Teachers of the Year honored

NEW ULM Katie Martens, guidance counselor at Jefferson Elementary School, Heidi Rewitzer, a fourth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School, and Jill Curry, a family and consumer science teacher at the High School, were honored as 2013 Teachers of the Year.

The ceremonies took place Wednesday night at the District 88 employee recognition banquet at the New Ulm Community Center.

Teacher Sue Torgerson, who presented Martens, described the guidance counselor as the school “go-to” person, a colleague who has demonstrated her “integrity,” “generosity” and “moral courage.”

Martens is a “master of positive connections” with students, “strong yet compassionate,” Torgerson added.

In turn, several other fourth grade teachers described their colleague Rewitzer as a “constant” for her students and colleagues, providing “ideas, feedback and a listening ear.”

They praised her for her “flexibility” and her involvement with various professional committees and organizations. They also razzed her for being an avid sports fan.

Jill Curry has taught family and consumer science, or FACS, for nearly 30 years, before the label even existed, said presenter Ryan Ziemer, who nominated Curry for the award.

Ziemer pointed out Curry’s professional versatility and her passion for the various programs she has been involved with: dance team, gymnastics, FCCLA, etc.

When coworkers at the High School heard of Curry’s nomination, two phrases dominated the conversation: “so deserving” and “long overdue,” stressed Ziemer.

The nominees briefly took turns to thank their colleagues for the honor and to acknowledge the special people in their lives that have been instrumental in their enjoyment of their profession and in their professional growth.

Others who earned recognition Wednesday night included: Devin Nelson, Outstanding Lay Educator of the Year, especially praised for his work in passing school levy referenda; the late Ken Howk, a bus driver known for driving and supporting the girls hockey team who lost his life to cancer; Jefferson Media Center weekly volunteers Elaine Evans, Mary Beth Kauffman, Phyllis Kosbab, Shirley Henderson, Jo Norman and Joe Leonard, who put in countless hours organizing books; Gail Boe, a computer assistant and Support Person of the Year, always ready to wear many hats, including that of a substitute teacher; and Travis Raske, a first-year third-grade teacher, recipient of the New Eagle Award, acknowledged for his creativity, innovation and readiness to share ideas.

In addition to the award recipients, Superintendent Harold Remme recognized long-term employees who are retiring at the end of the school year, before being reluctantly recognized himself as a future retiree.

Remme read the retirees’ serious and humorous responses to a set of questions about high and low points in their careers.

The retirees recognized included Nancy Bunkers, Carolyn Drexler, Dennis Ellingson, Louise Ellingson, Dave Froiland, John Olson, Pat Poncin, Debra Pribyl and Rebecca Schneider as well as Remme.

School Board Chair Duane Winter took a turn to recap major moments of Remme’s career. Starting out in 1968 as a teacher, Remme moved on to administration, eventually taking up his present position and leading District 88 for the past 16 years, said Winter.

During this time, he has worked “65-plus hour weeks with a smile” and “worn many hats.”

Remme has been an outstanding leader, friend and mentor to many, and ambassador for the district, said Winter. He has “stayed current” through momentous changes in education, technology and the world at large; a leader with a vision who “blazed a bright path” brightening the path of others.”

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