Posts Tagged 'Celebration of Teaching'

Honoring 10 VERY Special Urban Teachers — With a VERY Special Event!

TeacherAppreciationWeekLogoBy Bill Henk – The evening of October 17th marked the first Celebrate Teachers and Teaching event hosted by the Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee (EDGM).  In short, it qualified as a night to remember.

Perhaps more than anything else, the event served as a reminder that teaching and the appreciation of it is rooted in our very humanity.  Put differently, in the end the teaching profession is all about people — teachers, students, families, school leaders, board members, staff, and the community.  And so that’s the focus this post will take.

As a quick backdrop, the EDGM members *** had grown weary of the wrongful characterizations of teachers in recent years and decided to do something about it.  Unlike the way they were portrayed, the teachers we knew were very knowledgeable, skilled, caring, hard-working, and passionate.  As a result, we decided to sponsor an event that publicly affirmed the profession and demonstrated our gratitude to its classroom heroes.

To make a long story short, the event included an awards ceremony that honored 10 exemplary urban educators as well as a unique showcasing of the mastery of 11 local food vendors.  The award ceremony, skillfully emceed by Mark Sabljak, the publisher of the Milwaukee Business Journal and a staunch education advocate, also featured brief remarks by Dean Barbara Daley of UWM (the institutional host), Dr. Debra Dosemagen of Mount Mary University and an EDGM Co-Chair, and myself.   Dori Zori of Radio Milwaukee provided the music, and Patricia Kline took all of the photos presented here.

And the Winners Are

Let’s start with recognizing the award recipients.  These outstanding teachers are first pictured as a group and then listed individually below along with their school affiliations and the institutions where they earned their teaching certifications.

CT&T Award Winners 2013

EDGM Early-Career Award

Lauren Boyd, Milwaukee College Preparatory School – 38th St. Campus. Mount Mary University

EDGM Advanced-Career Award

Katerina Jones, Samuel Clemens School. University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
Stacey Lange, Walker Elementary School, West Allis. Alverno College
Marko Radmanovic, Escuela Vieau. University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee
Sonya Wasielewski, Carmen High School of Science & Technology. Alverno College
Michelle Young, Rufus King International Middle School. Alverno College

Honorable Mentions, Early-Career Award

Jane Savage, Seeds of Health-Windlake Elementary School. Alverno College
Dawn Liriano, St. Adalbert School. Alverno College
Naquisha Mann, Universal Academy for the College Bound-Millennium Campus. Alverno College

Honorable Mention, Advanced-Career Award

Craig Machut, Rufus King International High School. University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

For the record, each award winner was proudly nominated by her or his principal who assisted in the creation of the portfolios that were submitted for reviewi

Some VERY Well Deserved Thanks

Clearly the heavy lifting for the event fell to the Celebrate Teachers & Teaching Steering Committee. 

CT&T Steering CommitteeIts dedicated members included Helaine Hickson, Alex Vagelatos, and Kyle Stevens(UWM), Saj Thachenkary and Judith Reisetter (Alverno), Cynthia Marino (Cardinal Stritch), Lorraine Tyler (MATC), Dr. Patricia Ellis (Sharp Literacy) and Dr. Victoria Fitzgerald and Lori Fredrich (Marquette).   All of these professionals worked exceedingly hard and well to make the event so successful, and I’m personally indebted to Victoria for orchestrating the awards process and to Lori (and her husband, Paul of MKEfoodies) who conceptualied the format, organized the event logistics, and coordinated the procurement of the venue,  DJ, and restaurant partners.

The EDGM also wishes to thank our distinguished group of judges:   Alan Borsuk (MU School of Law and the Journal Sentinel), Danae Davis (Pearls for Teen Girls), Ellen Gilligan (Greater Milwaukee Foundation), Dr. James Rickabaugh (CESA #1),  Julia Taylor (Greater Milwaukee Committee), and JoAnn Miller, the 2012-2013 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year from Oconto Falls High School.

Our appreciation for the food vendors is absolutely profound.  Each generously donated their time, energy and works of culinary artistry to the eventTo a station, the food and beverages rose to the level of gourmet quality.  The vendors were Afro Fusion Cuisine, c.1880, Calatrava Café, Chef Gregory Leon, Indulgence Chocolatiers, La Merenda, Odd Duck, Pastiche, Purple Door Ice Cream, and the Rumpus Room.  

A very special thanks to Great Lakes Distillery for donating their facility for our celebration.

And lastly, thanks to the many supporters of education in the community who joined our celebration of teaching.  Your efforts to attend the event made our turnout terrific.

Now let me take you out by offering you the opportunity to watch a slideshow of photos from the event.  Like I said at the outset, people, people, and more people…


***The Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee (EDGM) membership:

  • Alverno College, Dr. Nancy Athanasiou
  • Cardinal Stritch University, Dr. Freda Russell
  • Carroll University, Dr. Kimberly White
  • Concordia University, Dr. Michael Uden
  • Marquette University, Dr. Bill Henk, Co-Chair
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College, Dr. Wilma Bonaparte
  • Mount Mary University, Dr. Debra Dosemagen, Co–Chair
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dr. Barbara Daley (Interim)
  • Wisconsin Lutheran College, Dr. David Brightsman

and influential Emeritus Deans:  Dr. Mary Diez, Alverno; Dr. Carol Colbeck, UWM

Celebration of Teaching: EDPL Faculty

By Melinda Skrade — These days, signs of the apocalypse range from threats of catastrophic economic collapse to the ideological storms surrounding schooling.
Interestingly, during uncertain times, people lean on schooling not only to advance and lead their own lives but also those lives in their care.
As one of the fortunate students who joined the doctoral studies in educational policy and leadership when Marquette’s College of Education was in development, I witnessed a department of leaders passionately and yet collaboratively build a shared understanding of best ways to frame and support students who were leaders in formation.
These best ways were modeled over and over again by this dedicated department:
Expect more from yourself — Read, write, study those positions that disrupt your positions and challenge your limited worldview. Learn be open to “unlearning” so that discovery and reconsideration of what is possible shifts inside you.
Teach as great teachers do-– by example. Do not talk people into your beliefs. That’s not teaching. Model thinking aloud, whether it is critique of a position or analysis of information. Demonstrate a love for learning by examining the interrelationships between story, mythology, and facts. Without fail, actively engage others to ground and present their thinking cogently. Walk alongside people in your care during their struggle with ambiguities about their worldview(s).
Do not let storms obscure the view of the larger landscape— no exceptions. Every field deals with the tension of the “micro” and the “macro” whether it is economics, government, theology, or education. Storms develop and wreak havoc and dissipate; nevertheless, it’s essential to develop field vision and institutional analysis to lead.
Be A Game Changer— think differently, live differently and lead differently. And those in your care will experience it, too. A real education.
Melinda Skrade serves as chief administrator for Pius XI High School in Milwaukee. She completed doctoral studies in Marquette University’s Educational Policy Program in 2004, and was honored as a College of Education Alumni Award winner in 2012 for her work advancing the efforts of K-12 Catholic schools. Melinda is married to Phil who graduated from MU’s Business School and who started Marquette’s Club Baseball.

Celebration of Teaching: Mr. Brian Weisse

Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School

By Mariclare Kanaley — The first time I met Mr. Brian Weisse, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

It was the spring of 2011– the end of the semester just before I was to start my student teaching; he was assigned to be my cooperating teacher, or “co-op,” as I called him. I got lost on my way to the school for my first meeting with him, couldn’t find the front door, and my only assignment for that day was to “bring a lot of bags” to carry all the books he was going to give me.

In our introductory meeting at Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School, he spoke of the ‘international baccalaureate’ and  ‘20th Century Grading’ and ‘internal assessments’ – all things I’d come to know quite well over the next few months, but had no clue about then. He sent me off with a bunch of papers and books (as promised) and I left in a small panic, overwhelmed by the unexpected.

I spent the summer of 2011 worrying about how to run my classroom, how much help I’d need, and to be honest, whether I really wanted to be a teacher after all. I’m pretty sure I e-mailed Mr. Weisse daily with questions. I sent him rough drafts and copies of assignments and rubrics, to which he assured me that I’d do just fine and that maybe I should calm down. It was that advice that he offered in many different ways throughout those 5 months. The version that stuck with me most was, “Mariclare, take the Bobby McFerrin approach to teaching… Don’t worry, be happy. If you worry, well… you’ll die.”

Needless to say, I adopted his approach to teaching. I spent the semester learning from the best teacher I’d ever had. I learned that I loved every minute of my job, from the frozen computer screens with lost, unsaved documents to the extensive IB Psyc essays whose grading kept me late. Brian Weisse showed me, quite clearly, why I want to be a teacher, and demonstrated the meaning of this irrepressible love for learning – something I always knew I had, but never had the words for. He did this all without even knowing it had been done.

My student teaching experience was exemplified by a collaboration I hadn’t known before. I admired the excitement Brian brought to his classes and the knowledge he had of his content. I admired the respect he demanded of his students and the ease with which he taught. I admired the fun he created in his classroom and the contagious joy and care endlessly present in room 301. Mostly, I admired the passion he showed for the field of education and the tenacity with which he spoke of his beliefs. It was in that classroom that I found my love for teaching, which is a gift of inordinate value.

I’d like to thank you, Brian, for being the teacher to dispel my disillusionment and bewilderment. Your gift has inspired a journey, and I can only hope to someday share the gift that you so graciously shared with me.


Mariclare Kanaley, EDUC ’11, was a Secondary Education, Psychology, and Broad Field Social Studies major. She is currently employed at Shorewood Intermediate School.  Her future plans include attending graduate school in Forensic Psychology to research and develop preventative strategies to help improve the success of at-risk youth in both academic and social settings.

Celebration of Teaching: YOU Were MY Difference, Mr. Graff

By Bill Henk – Somehow it’s only fitting that I use words to honor Harry Graff.  He was an extraordinary English teacher after all.  But he was so VERY much more.

During my senior year in high school, I had the privilege of experiencing one of Mr. Graff’s classes.  You’ll notice that I didn’t say “being in” or “sitting in” his class, because that’s not what students did there.  His classroom was vibrant and fun, and learning occurred so naturally and joyously that we almost failed to notice.  It didn’t feel like work at all.  We were fully  engaged academically,  socially. and emotionally.

Now, as I write this tributeI realize that my words can’t hope to do justice to the inspiration Mr. Graff provided — to me, my classmates, and thousands of other lucky students over the course of his 36-year career.   Nearly all of us were low-middle class, blue-collar kids growing up in three of the less idyllic suburbs of Pittsburgh.

Those of us who aspired to college would usually be the first in our families, and we could tell he enjoyed teaching and encouraging us.  Some of the students who didn’t have those dreams, though, were pretty tough kids, and many ended up in Mr. Graff’s classes, too.  Other students were afraid of them (and probably some of the teachers, too), but he wasn’t — or at least he never showed it.  We called these kids “hoods” back then, and they intimidated pretty much everyone.

But they never “jerked” Mr. Graff around.   And believe me they could have.

He was one of the few teachers spared  their chronic misbehavior.  The others who escaped were big, brawny, gruff, Cro-Magnon men — the no-nonsense type with a powerful teaching presence.  They could put the fear of God in you with one look.  You didn’t learn much in those classes; you just behaved.  But that’s not how Mr. Graff kept his challenging students in line.

Instead he somehow  managed to strip away the harsh veneers of the hoods with love, respect, and kindness.  Nothing more.  The sheer force of his humanity overpowered them.  When they realized how much he genuinely cared, they cared about him right back.  And he also kept seniors like me, who were quite full of themselves, on track, under control, and feeling cherished.

You know, I looked forward to that class EVERY single day.  It didn’t matter what we were studying.  I would have endured almost anything to be there learning from him — God awful grammar, crusty old literature, and mystifying poetry.  He made sure even that off-putting stuff came alive within his four walls.

I’ll conclude below with the words I’d use to describe Mr. Graff in a wordle or word cloud if you will.  He’d like that.  And it’s probably better than my clumsy writing up to this point.  But before I do, let me share the story of the last time I saw him, because it’s telling.

One Last Time

More than 30 years after graduating, in 2001, I visited my old high school.  I went there to see my sister, who worked in the business office at that time.  Mr. Graff’s name came up, and she asked if I wanted to see him.  She told me it would be his last year of teaching. For some reason, I hesitated, maybe fearing that the magic would be gone, but thankfully I got over that concern and decided to go.  It occurred to me that due to time and distance I might never see him again if I didn’t.

On the way, I imagined the look of surprise on his face when I revealed my identity.  That’s because I had grown more than six inches and put on more than 50 pounds in the time since I graduated.  And I’m almost certain he didn’t know my sister and I were related, because she had a different married name.

Anyway, after we reached the second floor, she knocked on his door, and he emerged, clearly looking older, but with the same  loving smile on his face that I remembered so well.  “I have someone I want you to meet,” my sister said.

Before another second passed, he blurted out, “Billy Henk, class of 1970, sixth period, second row, fifth seat.”  And then he started naming all of the other kids in the class, where they sat, and the highlights of that year.

His remarks stunned me, especially when I realized that he was exactly right.  Talk about a priceless moment.  We chatted pleasantly for a short while, and he seemed very proud that I had gone on to become an English teacher and later a college professor.  He needed to get back to his class, though, so we wished each other well and parted ways.

A Consummate Teacher

Afterwards I wondered how in the world Mr. Graff could have remembered so much.  It should have been obvious.

He had never approached teaching as a job.  At a minimum he treated it as a profession.  But it was much more to him  — it was a labor of love, his very identity, his calling.

At Marquette, we train teachers to “Be The Difference.”  That was Mr. Graff’s lived experience.

The multitude of students he had touched over the years were the fabric of his life, and he would leave all of them, including me — a veteran educator in my own right — thoroughly transformed and with  the fondest of school memories.  I’ll bet every one of us would describe him similarly to the way I’ve done just above on the right.

Harry Graff was an extraordinary human being after all.


Celebration of Teaching: Mrs. Tanzer

By Claudia Felske — She only taught me three things:

1. I’m smart and creative.
2. The world is an infinitely interesting place.
3. Life’s about learning and growing and never stopping either one.

I’m smart and creative.
The second youngest of 8, called “Klein” by many instead of Claudia, I was expected by my teachers to be a good student and an even better athlete, a mini-version of my older siblings.

Mrs. Tanzer, however, saw me as an individual, not just as a Klein. She marked my essays with phrases such as “lovely metaphor,” “profound!” “interesting perspective” unlike my previous English teacher whose sole aim was to circle every punctuation error. Reading her comments made me feel interesting, insightful, witty, and I proceeded accordingly.

My family’s expectations molded me into a 3-sport athlete though Mrs. Tanzer saw in me a glimmer of creativity, asking me to do the publicity for her drama productions. Though I wasn’t one dubbed “the artist” in my family, she complimented me on my precise lettering and artful arrangements of shape, color and text for the actor bios. It was the first time I felt the least bit artistic, and I liked the feeling.  Seeing my interest sparked, she encouraged me to participate in Forensics, something that had never been on my radar, but ended up being my favorite high school activity.

Under her direction, I went from being a wiggly-voiced introvert to being a power round orator.

The world’s an infinitely interesting place.
I first met her in the guidance office after I’d been kicked out of Sophomore English class for “reading upside down.” My teacher at the time had been reading A Separate Piece aloud at a pace I found excruciatingly slow. To keep my brain active, I followed along, with my book flipped upside down: an act he viewed as insubordination and I viewed as mental survival. When he told me I’d never get an A in his class because of my attitude, I left, and there was Mrs. Tanzer who just happened to be in the guidance office. In hindsight, it seems a fated meeting as within a few short years, English went from upside-down reading to my career of choice.

I’d listen to her in class, mesmerized, as she described the Dionysian rituals of the Greek theatre, as we picked apart “Ozymondias” and Antigone. These weren’t just stories and characters; they were opportunities for us to think about life, to talk about why we’re here, to marvel at the artistry of words.  I’d jot her words and phrases in my notebook margins, wanting to make them my own, wanting to command words and ideas and stories like she did.

Her “tangents” as a few of my more no-nonsense friends called them, to me, were windows to the world: its ideas, its contradictions, its stories. They married my learning to the interesting. “Bibliophile” sticks out in my mind as my favorite Mrs. Tanzer word and tangent and not just because I am one. “There are two types of bibliophiles,” she declared, ”those that write in their books because they love them so much, and those who can’t write in their books because they love them so much. I am the former; my husband’s the latter.” She went on to describe their book habits. I loved knowing this insider info, and forevermore the word, its roots, and that quote would live in my head.

Life’s about learning and growing and never stopping either one.
She taught me to do my best, always. She encouraged us to write and rewrite. And for her, I wanted to turn in nothing but my best. And so, senior year, the last day before Christmas break, I sat in the cafeteria, alone, revising an essay while the rest of the school was at the talent show. She accepted my revision after school, but then lightly scolded me for missing her performance as Cyndi Lauper singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – ironic since that’s precisely what she wanted me to have. She wanted excellence, but she also wanted us to enjoy life.  It’s what we now call teaching the whole child. Her lessons extended far beyond the classroom walls.

When we were Seniors, we went to see her act in a community play. What couldn’t she do? What wasn’t she reading or trying or talking about? I wanted to be this alive.

When I entered college and she became a mentor and a friend, the teaching never stopped. She asked me to coach forensics when I was still an undergraduate. It was during those coaching experiences that I knew I’d become a teacher.

When I dig to the roots of the most worthwhile professional paths, there stands Mrs. Tanzer. When I began teaching AP English, she encouraged me to join the AP listserve, where I became one of a large and generous community of learners. Later, she encouraged me to become an AP reader, describing it as the best professional development out there.

She was right. A few years ago, the phone rang, and she asked me to co-author a book for AP English Teachers with her. Under her tutelage I went from developing a new AP English class at my school to writing the book for it.

She keeps growing; it’s what she does. Just this year, she started taking dance lessons with her husband, and performing competitively. She has never stopped learning, and now, in “retirement,” she’s teaching as much as ever, proposing new curriculums, spearheading several writing projects. She’s more vital than ever.  An unwavering commitment to life and to learning.

That’s really all she taught me.


2010 High School Teacher of the Year, Claudia Felske, graduated from Marquette with a bachelor of arts degree in Writing Intensive English. She earned her teaching certificate and a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  A Nationally Board Certified Teacher and published author, Felske teaches grades 9-12 English and serves as English Department Chair at East Troy High School in the East Troy Community School District. 

Celebration of Teaching: Teachers and Their Impact on My Life

By Dr. Victoria Fitzgerald — How do ever fully repay someone who saves your life not once—but thousands of times? Or gives you the gift of sight, strength, speech and communication, or a fulfilling passion for your life?

Perhaps the only repayment (and one these individuals may never directly or fully know) is thankful remembrance. Those gifts were bestowed upon me as a young woman (age 13-17) by a group of incredible teachers at Stephen Decatur High School–an urban school with a diverse student population of over 2000.  These individuals— skilled as educators and joyful in their chosen disciplines—have blessed me to this very day (over 40 years later)!

My life saver was Mr. Root—a driver’s education teacher.  His excellent driving instruction—especially his admonition to “never trust the car mirrors” (avoiding vehicle blind spots) has saved my life (literally!) thousands of times.  I always say a little prayer of thanksgiving for his diligence and patience with me and the countless other young drivers in his care.

The giver of sight and strength was Miss Bleaks—my art teacher.  She challenged me to not only use my physical eyes but also the “eyes of my mind” to think broadly about all the amazing sights around me that could be inspiration points for creative thoughts and outcomes.  She challenged me to strengthen my mind by learning the vocabulary and history of art, so that I could view and discuss creative works supported by this deeper knowledge.  She also taught me and other students that there is freedom in the arts that is honed by the discipline of practice (weekly sketch books were always due on Friday!) and by her own example of continuing her life as an artist through her painting and jewelry making.  Whenever I contemplate beautiful art works in museums, find joy and outlet in drawing and creative arts that I still do today—her gifts continue to enrich my life.

Two individuals that set my voice free (in written and spoken communication) were Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Schaefer.

Mrs. Baker, who taught Latin, was a mentor to me and those who stayed with her for four years.  She began by assessing our abilities and weaknesses in English and then layered the new skills of the Latin language onto this strengthened foundation of grammar and structure.  I’m still benefitting today from that solid foundation in writing and language study that she crafted.

Mrs. Schaefer (speech and drama teacher) was also a very skilled instructor that had a passion for her discipline that inspired students.  Despite her petite size (barely five feet) she could command a room with her voice or a glance that made her seem like a giant.  She encouraged me and many others to pursue theatre academically and professionally –wonderfully equipped with confidence and poise in performance and public speaking gained through her classes and play productions.   She also nurtured my goal of becoming a secondary teacher when she allowed me to come back to her classes after high-school graduation and do my pre-service field observations.  Her support, enthusiasm, and faith in me helped me attain many fulfilling years as a speech and drama instructor.

This passion for life and teaching in their chosen disciplines is the common thread that emerges as I reflect on the life-giving impact of my high-school teachers. They’ve continued to bless me with the gifts of sight, strength, voice, and passion for life.  And as I drive home at the end of this day, I’ll say a prayer of thanksgiving for Mr. Root saving my life (again) as I remember “not to trust my mirrors” in traffic!


Vicki Fitzgerald is currently Assistant Dean for College Operations in the College of Education at Marquette University.  She continues to pursue her love of teaching, education, and the creative arts in the Milwaukee area.  To learn more about how she’s applied the gifts from her high-school mentors, follow this link: .

Celebration of Teaching: Mr. Joe Jekot

Mr. Joe Jekot

By Jacqueline Boratyn — When I think of what it means to be a teacher, the first person that comes to mind is my high school psychology teacher Mr. Joe Jekot.

I will never forget my 9th period class, sitting in the 3rd row, windows to my left and my best friend, Maria, to my right.  We passed notes during lectures thinking he never noticed. And we also watched movies that, even today, I often recall when we talk about psychology in my courses at Marquette.

There have been days when I come back from class feeling lost, and end up e-mailing Mr. Jekot, who is always happy to help. Mr. Jekot has always been a teacher who truly cares for each and every one of his students. He goes out of his way to find out how people are doing, how their days are going, and even reaches out to keep in touch with alumni– all qualities which I find to be very important assets in being a great teacher.  After all, it’s nice to graduate high school (or any school for that matter) and know that someone who saw you for 45 minutes a day 5 days a week continues to care about you even after years of not being in their class.

Mr. Jekot is also a phenomenal storyteller; it’s one of his many amazing talents. If a story he was telling didn’t keep you on the edge of your seat, his balloon characters (shapes, hats, animals, cartoons…you name it) were sure to make you smile on your birthday, and his jokes were sure one of a kind. His unique way of teaching through more than just lectures and instead reaching inside of each student and showing them their true potential made me truly realize that being a teacher is more than simply teaching; it’s being a friend, a person to lean on, and a trustworthy adult.

Through Mr. Jekot’s experiences and knowledge being passed to me using rare tactics, he inspires me to reach deep inside my heart, never give up, and always do my best academically, socially, and spiritually. He defined for me what it meant to be teacher, and always made me believe that if that was what I really wanted to do with my life, by putting my heart and soul into it (and not listening to the negative comments or snide remarks of others) I could be a great teacher who makes a significant change in the lives of my students, just as he did for me.


Jacqueline Boratyn is a Secondary Education and English double major at Marquette. Her hometown is Chicago Illinois where she attended high school and was friends with the children of the infamous Michael Jordan. Jackie is passionate about writing, and hopes one day to inspire her students to enjoy the process as much as she does.  She also harbors a love for languages, having grown up speaking English and Polish while also studying Spanish in school. She travels as often as possible, catering to the belief that leaving your comfort zone is the only way to really get to know oneself and the world around you.  Jackie is spending summer 2012 studying in Rome and traveling across Europe.

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