Sandra Kowalczyk, a Patrick Marsh Middle School reading specialist, was recently named the 2018-19 Wisconsin Global Educator of the Year. State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor presented the award to Kowalczyk in a ceremony at the school during an all staff meeting on January 16.
The Wisconsin Global Educator of the Year Award recognizes outstanding educators at all levels. Each year, the program honors those who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students while demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession specifically related to global education.
Kowalczyk frequently welcomes people from the local and world community to interact with students and staff and incorporates artifacts from her travels into curriculum units to help translate her experiences.
As a globally-connected educator, she has hosted guests from around the world to share their talents. Kowalczyk writes: “One memorable guest was Huichol Indian, Modesto Rivera Lemus, an artist, storyteller, musician, and practicing Shaman, who traveled to Sun Prairie from Yurata, Nayarit, Mexico. Bilingual students born in Guatemala and Mexico provided translations of his presentations. Modesto demonstrated how nierikas (near-eekas) traditional yarn paintings, are made. As Huichol stories are expressed through these symbolic pictorial yarn paintings, students learned to ‘read’ the paintings and gained insights into Huichol cultural views expressed through the stories.”
Stories are central to Kowalczyk’s approach to broaden students’ perspectives, and she turns to literature—her extensive collection of diverse books, magazines, and newspapers from around the world—as a hallmark of her classroom and curricula.
“Reading literature is all about perspective-taking, and I encourage students to read widely and from global perspectives. Wherever I am in the world, I acquire locally published books and stories to incorporate into my teaching. I use culture as a lever to support literacy learning while compelling readers to investigate ways of life and thinking that may be different—or quite similar—to their own.”
Kowalczyk has received numerous awards and accolades throughout her teaching career, including the Association for Middle Level Education Educator of the Year; Wisconsin Middle Level Teacher of Year; Butler-Cooley Teaching Excellence Award; and National Council of Teachers of English Outstanding Middle Level Educator. She earned the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood.
For more information, visit the Wisconsin Global Educator of the Year web page.