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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services graduate Leah Lechleiter-Luke ’92, 2010 Wisconsin State Teacher of the Year, is appearing in a TV ad as part of a year-long Moving Education Forward campaign by the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) to increase awareness of contributions teachers are making in communities statewide.

“The campaign is intended to remind people of the faces of education and highlight the important work they do each day in teaching the children in the state’s public schools,” said Christina Brey, WEAC media relations officer. “The teachers featured in the ad campaign are selected based on their contributions to their schools and local communities.”

“I love how the commercial turned out,” said Luke, who teaches English and Spanish at Mauston High School. “I received the honor that I did, 2010 Teacher of the Year, because I was standing on the shoulders of my students and colleagues and the work they do, so I was so glad to see them featured in the commercial too — especially the school’s Key Club.”

A fun, yet demanding process

“You never realize how much is involved in producing a TV commercial until you go through it yourself.” Luke said. “All in all the process was fun but exhausting.”

“The film crew arrived at 6:30 a.m. and stayed until 5 p.m. I had to bring five changes of clothing for them to pick from. I had makeup done before school and throughout the day. It’s not every day you start your work day with a professional makeup artist,” said Luke.

“Prior to the filming, I spent two one-hour sessions on the phone with the Milwaukee firm that produced the commercial so they could get a sense of who I am as a teacher and person. It’s not that what I did during the day was difficult, but I had to be ‘on’ whenever they were ready for me to be filmed or photographed,” said Luke.

As part of the production process Luke had to make arrangements for six colleagues, six parents and 10 students to be interviewed throughout the day so the crew could get a solid perspective on how they wanted to frame the commercial.

“As the day went on, the ad evolved into what you see today,” Luke said. “When they came to the school they were going to work a foreign language teacher angle. But as they conducted the interviews, they decided community service was really at the heart of the story. It was quite fascinating watching it change as the day went on.”

Ongoing campaign

Luke said that one of the positive byproducts of the ad campaign is the feedback she has received from former students who have seen the commercial.

“They are spread all over and it has been so touching to hear from them and get updates on their lives,” Luke said. “Every teacher should be so lucky.”

According to Brey, the Moving Education Forward campaign will continue throughout the year. Students and community members are encouraged to tell WEAC about educators who are making a difference in their communities.

“Teachers like Leah across Wisconsin are dedicated to moving education forward,” said Mary Bell, a Wisconsin Rapids teacher and president of WEAC. “Our state is at the top when it comes to preparing educators for their careers, and it shows in our students’ top graduation rates and other indicators of academic success.”