District 88 honors teachers of the year

NEW ULM – The 2014 Teachers of the Year in District 88 are: Julie Petersen, kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Elementary School; Geri Groebner who teaches children with autism and emotional and behavior disorders at Washington Elementary School; and Sharon Holzer, a science teacher at the New Ulm High School.

The Teacher of the Year awards were announced at the Annual Employee Recognition Banquet at the Community Center Wednesday.

Petersen

Petersen was presented via an electronic puppet show created by her colleagues.

In a style that mimics a kindergarten lesson, a puppet for every letter of the alphabet spoke out a word that describes Petersen: “a” for “ambitious,” “b” for “busy mom,” “c” for “caring,” “capable,” “conscientious” and “confident,” “d” for “diligent,” etc.

Over the last 25 years, Petersen has served on staff development, grade level, leadership, integration and technology committees, Kirsch said.

Petersen is known for her nurturing and caring classroom, wrote Kirsch. Kirsch quoted Petersen as saying, “Identifying and responding to the individual strengths and needs of each child in my care is extremely important to me.”

Kirsch quoted Petersen’s fellow kindergarten teachers as saying, “Julie is the first to lend a helping hand. She speaks from the heart and has the best interest of children in mind at all times. We can depend on Julie for anything.”

Groebner

Groebner was presented by Washington School counselor Jessica Bouta.

Bouta expressed her own and her colleagues’ admiration for Groebner’s positive attitude and her ability to begin each day with a smile, even in the most challenging situations.

Bouta also praised Groebner for volunteering in different capacities and for her passion for her students.

Groebner is continually working with the most needy students during those times when they are struggling most, said Les Koppendrayer, Washington Elementary Principal. Her quiet, firm manner helps to de-escalate these situations, writes Koppendrayer. She works extremely hard to move these students into the classroom as much as possible, while always giving the student and teacher the support needed for optimal success. She works extremely well with paraprofessionals, allowing them to become engaged with students. She has great rapport with her students and also with parents.

Groebner also takes on building responsibilities. Her work with the Character Counts team has been invaluable, says Koppendrayer. Her experiences with PBIS (a positive behavior modification program) at Jefferson School was a great help as Washington School worked to implement Character Counts as a positive behavior model, rather than just a set of rules and consequences, says Koppendrayer.

Holzer

Holzer was presented by fellow high school science teacher Kevin Briggs.

Briggs stressed Holzer’s special qualities, both as a teacher and a personal mentor. She is engaging: using costumes, humor and songs to make every class exciting for students, Briggs said. She is passionate about every student succeeding, offering extra help, despite a busy schedule, he continued. She is approachable, enabling colleagues to benefit from her vast experience; she is inspiring; and she makes the best lasagna, said Briggs, ending his presentation on a humorous note.

Holzer works extremely hard as a teacher, writes High School Principal Mark Bergmann. Her dedication to the students and their learning is extraordinary, states Bergmann. Teaching grades seven and eight is a daunting task when you care as much as Holzer does, adds Bergmann.

In addition to her teaching of students, Holzer has been a mentor to many new science teachers, continues Bergmann. These individuals have always looked to Holzer for guidance, knowledge and curriculum, he adds. She has never let them down. Her leadership is observed daily, as members of her department look to her for advice and ideas, says Bergmann.

Also recognized at the banquet were: Outstanding Lay Educator (OLE) Pastor Ric Jacobsen and Oakwood United Methodist congregation for supporting Jefferson students with supplies, warm clothing, etc., and for special gestures of recognition extended to teachers; Bus Driver of the Year Fred Groebner; Support Person of the Year Michael Milbourn, Director of Technology; “New Eagle” Douglas Rakoczy, a learning disabilities teacher.

Also honored were many long-term employees, including a 40-year service award recipient, Sonja Brigger, a kindergarten teacher; and employees who are retiring this year: Susan Brandel, Rick Van Roekel, Jill Curry, Laurie Groebner and Bonnie Lilleodden.

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