Two University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumnae came “full circle” when they were named recipients of the Professor for a Day opportunity for 2016.
“Welcome home,” was the greeting to alumnae Tracy (Zimmerman) Berger ’03, and Becky (Frye) Kitchen ‘77, who were honored Nov. 17 as outstanding alumni by the UW Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services (COEHS).
Berger and Kitchen were invited to speak to students and were guests of honor at a luncheon hosted by COEHS and the UW Oshkosh Foundation. The event recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to their profession and gives them a day to interact with college students who are presently enrolled in teacher education, counseling and human services programs.
The Professor for the Day program is supported through a fund at the UW Oshkosh Foundation.
Chancellor Andrew Leavitt congratulated the recipients who join an elite group of honorees. He noted that the program began 44 years ago in 1972.
He expressed gratitude, saying this year’s recipients require “balance and sacrifice” to do what they are for their profession as well as raise their own families.
Provost Lane Earns said he’s always proud to take part in the Professor for a Day ceremony and honor the great work of UW Oshkosh graduates–among the “best and brightest” going into communities.
A native of Beaver Dam, Berger has been in the human services field for the past 22 years, working in various positions with the Christine Ann Center, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, United Cerebral Palsy and the Oshkosh Area School District.
During the last 10 years, she has been with ADVOCAP Inc., wearing several hats within the agency. Her experience involves working with low-income individuals and persons with special needs. She has assisted adults in accessing training, work experience and employment.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in human services and professional leadership from UW Oshkosh.
In 2012, she took on management of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act Adult, Dislocated Worker, Youth and One-Stop/Career Center sub-contracts through the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board with programs that stretch across five counties.
A wife and mother of four sons, she recently retired from 20 years of providing foster/respite care through Winnebago County.
Berger, who was excited about going to a classroom to speak to current UW Oshkosh students, described her work as “very rewarding” and something she enjoys doing.
“I’m very flattered,” Berger said about her Professor for a Day nomination. “I’m smiling from way inside.”
Rebecca “Becky” Kitchen
A native of Kimberly, Kitchen earned a special education degree from UW Oshkosh prior to moving to Florida and earning a master’s degree in learning disabilities from the University of South Florida. After teaching for 12 years in the Sarasota area, she moved back to Wisconsin with her family and taught special education for 18 years in the Kimberly Area School District. For six of the years, she also worked with gifted and talented students as the manager of their Destination Imagination team.
She said after teaching for 30 years, her fondest memories include six annual plays, when students of all abilities worked together in her classroom on their own productions of the Nutcracker, Wizard of Oz and others. Kitchen’s classroom transformed into the “Busy Bees” headquarters for an hour every Friday morning, where the students paired up with their general education peers to cut and count Box Tops, count milk caps and do other jobs, bringing in $3,000 to the school each year.
“It is an honor and about coming full circle,” Kitchen said about the Professor for a Day opportunity.
In 2014, Kitchen returned to UW Oshkosh as a practicum supervisor for the Special and Early Childhood Education program and last year took on the role of practicum coordinator.
She said she enjoys her new roles and “loves the energy” she gets from her students.
Fred Yeo, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, said he always looks forward to the Professor for a Day event, commenting that he enjoys the celebration of individuals who are “great in their field.”
“Professor for a Day actually represents the top ceremony during the year,” he said.
It is hosted by the COEHS and intended to honor alumni of the college’s undergraduate teacher education degree, initial licensure and graduate school licensure programs–with a preference for alumni who are either current teachers, counselors or school administrators who have significantly contributed to the field of PK-12 education.