The School District of Fort Atkinson presented multiple awards as it kicked off the school year with its annual teacher and staff orientation program Tuesday.

Recognized by colleagues as a mentor and leader to both staff and students, Barrie Elementary School kindergarten teacher Ann Wagie was presented the 2013 Wildermuth Award for Excellence in Education.

Also, the Support Staff Award for Excellence in Education was presented to learning aide Stella Kleinschmidt.

The Wildermuth Award was created to recognize and reward School District of Fort Atkinson staff members — from teachers, librarians and guidance counselors, to school psychologists and any other person working in education — for exemplary work.

Funded by the board of education, Fort Atkinson Education Association and Fort Atkinson Community Foundation, the award is given in memory of Ron Wildermuth, a longtime teacher and director of instruction in the district who died in a motorcycle crash at the beginning of the 1986-87 school year.

Due to Wildermuth’s involvement in the teacher orientation program, the award is presented at the annual gathering, which was held Tuesday morning at Fort Atkinson High School.

Wagie was surprised and left nearly speechless upon receiving the award, thanking the Wildermuth family, school board and community foundation for the honor.

In addition, she recognized her own family and the Barrie Elementary School staff with whom she has worked, as well as the school district as a whole.

“I have to thank my family for all the times I’ve been away from them and the Barrie Elementary staff because they have been really supportive of me all along,” Wagie said. “It is just a great job. I just love teaching kindergarten; that is why I stuck with it for so many years.”

Her husband, Dennis Wagie, and daughters, Katie Passage of Green Bay and Amy Wagie of Rochester, Minn., were among those in attendance.

Fort Atkinson Middle School principal Paul Christiansen presented the award to Wagie, who has been in the district for 26 years.

“Ann Wagie has gone above and beyond for our students, our district and our community,” Christiansen said, noting that her skills as a mentor and a leader are widely recognized.

The associate principal quoted a colleague of Wagie who stated in the nomination papers: “I am a better teacher and parent today because of her. The lives this teacher has touched and enriched are too numerous to mention. And this inspiration comes from a quiet determination and grace.”

He also read comments from a parent: “My two children were both fortunate to have this educator as a teacher and to this day they still talk about her classroom. They both remember and still practice the ‘cleanup’ rules from her class.

Lastly, a nominator wrote, “This person is there when other teachers are struggling, and her answer is always yes to any administrative request.”

Prior to coming to Fort Atkinson, Wagie was employed in the Whitewater Unified School District, teaching first grade for two years and second grade for two years. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a teacher, particularly at the elementary level.

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve always liked kids and always wanted to be a teacher,” Wagie said.

Wagie is the 27th recipient of the Wildermuth Award. Her name will be added to a plaque that includes those of past recipients: Vern Jordan, Steve Neuens, Bonnie Hamm, Bill Congdon, Carol Congdon, Marsha Anderson, Wendy Lemke, Betty Schubert, Rick Looze, Don Wahl, Paul Olson, Dawn Hunter, Dick Wanie, Gail Roub, Betty Rheineck, Don Kneiert, Jan Dyson, Sandy Caley, Tom Kohl, Dean Johnson, Karen Crosby, Dean Berkas, Jude Hartwick, Ann Massoglia, Roger Rumppe and last year’s recipient, Joe Kirt.

She also received a smaller engraved plaque and a check for $1,000. The Fort Atkinson Community Foundation contributed $500, and the board of Education and the Fort Atkinson Education Association each contributed $250 toward this award.

A total of 22 Fort Atkinson educators were nominated for the 2012 Wildermuth Award for Excellence in Education, representing each of the buildings in the district with nominations coming from parents, administrators, teachers, students and community members.

In addition to Wagie, nominees included: Julie Recob, Barrie Elementary School; Becky Barnes, Purdy Elementary School; Julie Westcott, Rockwell Elementary School; Beth Young, Luther Elementary School; Steve Merkel, Fort Atkinson Middle School; Shannon Lyon, Fort Atkinson High School; Heather O’Neill, Luther Elementary; Candice Johnson, Purdy Elementary; Rachel Ehlen, Rockwell Elementary; Patty Snyder, Barrie Elementary; Jean Temperly, Fort Atkinson Middle School; Mary Lynn Vaillancourt, Purdy Elementary; Beth Nelson, Purdy Elementary; Jina Witkins, Luther Elementary; Lauren Mayne, Barrie Elementary; Pam Gustin, Purdy Elementary; Kelly Ramirez, Barrie Elementary; Matt Noll, Fort Atkinson High School, Sue Hall, Fort Atkinson High School, and Toni Isaacsen, Rockwell Elementary.

“These professionals were nominated because they deliver a quality education to our students, serve as role models to their peers and help make Fort Atkinson the outstanding district we all know it is,” Christiansen said.

Recognizing each of the nominees, the middle school associate principal also shared some comments from nomination papers.

One students wrote about a nominee: “She listens and understands what I have to say. She is the kindest person I have ever met. When I went through a rough spot, I came to her and she made me feel better.”

Christiansen shared another teacher’s remarks about a nominee.

“He genuinely serves the calling to be a teacher; he would honestly be a successful sales representative, a fantastic fishing guide or a renowned psychologist, but he chooses to be a teacher because it is what he was meant to be.”

“Each of you have made a difference in the lives of the students here in Fort Atkinson and for that, we thank you,” Christiansen said. “Your professional efforts for the students of our district make all of you deserving recipients of the Wildermuth Award for Excellence in Education.”

In addition to Christiansen the Wildermuth Award Selection Committee for the 2013 honor included: Janet Dickinson, Purdy Elementary; Bobbie Rawinski, Barrie Elementary; Shawn McDonough, Rockwell Elementary; Michelle Maniaci, Luther Elementary School; Kelly Kliefoth, Fort Atkinson Middle School; Linda Schroeder, Fort Atkinson High School; 2012 Wildermuth Award winner Joe Kirt, and Judy Wildermuth.

Kleinschmidt feted

Meanwhile, Stella Kleinschmidt, who has worked at Rockwell Elementary for 12 years, was honored with the 2013 Support Staff Award for Excellence in Education.

School District of Fort Atkinson director of pupil services John Peterson presented the award.

“Without reservation, I can say the members of our support staff — our educational aides, secretaries, paraprofessional, custodians and cafeteria workers — are the ones that make our operation run efficiently and smoothly,” Peterson said. “They are the ones that understand the value of relationships and are always putting others before themselves.”

He noted that support staff often are the first ones to respond when a student is in crisis and in assisting a staff member in need.

“The School District of Fort Atkinson is a better place to work, learn and grow because of our support staff,” Peterson said.

Thirty-three support staff members were nominated for the award. They included: Mary Baldwin, Purdy Elementary; Nancy Becker, high school; Mandie Brewer, Barrie Elementary; Sue Cerkoney, high school; Dawn Church, Purdy Elementary; Melanie Dunkleberger, Luther Elementary; Corey Fritsch, district office.

Also, Mahna Grossman, Barrie Elementary; Sharon Haupt, district office; Kris Hofer, Purdy Elementary; Carol Hoffman, high school; Jane Humes, Luther Elementary; Denis Householder, Luther Elementary; Nancy Istvanek, high school; Jean Ann Johnson, high school; Toni Jorgensen, Purdy Elementary; Deb Kirkeby, Purdy Elementary; Carol Klein, Barrie Elementary; Stella Kleinschmidt, Rockwell Elementary; Annette Krance, middle school; Dennis Kraus, Luther Elementary; Sara Latusky, high school; Narda Mack, high school; Debbie Miller, high school; Mary Ann Mundt, middle school; Dawn Partoll, high school; Karyn Pellatt, Luther Elementary; Michelle Schoeller, Barrie Elementary; Kay Swetland, Luther/Purdy Elementary; Kellie Todd, Rockwell Elementary; and Heather Walters, Luther Elementary.

Kleinschmidt’s name will be engraved on a traveling plaque and she received a check for $1,000.

Recognizing Kleinschmidt, Peterson cited nomination papers that stated: “She cares deeply about every little person in her building, whether it’s handling an uncomfortable accident with sensitivity, providing a hug for a child that doesn’t feel good or celebrating an accomplishment with vigor and excitement — the kids really count on her.”

Continuing, he read, “This year, my son had some challenging days. Even in the toughest situations, he knew she was a safe person to look for. She was a reassuring voice to me and my husband, even offering to stay late until we could arrive on a day he couldn’t ride the bus home. Every day she has a smile on her face and I know she loves her job. I feel so blessed to have someone like her as a resource to me, as well as my son.”

Another nominator wrote: “Being a primary learning aide means being able to solve many problems. When we need help in a classroom, it is quite easy to turn to her for help. Teachers feel comfortable with her as a supervisor of children. She is always willing to help whenever needed. She knows what needs to be done without asking and her membership in our building goes beyond her scheduled hours.

“For many years, she has coached Future Problem Solving, a gifted-and-talented program, and took students to state and international competitions as a result of her excellent coaching,” the nomination read. “She is an active member in Heart of the City, promoting a green future for our community. She served on our Title I building committee this year, helping us to become a schoolwide program. Staff members respect her. Every staff member would want to have her as a classroom learning aide. Students lover her. She has made a difference in the lives of many, many children.”

Accepting the honor, Kleinschmidt recalled answering a question about what it is she liked about what she does.

“I told her, it is the dedicated and fun-loving staff that I work with at Rockwell, it’s learning something all the time and it’s making a difference in the lives of the children that walk through our doors,” she said. “One thing it always comes back to is the first-grade team that I work with, past and present at Rockwell. We are colleagues in the best and truest sense of that word. Trust, respect, collaboration, that is why I’m up here today.”

Kleinschmidt is a learning aide, a substitute teacher and a math tutor.

Before being employed by the district, she had home-schooled one of her sons for several years, so much of her background is in education.

However, Kleinschmidt noted that she does not have a degree in education; rather, she has a master’s in business administration.

“I’ve always been very involved in the education of our children and I’ve always kept up on being involved in the school district and what they are learning and how they are learning,” she said.

Recognizing each of the nominees, the pupil services director also shared some comments from other nomination papers.

One nominee wrote: “She is a person you don’t see and hear much about, but makes a huge impact on the school environment.”

Peterson noted another nominator’s remarks about a nominee.

“Whether it’s providing a sensory break, supporting in a classroom setting or instructing a small group, students are always in good hands when they are with her. She is a favorite to many.”

Also, he shared a nomination that read: “She is the engine that keeps our school running. She never lets on that she’s juggling 10 tasks at once (even though she typically is!).”

In addition to Peterson, the Support Staff Award Selection Committee included: Kathy Volk, 4K; Laura Hernandez-McCready, Rockwell Elementary; Dave Geiger, Luther Elementary School; Debbie Reichert, Fort Atkinson Middle School; Joel Kaiser, district office; and last year’s award recipient, Karen Hetts, Purdy Elementary.

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