Four Wisconsin educators got some exciting news in surprise announcements at their schools as they were named 2018 Teachers of the Year. Chosen by a panel of parents, community leaders, and educators, including former Teachers of the Year, these four educators represent the excellent teaching that is found across the state.
At the events, State Superintendent Tony Evers noted “at some point in all of our lives, a teacher influences us in a life-changing way. The impact of such a teacher stretches far beyond the walls of the classroom. You have such a teacher in your midst.”
Elementary School Teacher of the Year
Mary Ellen Kanthack, a fifth-grade teacher at Brookwood Middle School in Genoa City, embraces personalized learning in her classroom and is leading a personalized learning pilot in the district. “I believe in helping students to master standards by using multiple ways of teaching a concept and allowing students to engage in productive struggle throughout the learning process,” she said. She also started an elementary forensic speaking program and in 2009 began writing and directing musicals, collaborating with school staff and community members. Her 9/11 Memorial Daffodil community beautification effort is integrated with themes of peace, tolerance, and remembrance, as well as lessons in social studies and science.
Special Services Teacher of the Year
Matthew Miller an English learner teacher at North High School in Sheboygan, has a passion for leadership and community service. He has facilitated nearly 170 leadership, service learning, and community-building projects for students in the district. Miller’s grant writing for a precollege program through the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan provided a “Language and Leadership” summer program that boosted college readiness and civic engagement among area English learners from lower-income families. A project with Bookworm Gardens, a children’s book-themed community center and park, brought together elders in conversations with teens who then created visual, literary, and musical artifacts based on the elders’ stories.
Middle School Teacher of the Year
Jill Runde, a school counselor at Indian Mound Middle School in McFarland, notes that schools have been at the forefront of education around differences and inclusiveness, which have had a positive effect on students, helping them feel more comfortable, less bullied, and better able to achieve at higher levels. She has inspired 55 students who volunteer to be in the “Ambassador” student liaison group for Positive Behavior Interventions and Support. The students make videos, perform skits for assemblies, create bulletin boards, and facilitate “Mix It Up” day lunches to support the schoolwide behavior plan. With a commitment to youth that extends beyond school into the community, Runde serves on the board of directors of the McFarland Youth Center and is a member of the Optimist Club, which coordinates many youth activities in the community.
High School Teacher of the Year
Brent Zinkel, a history teacher at Wausau East High School, demonstrates and inspires a love of learning for his students through his lessons and sharing what excites him, from a book he’s reading, to a class he’s taking, to places he’s traveled. A tiered reading activity he developed allowed high-need students to be active in an all-class discussion of landmark Supreme Court cases. His work with the Wausau East Narrowing the Gap Committee resulted in the first Hmong Parent Night. Zinkel coaches multiple sports teams, including cross country and swimming. He is active in his community, volunteering for numerous special events in Wausau and serving as a liaison to provide International Baccalaureate students civic engagement and leadership opportunities to fulfill their community activity and service requirement.
The four Teachers of the Year will be honored during the State of Education address and awards program at the State Capitol in Madison in September. A committee will select one of the four Teachers of the Year to represent Wisconsin in the National Teacher of the Year program. That individual will receive an additional $6,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.