Governor Tony Evers was awarded the 2019 WEAC Friend of Education Award at the annual WEAC Representative Assembly on Saturday in Oshkosh. The Governor made a surprise appearance before hundreds of excited delegates and thanked them for their support of him over the years and especially in his campaign for governor.
“Who would have guessed,” Evers said, “a teacher educator, a former WEAC member, would be elected Governor of the State of Wisconsin? I could not have done it without WEAC. I could not have done it without all of you,” the governor said.
“I believe, as you all believe, that what’s best for kids is what’s best for our state. I said that a million times on the campaign trail, and that’s why we won this race.”
In presenting the award, WEAC President Ron Martin said;
“It is with great personal pleasure and pride that I present this year’s Friend of Education Award to a person who has devoted his entire life to the children of Wisconsin and to ensuring that they have the very best public schools they possibly could have. A man who was a teacher and then a principal and then a district administrator – twice – and then became Wisconsin’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction. And who then – as if that wasn’t enough – decided he had to do even more to advance the cause of public education. And he did it. He became governor of the State of Wisconsin!
“Every step along the way, every day of his adult life, Tony Evers has put children first. He has made enormous personal sacrifices to advance the greater good, to help ensure that Wisconsin public schools are strong and that every student gets a quality education and a better opportunity in life.”
In nominating him for the award, National Board Certified Teacher Amy Traynor said Governor Evers has demonstrated over and over again his willingness to involve educators and citizens in education decisions and to listen carefully to them.
“He understands that the people working most closely with students are the ones who should always be part of the conversation,” Amy wrote, continuing: “Governor Evers has worked tirelessly for the last 35 years to enhance and promote public education. And now as governor he is continuing to be a friend of education and a huge advocate for Wisconsin’s kids and families!”
President Martin, Vice President Wirtz-Olsen re-elected
WEAC President Ron Martin was elected to a second, three-year term (unopposed) and Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen was also tapped for another three-year term (unopposed). Other elected union members were Nicholas J. Sirek, NEA Director; Amanda Oudenhoven, Alternate NEA Director; Jesse Martinez, Minority Guarantee Representative to the WEAC Board; and Alexandra Agar-Pratt, Alternate Minority Guarantee Representative to the WEAC Board.
New Business Items
Outline for Moving Forward
Wisconsin Public Schools: Key Factors for Moving Forward was presented to nearly 500 educator-delegates at the annual meeting. This document, created by state officers based on academic research and discussions with WEAC members across the state, covers the restoration of professional status of educators; improvement of school conditions and climate; and establishment of educator attraction and retention policies. The next steps will be to share the solutions with WEAC members across Wisconsin. Read the paper here, and look for opportunities to get involved coming soon.
Investing in Early Career Educators and Professional Development
Supporting Professional Development and Early Career Educators was a key theme from the Representative Assembly’s actions, with the body voting to approve extra investments in educator-led courses and workshops and an affirmation of the place in our union for educators in the early stages of their careers, as well as for future teachers.
Other awards presented at the 2019 RA include the following, with President Ron Martin’s description of each winner:
The Tenia Jenkins Activist Award
This year’s recipient of the Tenia Jenkins Activist Award is Regina Pagel, whose involvement in WEAC goes back to her days as a leader of what we then called the Student WEA. Throughout the many years since then, she has repeatedly and continuously demonstrated her deep commitment to students, teachers, education support professionals and the community – both in in Waunakee, where she teaches World Language and has served as president of the local association, and Sun Prairie, where she lives and is heavily involved in local advocacy groups. Gina is active promoting quality public schools and making life better for students through organizations that include the Sun Prairie Action Resource Coalition, an organization called Support Sun Prairie Schools, the Sun Prairie Democratic Action Team, and the Wisconsin Public Education Network. She makes a difference every day in school and in the community. In nominating her for this award, her friend and colleague Jane Weidner said; “Overall, Gina is the embodiment of the ideals recognized through this prestigious award.” Congratulations, Gina!
Education Support Professional Award
This year’s Education Support Professional Award goes to Katherine Hinson, a Special Education Paraprofessional in the Bayfield School District who is known for her compassion for her students, dedication to public schools and the union, hard work and great instincts. In nominating Kathie for this award, Lorie Erickson said she is “the most dedicated paraprofessional I have ever worked with.” … “Every day,” Lori writes, “she goes above and beyond to educate, care for and provide emotional support for some of the most struggling students in our school.” Melissa Giesregen, the Director of Special Services and K-5 Principal, says Kathie “is always one of the first paraprofessionals to recognize when a student is having difficulties and immediately takes action to remedy the situation. The students both respect and adore her.” Congratulations, Kathie!
Richard J. Lewandowski Award
This year’s Richard J. Lewandowski Award for humanitarian activities goes to Kelly O’Keefe Boettcher, an English teacher at Milwaukee’s Rufus King International High School where she is not only a personable, highly effective and extremely popular teacher but someone who has mastered the art of connecting students with the world outside the classroom. Her nominee, fellow educator Michelle Young, says OKB – as Kelly is known by her students – “stimulates rich conversations” with all students “in an ethnic, religious and economically diverse environment.” Kelly works to improve relations between students of different backgrounds in part by guiding student organizations including Jew Crew and Friends of Islam, which work to “educate and fight stereotypes and racial hatreds by encouraging students to become believers in diversity and interfaith equality.” … “OKB,” Michelle continues, “also promotes social equity and justice among African American and Hispanic students by revealing their history, acknowledging discrimination, and engaging them in courageous conversations about open-mindedness and injustice with all groups of students.” Kelly also promotes peace, equity, fairness and justice in the community through media interviews and other activities. As Michelle says, Kelly is “a positive role model for the entire school community and an individual of high-value standards who believes it is her responsibility to be an upstander, not a bystander, for social justice.” Congratulations, Kelly!
President Martin also awarded several President’s Awards. The recipients were:
Joe Williams, an Ellsworth High School English teacher who has served as vice-chair on the WEAC Governance Documents Committee. He also tri-chaired the Early Career Educator Task Force. Joe was selected by delegates to the NEA RA to serve on the NEA Resolutions Committee.
Lynn Goss, who has served on the NEA Board of Directors for 7 years. A respected ESP member, she is tapped often by NEA to train other ESP leaders. She has been on the WEAC Board of Directors, serves as Region 1 Treasurer and has a long history of leadership in her local.
Keri Hetzel, who started her union leadership at UW-La Crosse as the local chapter president and at the same served on the WEAC Region 9 Aspiring Educators of Wisconsin board of directors. She then was selected as the President Elect and this past year led the organization. She is full of energy and ideas.
Gretchen Kubeny, who has served on the GBEA Executive Board and is a building representative. She has served as the vice chair of the WEAC Credentials and Elections Committee for the past three years. She ends her term and time as a member of the Credentials and Elections Committee.
Deb Bell, who is Region 1 President and on the WEAC Board. She is ending her term and will not run for another term. Deb has served on many committees in her local, region and state, and has been on the WEAC Steering Committee for the NEA RA.
Randy Ebright, who currently serves as the WEAC Region 5 President and serves on the WEAC Board of Directors. During past years, Randy served on the WEAC Board of Directors representing South Central Education Association (SCEA). Randy will be retiring.
Rising Star Awards
WEAC has a Rising Star award for members who are standouts in union activism, and here are our recipients this year:
Casey Silkwood, an Early Career Educator who is a Building Representative from MTEA. She was a Tri-Chair for the Early Career Educator Taskforce and has demonstrated strong leadership and a passion for unionism.
Curtis Kadow, Co-President of the Cudahy Education Association. He participated in the NEA Leadership Summit where he excelled, and continues to become more active in his Local and Region.
WEAC also awarded scholarships to four children of WEAC members who are planning to pursue careers in education. The winners are:
Cunningham, Dickinson, Watson Staff Award
WEAC Executive Director Bob Baxter presented the 2019 Cunningham, Dickinson, Watson staff awards to WEAC Media Relations Officer Christina Brey and Membership Coordinator Patti Westphal.
Brey, he said, oversees leadership communications and newsletters across our internal platforms. She also tracks and analyzes legislation, runs WEAC’s alerts and Action Network system, represents WEAC at the Progressive Table, leads national communications and organizing trainings, manages national grant programs, leads member and potential member polling projects and handles all media inquiries.
Westphal, who has been WEAC’s Membership Coordinator for over 30 years, is “reliable, hard-working and conscientious,” Baxter said.