Eleven University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) graduates are being honored this spring with Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship Awards.
The annual awards recognize and support teaching excellence and innovation in the State of Wisconsin, with recipients being chosen for their ability to inspire a love of learning in their students, their ability to motivate others and for leadership and service inside and outside the classroom.
Among the alumni recipients are Terri Miller ’92, seventh grade science at Waunakee Community Middle School and Jeff Grotenhius ’98, physical education and wellness teacher at Kewaskum Middle School, each of whom attribute part of their teaching success during their time at UW Oshkosh.
Miller believes the true learning behind teaching comes with experience within the classroom.
“UW Oshkosh did a nice job of getting us in the classroom early and coupling that with classes that provided us the opportunity to develop lessons, implement those lessons and have the necessary discussions to grow after implementing lessons,” she said.
Grotenhius’ experience at UW Oshkosh was similar. “The learning environment at UW Oshkosh was one which encouraged us to gain hands-on experience,” he said. “During my time at UWO, I was introduced to dozens of educators at area schools and had opportunities to hone my skills by teaching swimming lessons, archery and soccer and coaching youth and high school sports.”
Miller and Grotenhius also shared some insight into what motivates them to teach, some of their notable accomplishments and advice for current education students:
What motivates you to teach? How do you try to inspire a love of learning in your students?
Miller: “I love learning with my students and I continue to learn and grow with them on a daily basis. More and more we are seeing students disadvantaged and with many needs. Helping students see growth and feel success is so important in the classroom today. Students need to experience success in order to want to continue their learning.”
“I try to make sure my students are active collaborators increasing our learning environment so there is incentive and desire to learn. The curriculum is becoming more rigorous and we still need to make it relevant to our learners. If our students see the reason why it is important, they are more likely to want to learn.”
Grotenhius: “I am motivated by the unconditional support I receive from my students. I am motivated by the ‘ah-ha’ moments when a student grasps the concept I am teaching, the smiles on students’ faces when they are actively engaged in a lesson, the conversations I have with students and families at the park or the grocery store. I am motivated by the girl with spina bifida who got out of her wheelchair, grabbed her canes and finished a mile walk.”
“I try to inspire a love of learning by loving to learn myself and teaching with enthusiasm, Grotenhius said. I was taught by one of my professors, Terry Barth, that enthusiasm is the key to teaching. If you are an enthusiastic teacher, you will have enthusiastic learners.”
Is there a teaching accomplishment of which you are proud?
Miller: “I am proud of the project I created for the entire school body working with H2O for Life. I used an activity based project to teach students about the importance of clean water in Waunakee and throughout the world. This was an excellent way to combine the study of science, the approved curriculum, while incorporating service and giving throughout the world. This project was also an effective way to develop empathy in adolescent learners, as they came together to raise money to build a well at a school in Africa.”
Grotenhius: “I am proud of the fact that my physical education classroom uses cutting edge technology and incorporates wellness components. Students wear heart rate monitors to gain valuable feedback on their health. Discussions on nutrition, the harmful effects of drugs, and the benefits of being lifelong movers are a regular part of daily lessons.”
What advice do you have for students entering the education field?
Miller: “Make sure you have a strong passion for teaching and a strong desire to help our young learners grow and be successful. Our job is becoming more and more difficult with both the needs of the learners entering our classroom and the rigor of the national standards that are being presented to us. We need to look at both as positive challenges that will not only help us all become better teachers, but will also help our students grow and feel success within our schools.”
Grotenhius: “Find a way to make a connection with as many students as you can. Show an interest in what they like outside of your class. If you can establish a rapport with them, you will have the key to their brain; they will go out of the way to learn for someone who cares about them as a person. Teaching is a little about mathematics, science, technology, and physical education—but it is so much more about fostering relationships with young people, showing genuine care and concern for them as human beings.”
To date, 236 COEHS alumni have received the Kohl Fellowship Award. The other nine UW Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services alumni who were honored in 2012 are:
- Crystal Gorwitz ’79, Hortonville Middle School
- Cheryl Miller ’79, Clayton and Spring Road Elementary Schools, Neenah
- Lori Lohry ’82, Little Chute High School
- Jill Ahles ’90, Seton Catholic Middle School, Menasha
- Susan Haas ’94, Big Bend Elementary School
- Anne Kuske ’84, Whitewater High School
- Tara Jaeger ’98 and ’02 MSE, Sabish Middle School, Fond du Lac
- Shannon Schultz ’02 MSE, Fond du Lac School District
- Marissa Schrader ’02, ’05, Holy Spirit School, Appleton