquette, and especially in the College of Education. I’d like to share the top 5 things I learned from my first year of college.

College is both harder and easier than you expect it to be.
Yes, I know that seems like I’m contradicting myself, but it’s true! The hardest part of college, especially at the beginning of each new semester is adjusting to a new schedule, new professors and their teaching styles, and fresh faces in your classes. You might think you’ll have tons of time since classes only take up a fraction of your day, but between studying, working out, making time for friends, eating at relatively normal hours and getting a somewhat functional amount of sleep, it’s harder to balance than you think!

The easiest part of college I found comes with course load and making friends. As with most things in life, I quickly learned you will get out what you put in. Balancing course load is easy when you’re proactive, have your syllabus laid out every night, and have a master calendar to check on upcoming deadlines. Making friends, while intimidating at first, gets easier when you get involved in clubs you’re passionate about. It may take some time, but when you find those quality friends, hold on to them.

Having a reusable water battle is a blessing.
Yes, yes, we’ve all heard how important drinking water is, but you don’t really think about just how important it is until it’s 4 p.m. in Milwaukee and it’s still 90 degrees out and your building has no air conditioning. Trust me, you’ll want to hydrate yourself as much as humanly possible. Bonus, it helps save the turtles and cuts down on plastic waste! A reusable water bottle with a filter built into it is even easier to use since you can fill it up at any tap.

Don’t bother bringing your whole wardrobe from home.
Not only does this take up way too much space in your itty-bitty dorm room, but it’s also stressful to pack at home. And then when you do go home for break, you have no clothes to wear because they’re all back up at school. My advice: go through the clothes you own, as likely you own more than you think, and donate the clothes that don’t fit, don’t get worn, etc. You help others in the long run, and you free up some space in that closet of yours. Bringing your whole wardrobe is kind of pointless because if you’re like me, you’ll only alternate between the same few bottoms and maybe 10-15 tops until laundry day anyway. Bottom line: no matter how much you’re tempted, DON’T DO IT.

Learn how to write a professional email.
This skill is incredibly useful for so many reasons, whether it’s looking for an internship, writing for a scholarship or addressing professors, administrators and advisers. Always have a subject line that explains the problem, or if possible, highlight the class and section you’re in so professors can be more prepared to respond to you individually. Greetings are huge, and when in doubt for a class, always say professor or doctor. Get in the habit of addressing your question in paragraph form: explain what your question is, how you interpreted the solution and then ask for their suggestion to the solution. Then, explain how you can be contacted and various meeting times if needed. Always proofread for clarity and/or grammatical/spelling errors, too. By creating this habit, it establishes you as a student that invests in their learning and understanding of content, as well as helps to establish a relationship with professors.

Milwaukee is a fun city: explore it.
Looking back at this past year, the one thing I wish I had done more of was explore. First semester, I hardly even visited downtown Milwaukee, and I only ever left campus to run errands or go to the mall. Once I found my best friends, I found I had so much more fun during the week by doing quick runs to the beach, to Kopps, or Aloha Poke. Those fun little adventures created memories I’ll never forget and helped me to realize that there’s so much I haven’t seen or done yet that I can’t wait to do sophomore year. That’s the beauty of being in a big city: there’s a restaurant for nearly every culture, concerts for every music taste, and beautiful views of the skyline at night or the lake on a sunny afternoon. But, make sure you are aware of your surroundings: have a charged phone, headphones so no one bothers you but you can hear what they are saying, google maps pulled up on your phone or easy access to an Uber or the bus system. I learned more than book smarts here at Marquette, I also learned some street smarts too, and safety is of utmost importance in a big city. My biggest tip for any incoming freshman is to explore and take advantage of the warm days while you’ve got them, otherwise before you know it it’s snowing on the second to last week of school and all you want to do is stay inside.

Freshman year: you were fun, and you taught me a lot. Bring it on sophomore year!

 

The New Normal

gibson 1

Street art in Miraflores, Lima.

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Melissa Gibson

Temblor: A new word in my repertoire to describe my experiences in Peru. Temblor: tremor, or what you feel during an earthquake. In the wee hours of Saturday-into-Sunday, Peru’s Amazon jungle was struck by an 8.0 earthquake, and here in Lima we woke up to a minute of door-rattling, bed-shaking temblores. To me, it was terrifying. My Peruvian friends have told me too many times about how Lima is overdue for a major earthquake and how damaging it will be to the poorer parts of the city, so when the temblores started, my heart raced to keep pace with the shaking—even though, by earthquake standards, the shaking was pretty mellow. When it stopped and Google’s disaster alerts told me everything I needed to know to be reassured, I still couldn’t sleep. Every rattle of a door, every creak in the mattress jolted my heart back to racing.

The next night, as I turned off the lights for bed, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me, and I had to talk myself down: There was nothing to be nervous about. Go to sleep. Deep breaths to calm my racing heart. It’s not earthquake season. The epicenter was hundreds of miles away. Probability is in our favor. Eventually, I gave in to an uneventful night of rest.

So imagine my surprise when, Monday night, I am sitting in my bed finishing up my preparation for the next day’s seminar and: temblor. No more than ten seconds, but the shaking was now unmistakable. A 4.6 on the outskirts of Lima, barely perceptible to Limeños because, as my friend Marisol says, they happen all the time with the change of season. (In fact, I am reminded of my first time in Lima when the toilet started shaking, and I only realized it was an earthquake the next day when people were talking about it at school.) Yes, more precarious neighborhoods evacuated their houses Saturday night just to be safe, but on my street? The neighbors partied through the whole thing, cumbia band and all. And on Monday night, I gave myself a little pat on the back that my heart stayed at a normal pace and I was able to fall asleep, earthquake anxiety at bay.

This is what it is to spend time in a foreign country not as a tourist. So many things are anxiety-producing when you first encounter them: The traffic. The piles of ceviche. The fresh fruits and salads. The toilet paper situation. The jumble of Lima’s streets. The conversations in Spanish. The walks through crowded market streets with a group of 30. The visit to a pharmacy. The mysteriously uncooperative ATM. The temblores. But then a day passes, a week passes, and without realizing it, you’ve slipped from anxious unknowing to a new rhythm of daily life. New words, new ideas, new experiences.

This first collection of blog posts from our 2019 Marquette University study abroad experience, “Education in the Americas,” lets readers in on what this process of learning a new normal feels like. You’ll hear about the students’ host families, their first impressions of Lima, their muddled conversations in Spanish. You’ll also hear them trying to make sense of it all—because, after all, this is a study abroad experience. And that’s where I come in. Our month is designed so that students acquire the philosophical and pedagogical tools to make sense of what they’re experiencing and then to transfer those understandings back to their home contexts. I don’t just want them to know the word temblor, and I don’t just want them to roll with the experience Limeño style; I also what them to be able to articulate why that experience matters.

In this first week, our conversations in seminar have focused on naming the power dynamics and structures of inequality that we encountered, and trying to locate ourselves in those systems through Ignatian-inspired reflection. While I have assigned the readings and designed the experiences, the students have to bring all the pieces together for themselves, for their own sense-making. This can be challenging for me as the teacher. There’s so much I want them to know! But I remind myself that the purpose of our month abroad is not to make them experts in philosophy or sociology of education but to help them learn how to think critically about unequal social contexts of schools. Our purpose is, yes, to experience a new normal, but in doing so, I hope we will begin to see our own normal through new eyes.

The Jesuits here talk a lot about acompañamiento, the process of accompanying or being with someone as they experience and wrestle with life. Accompaniment is an act of solidarity, of partnership, of being in life together. When done well, from a spirit of humanizing and constructivist pedagogies, accompaniment is also what we do when we teach. In this month, I am accompanying my students on their journey into a new normal, and I am accompanying them as they then navigate back to our home contexts of schooling.

These blogs are an invitation to you, dear readers, to accompany us on our journey, as well. We invite you to read in solidarity with our experiences, however imperfect or partial our sense-making may be after only one week into the trip. Let us know through comments what you’re thinking as you read, what questions you have for us or want us to answer, or what perspectives you might bring to our experiences. Accompany us as we consider justice, education and Peru.

 

Getting to Know Our Students: Jennifer Gaul-Stout

We are continuing our series getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Jennifer Gaul-Stout, one of our doctoral students in the Educational Policy and Leadership Department!

RCP_4668My name is Jennifer Gaul-Stout, and I am a doctoral student in Educational Policy and Leadership. I finished my coursework last fall and am getting ready to start working on my dissertation! I am studying how citizens use their understanding of science, specifically surrounding environmental issues, to try to enact policy change.

I grew up in Cresco, Iowa. It is a tiny farming community in the northeast corner of the state. I’ve lived in Milwaukee for 12 years — way longer than I ever thought I would… My husband is an Marquette College of Education graduate! He also has his Master’s degree from Marquette and is currently the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admissions. Our family is all MU all the time! We have a son who is 2.5 years old and is the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet.

I took a somewhat untraditional route to teaching. My undergraduate degree is in environmental science and theatre. After graduation I moved to Colorado and worked as an environmental educator for the Gore Range Natural Science School in Avon and for Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. After six months, the Midwest called me back, and I began trying to figure out my next step. After a couple of years of reflection (and working jobs that I didn’t enjoy) I realized that the happiest time for me was when I was teaching people of all ages about the what I love, the environment! I joined the Urban Fellows Educational Program at Mt. Mary University and received my M.A. in Education along with my teaching license. I spent the next seven years teaching science and math to 5th-8th grade boys.

While I loved my time in the classroom, I missed being a student. With the support of my amazing husband, I left my teaching job and began working on my doctorate here at MU. In addition to being a student, I’ve had the amazing opportunity of teaching elementary science methods to pre-service teachers.

When I’m not in the classroom, I have to confess that I am absolutely obsessed with The Great British Baking Show. For Christmas a few years ago my husband got me a cookbook based on recipes from the show, and I’ve been Julie and Julia-ing my way through it since. I absolutely LOVE baking! A lot of the work I do involves abstract, theoretical thinking so there is something very relaxing and satisfying about following a recipe step-by-step and creating something that brings other people (mainly my husband) joy!

Wise Words From Our 2019 Commencement Speaker: Dr. Phillip Ertl

On May 19, 2019, the College of Education and all of Marquette University celebrated the graduating Class of 2019. At our college ceremony, we were inspired by the words of Dr. Phillip Ertl, Superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District. We are grateful for his wisdom and would like to share his speech with you, our readers!

0011_optimizedCongratulations to the Marquette College of Education graduates from the class of 2019 – and congratulations to all the family and friends of the graduates as I know nobody does this alone, and you have all had an impact on these graduates.

I would like to thank Dean Henk and the rest of the College of Education at Marquette University. I am incredibly honored to be here with you today on the most exciting day of the year for any educational institution–graduation day. We all know commencement means “a beginning or a start.” But of what? That is up to each of you and THAT is what makes graduation so exciting.

For me, being able to see what the students of the Wauwatosa School District do in the years after graduation is very gratifying–knowing that in some way we have had an impact. This year’s graduation has an extra special meaning for me- not only is my oldest son graduating from Wauwatosa West High School, but his time in Tosa schools also coincides with my time as Superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District. So, I guess I am the only one the class of 2019 can blame if things do not go well for them!

I have had the good fortune to be in education for over 30 years with 19 of those as a superintendent of schools. My path was certainly not linear. I struggled as a student and, as many that have a similar story, was not encouraged to attend college by some staff in my school that I think should have been doing that. My real motivation for going to college was to play football. It was not until a couple years into my college experience that something clicked–I really wanted to become a teacher. After graduating from UW Lacrosse, I left for Texas for my first teaching and coaching position and loved it. I had some incredible mentors, in particular Tommy Rhea, my principal. He encouraged me to follow my dreams. I guess my dreams took me back to Wisconsin after a year, and I landed in Tomah where I also had the opportunity to work with some top-notch administrators who encouraged me to get my Master’s Degree in educational administration. After completing that degree, I thought I would give my new license a try and applied for two jobs. I interviewed and was offered an associate principal (AP) position in Menasha. I spent one year as an AP and was promoted to the middle school principal position the following year. My superintendent, Bill Decker, saw something in me that I did not. He encouraged me to pursue my doctorate, something that honestly never crossed my mind until I understood that he really believed in me.

Principals and teachers that I have worked with over my time in education have had such a profound impact on me–I could talk about each of them, but I am sure you would like to get out of here today at some point–but I think you get the jist, I had a lot of great mentors and I think it is important for all of us to serve as mentors so that others have the same stories. There are a few challenges we face in education–funding, public perception, declining numbers entering the teacher workforce, testing accountability, increasing demands on our time and energy, and mental health issues. One could argue that most of these are longstanding challenges we have faced for many years in some way, shape or form.

However, mental health concerns have become one of the most prevalent. More and more students are coming to school with significant mental health challenges, that if not addressed, will stand in their way of learning and succeeding. Everything is not known why more and more students are facing those challenges but what we do know is that we must find new and innovative ways to address those needs. I am thrilled to hear that there are a number of graduates here today in clinical mental health and counseling. We need more of you working with and supporting our students. But…with all the challenges in education there are a few things that I have learned that have made a difference in my career to help me overcome those challenges and others.

First: we are in a relationship business. We don’t make widgets or ball bearings—we create relationships that lead to greater learning. Each and every person involved in education is creating relationships every single day–multiple times a day. I believe the most important relationship is the one between teacher and student. The ability to be a great teacher is based on the ability to develop and sustain positive relationships with students. To have the type of impact that we want with students we need to engage with students on many different levels (mentor, expert and friend). The old saying that “students really do not care what you know until they know that you care” is so true. Other relationships in the educational arena are critical as well. Principal leadership matters, and that leadership can only be developed through relationships with many constituencies including staff, students, parents, and the community. Find me a great principal, and I assure you their stakeholders will talk about the relationships they have with that principal. School Boards need to gain the trust of the community and have to have trust in the superintendent. Those relationships need to be healthy for a school district to thrive. There is a reason we have moved to a more collaborative model in education– it is a critical skill that all students need before they leave our doors, and in life–and we must be committed to making sure everyone understands, supports and values strong relationships to help realize that goal.

Next: every interaction will have an impact — you have to believe that! We have all been in a meeting or class or professional development activity where we are asked to think of someone that has had a great impact on our lives. Often times the people we think about never knew that they made a difference in our lives. I, personally, have gone out of my way to make sure that those people in my life, know it. For each of them it was things they said or did that they did not think were a big deal–but really did have a profound impact on me. They were simple interactions with people I looked up to and trusted. I try to think of that when I talk with students—as well as colleagues, parents and community members. You never really know what people take away from each and every conversation or interaction—- I always want it to be something positive.

Treat people with compassion and respect as it will come back to you — In 1992 when I was teaching in Tomah, I also served the school as the head football coach. We had great student athletes that I was able to get to know and work with. I had this one young man that was our starting right tackle. He was also a hockey player, really good student and a great overall kid. That student, Dr. Eric Jessup-Anger, is now my School Board President in Wauwatosa! Of course my first question to him when he came on the Board was “did I ever make you run or yell at you too much–or is that why you wanted to be on the Board?” I really do believe that what goes around comes around with how we treat people. I think that holds MOST true with how we treat students. If we don’t show them respect–those relationships that I talked about earlier will never be as good as we would like.

Be the voice for others – The focus on equity in schools may be one of the most important shifts to ever occur—and one of the most difficult to implement. Everyone says they believe all children can learn but very few schools have been able to raise expectations for ALL students and meet those expectations. Our previous school structure was not set up for all students to be successful, it really was for “many” to be successful. We must raise expectations for all students and do everything humanly possible to ensure they meet those them. We have to change societal beliefs, challenge our own biases, and push like we never have before. It is not easy work, it is not quick work, but it is work that we need to do to be successful. There are too many students that do not have a voice in their education and we need to be that voice for them by believing in them, having high expectations and helping them meet their goals. I am proud to say it is the overriding focus of all our work in the Wauwatosa School District- and it is making a difference.

Know your “why” – We really need a strong conviction and understanding of why we are in this business. For some folks, their why is to make a difference in the world or simply that they love kids. I still have never gone to a day of work: I am still going to school. I love approaching every day with the opportunity to make a difference and that is my why. In education we are tasked with selling the why to everyone. Students say “why do I need to learn algebra?” Teachers will say “why do we need to change the reading curriculum?”, school boards say, “why should be adopt this policy?”, community members will say “why should we pay this amount of taxes?” We spend our days talking about the why so we better be pretty clear on what our “why” is and what our school communities’ is.

Failure is critical for success – This is a statement I make in every interview and ask for a response. Most of the success I have had in life is because of learning from mistakes. We must encourage students to be risk-takers and not be afraid of failure. “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” I am not big on living by quotes, but this is one that I believe is important for living with a growth mindset. Too many students come to us without the willingness to take risks or the ability to deal with adversity, and we have an obligation to teach them.

Celebrate successes – People that go into education generally are humble and want to serve others. Often what goes along with that is an unwillingness to talk about accomplishments. We need to take every opportunity we can to celebrate the great things going on in our schools, whether it is an individual accomplishment of a student, a group of students accomplishing something they never thought they could, a team winning a competition that was unexpected, a whole school reaching a milestone, or a whole district implementing a new policy well. We need to make sure everyone knows the great things happening in our schools. Simple emails to parents about the good things their children are doing may be the most effective communication you make!

Focus on controlling what you can control – There are so many things that we deal with that are out of our control. As I get further along in my career, I understand that there are more things we may not have control over, but we still can impact. There are a lot of state statutes that impact what we do on a daily basis, from minutes of instruction, school start dates, standards, standardized testing, how much money we have to use in schools, as well as what subjects must be taught. I have learned even some of THOSE have flexibility in them! More importantly I think we need to understand that we don’t control who the kids are in our classes – with all the intelligences, attitudes, backgrounds, and beliefs that come with them. We need to meet them where they are and take them to greater heights. All parents send their children to us hoping and expecting us to give them our best. And we owe it to the parents to do just that.

I don’t often take the opportunity to reflect on my career as I still have a long time left, but taking this opportunity to do so has reminded me of how fortunate I have been to be around some great students, teachers, administrators and school supporters – and even better people. I hope all of you have the same experiences as you go through your career.

So, as you leave here today, I challenge you to do one thing: to be THAT person, that person that makes a difference for each and every student —every day. YOU may not know you were that person—but they certainly will!!

Congratulations again and best of luck to you in the future! And if that future involves applying for a job in the Wauwatosa School District, give me a call or shoot me an email to remind me that we met today!

Thank you.

Elizabeth Gulden, 2019 Wisconsin Elementary Teacher of the Year

On April 3, 2019, the College of Education hosted a panel of outstanding educators who have been recognized as Wisconsin Teachers of the Year. Their personal stories, reflections, and words of advice were inspiring and greatly appreciated by our audience. We wanted to introduce them to you, our readers, as well!

a Gulden headshot_16Hi! I’m Elizabeth (Liz) Gulden, a kindergarten teacher at Gordon L. Willson Elementary School (G.L.W.) in Baraboo, and I was named Wisconsin Elementary School Teacher of the Year in 2019. Over the past 14 years as a teacher of some of our youngest learners, I motivate and inspire my students’ love of learning by practicing and learning along with them. I am a tireless advocate for young elementary students, ensuring my teaching practices are engaging and developmentally appropriate. And my core, deep-rooted educational philosophy is that learning, above all else, should be FUN!

I actually grew up in Baraboo, and it has been so exciting to come back to my hometown to teach. The timing could not have been more perfect, as I returned just as Baraboo was implementing a full day Kindergarten program and had designed a new Kindergarten Center. My husband and I live in Baraboo, and we take advantage of all that this amazing small town has to offer including: a phenomenal downtown area, the extremely picturesque Devil’s Lake State Park, and of course an annual visit to Circus World Museum. My parents and older brother also live in town still, so my support system here remains strong.

Serving in the field of education is instilled deep within my genes, as my mom is a retired teacher of 47 years. Yes, she taught for 47 years, and most of these years were spent in a third-grade classroom in the Wisconsin Dells School District. Needless to say, I have an amazing role model in her, who I am now fortunate to have serving as a guest substitute teacher for my class of students. Yes, my mom is my kindergarten class’s favorite guest teacher! My dad also loves to pop into our classroom to help us out during Math Workshop whenever he can, and he loves to go on our field trips with us too. I am just so lucky, and I’m sure I’ll never be able to verbalize the impact they have had on me and on all of my students over the years.

Never underestimate the value and power of children at play! Our school playground is nestled within a busy neighborhood community, and after roughly 45 years of use for most of the pieces, it was absolutely time for a safety and equipment upgrade! I set to work championing a Playground Fundraising Committee that took on a multiphase action plan to improve our play space for kids. The committee was comprised of teachers, administration, and parents/community members. Countless hours were spent hosting annual Fun Runs, local restaurant community impact and share nights, book fairs, profitable yearbook sales, and MORE!

In four short years we raised over $75,000, completing our three-phase plan. We no longer have voided areas of our school/community playground, all of the equipment meets safety codes, and there are enough pieces to engage our entire student body (350 students) and the neighborhood children! This is some of the work I am most proud of in my career thus far.

We are still outgrowing our space within our elementary walls, so next on my “passion project” list is the creation of an Outdoor Learning Space for our kids. Our hope is to obtain a grant to construct a mini amphitheater for our G.L.W. students where outdoor learning lessons could take place. The possibilities for the space are endless…reader’s theater performances, teacher read-alouds, local library book talks, Scout meetings, the beginning of a Planting/Growing Club, and more! The benefits of spending time outdoors are substantial: improved mental health, increased cognitive and academic performance, and decreased risk for other health factors.

In 2014 I embarked on my journey to earn my National Board teaching certification. I convinced a colleague to join me in this endeavor, and I was forever grateful to have this support along the way. Saying the process is difficult would be an understatement, but it was also extremely rewarding. Becoming a NBCT taught me so much about myself as an educator through deep reflection, and it made me a much better teacher than I ever thought I could be. My improved teaching practices and strategies had a significant academic impact on my students. The process involved taking a much deeper look at student achievement data, videotaping and analyzing one’s own teaching practices, and a content/teaching strategy-based test.

I have so many favorite educational experiences, some of which were my own experiences and some of which were my students’ experiences. I had absolutely phenomenal student teaching placements in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I am forever indebted to: Deb Bemis (Emerson Elementary), Kathy Shikonya (La Crosse Cathedral), and the entire staff at the UW-La Crosse Campus Childcare Center. These experiences were so rewarding, and I still implement some of the methods I learned even “way back then” into my daily teaching routines.

The kindergarten teachers in our district have completely transformed sight word learning for our students in recent years, improving student reading accuracy scores, and this has been deeply satisfying work. My kindergarten teaching team has increased the number of sight words we teach our students, and we introduce the words using multiple learning modalities. We post the words visually on classroom word walls and also spell each sight word with our bodies, appealing to kinesthetic learners. Each child has a personalized, sight word goal list where he/she is able to track growth in sight word recognition. Whereas students used to master twenty-five sight words within the year, some children are now reading seventy-five to one hundred sight words in the year!

I LOVE creating new dramatic play centers for our classroom. These are so engaging for the kids and incorporate so much academic learning too. Some of the kids’ favorites include our classroom restaurant, grocery store, and vet clinic! It is so fun to watch the kids writing down food orders, adding up grocery bills, and building language skills as they diagnose pet medical “orders” in such authentic learning scenarios. These are some of my most beloved times in our Kindergarten classroom where the kids are involved in imaginative and meaningful play, where the learning is happening almost as if by magic.

 


What is a Marquette Educator?

Follow us on Twitter

Archives