2023 Finalist Profiles
Meet the 2023 Engaged in Excellence finalists by clicking on the category tabs below!
Who will take home the Golden Apple? Find out May 1 (6pm) when this year's virtual awards show takes place at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center (get tickets here) and is livestreamed on Elmbrook's YouTube channel!
- Excellence in Teaching - Elementary
- Excellence in Teaching - Middle School
- Excellence in Teaching - High School
- Excellence in Teaching - New Educator
- Excellence in Transportation
- Excellence in Student Services
- Excellence in Service & Support
- Excellence in Teamwork
- Excellence in Leadership
- Excellence in Teaching Support
- Excellence in Coaching or Advising
- Excellence in Substitute Teaching
- Excellence in Volunteering
Excellence in Teaching - Elementary
Kathryn Banting (Special Education, Dixon Elementary)
Kathryn is a special education teacher who has exhibited an extraordinary talent in caring for her students and guiding their social and academic growth. In addition, Katherine has assumed the role of leading a team of 18 teachers and assistants; observing, scheduling, and coaching with feedback to ensure success. Her efforts have made her an essential part of Dixon’s team and her contributions are recognized by students and staff alike.
Molly Hopp (Reading Specialist, Tonawanda Elementary)
Molly is a gifted educator who serves as a reading interventionist and is leading her school’s efforts in the science of reading which has already yielded amazing results. In addition to guiding and coaching the literacy work of the 4K and 5K teams; Molly provides invaluable expertise to all grade 1-5 teachers and District teams. Molly’s reach extends directly to students in need of reading support, who she challenges and nurtures as they strive to reach their full potential.
Kristin Petersen (Second Grade, Brookfield Elementary)
Kristin leads her grade level team in a way that focuses on the important work while also showing genuine care and concern for the students and staff who engage in that work. She leads by example, with data and results that reflect her efforts to support all students. Kristin sustains open communication with families, and encourages her students to be part of the greater Brook El Community.
Nancy Sossong (Second Grade, Burleigh Elementary)
Nancy is a dedicated and driven 2nd grade teacher. Nancy currently serves as a Literacy Leader for the district and has been instrumental in the piloting of a new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum. Nancy regularly collaborates with Burleigh’s administration to deliver professional development and support to her peers, while consistently implementing best practices in her classroom. Nancy is the epitome of a lifelong learner, constantly seeking feedback to help her grow while pursuing her Reading Teacher Certificate.
Calli Waitrovich (Third Grade, Swanson Elementary)
Calli is a passionate third-grade teacher who is committed to creating a nurturing and inclusive learning environment for her students. Calli relentlessly pursues growth for all students, and her results this year reflect her tremendous skill at identifying the unique needs of each student and tailoring her instruction to ensure individual success. Just as important as her classroom impact, her approach inspires her colleagues to reach all students.
Excellence in Teaching - Middle School
Lisa Camponeschi (Science, PPMS)
Lisa’s positive impact on students is felt by all as she advocates for them in every aspect of their education. In addition to sharing her passion for science in her classroom, she completes detailed daily student evaluation feedback forms, encourages positive behavior, makes class fun and engaging, and is constantly communicating with students and parents. Lisa is respected by students, staff and families, and is the definition of an advocate for students.
Cara Flach (Math, WHMS)
Cara is amazing at forming relationships with students. She creates a community in her classroom and makes connections with each student. She is constantly thinking about how to best plan for all of the students and how to keep them engaged in the learning, and the engagement level in Cara's classes is second to none! Her students describe Cara as the best teacher: always helping them, giving clear and easy explanations, and making math class a fun place by adding challenges and fun activities to class in academic ways.
Trish St. George (Math, WHMS)
Trish St. George is an accomplished educator who strives to get better each and every day. She skillfully blends structure and student choice, establishing high expectations while allowing students to explore their creativity and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. Trish has completed extensive training on Canvas and AVID, and serves her school as a department chair and her district as a docent in the macro credential program.
Jenny Walsh (English Language Arts, PPMS)
Jenny assumed the responsibilities of English Department Chair this year, and has grown into an impactful and visionary leader in the process. She has led curriculum renewal work and resource piloting, and her upbeat attitude and exemplary teaching practices continue to shine through. She leads by example with student goal-setting, regular use of data, and an incredible sense of fun in the classroom.
Excellence in Teaching - High School
Jeff Gryzwa (Science, BCHS)
Jeff is truly at his peak in his 30th overall year of teaching science! This year, in his role as Department Chair, he has successfully onboarded three new department members! His willingness to change and innovate helps build relationships with all students, as they tackle challenging advanced placement content. His calm demeanor and clear communication style drives results and both student and family engagement.
Jacob Hoerchner (Physical Education/Health, BEHS):
Jake is a model teacher for health and physical education, encouraging all students to become experts in healthy living and to engage in healthy work habits every day. He is an involved member of his school’s Academic and Career Planning team, contributing to East’s growth by teaching Professional Learning Communities how to use goal setting to impact student learning. Jake’s successful student relationships helps develop their confidence in any physical education setting.
Junfang Lan (World Language, BCHS/BEHS)
Junfang is a consistent, student-focused Chinese teacher that works with a wide range of students with limited to highly proficient language skills. She seamlessly grows the skills, knowledge,and abilities of all learners not only in Mandarin proficiency, but also in Chinese culture, customs, geography, and history. Junfang offers a comprehensive learning experience that benefits all students.
Brittany Suchla (Special Education, BCHS/BEHS)
Brittany is a special education teacher who continues to grow in her role and impact, now across two high schools. Building on her success as a co-teacher in math classrooms, she transitioned this year to a new position focused on helping to prepare students for post-secondary success. At her core, Brittany is a true advocate for all students, respected by parents for her work with students and families, and respected by her peers for her highly collaborative approach to teaching and learning.
Excellence in Teaching - New Educator
Tara DeValk (Special Education, Dixon)
Tara’s transition from special education assistant to teacher has been seamless and impactful. She is very prepared for each day, and leverages her staff relationships to impact all learners. Tara has quickly demonstrated her willingness to go above and beyond for students, and while she takes great pride in her work, she cherishes the results of her students even more.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Orchestra, BCHS)
Ryan serves as the Orchestra teacher at both high schools and is credited with growing student interest and participation. He is both an outstanding teacher and musician, specializing in the cello! He brings a high level of energy and enthusiasm to the program that kids respond to. Ryan also serves as a Director of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Prelude Orchestra and performed with the Milwaukee Symphony this winter.
Hannah Merlo (Early Childhood, Burleigh)
Hannah Merlo is an exceptional Early Childhood teacher with a passion for education and a heart for her three-, four- and five-year-old students. Hannah is a strong advocate for student needs, constantly striving to ensure that her students receive the highest quality education possible. She is flexible and willing to take on new challenges, and has already proven her future is very bright!
Emily Pavlovich (Science, BEHS)
Emily has an amazing ability to incorporate literacy into her science classroom while providing real-life applications to engage students. Her authentic projects allow students to demonstrate learning in new and unique ways. Emily is skilled in organization, and she utilizes strategies to maximize learning. She works relentlessly with teams to stretch the capacity and impact of all teachers in her Professional Learning Community.
Ashley Van Galen (Science, PPMS)
Ashley is a physician-turned-educator, who uses her work and life experience to get students excited and engaged in learning about science every day. Ashley is a model educator for lesson design, but grounds her teaching and learning approach by creating a welcoming and inviting learning environment for all students. This year, she has made a significant and noticeable impact on students who were not just new to Pilgrim Park, but new to the country.
Excellence in Transportation
Willi Fields (Burleigh)
Willi is a personable driver who knows “my kids” by name as well as their personalities. His calm demeanor puts students and parents at ease, knowing they are in good hands as they travel to and from school each day. Willi has been an ally in the recruitment of other drivers, particularly advocating for his peers to stay engaged and find meaning in their lives post-retirement.
Diane Koenig (Dixon)
In a time of driver shortages, Diane has been a bedrock at GoRiteway with perfect attendance the last several years. She arrives early, is focused on safety, and has the experience and patience to win over the most reluctant of young riders. Diane takes pride in her work, is accountable for her performance, and is a model in preparedness and execution of her job duties.
Vito Marchese (LAUNCH)
Vito provides safe and reliable transportation to LAUNCH students as they travel between the two high schools and LAUNCH at Concurrency. He is friendly and encouraging, celebrating the end of each week with his riders as another successful week of learning. Vito serves in a valuable role, providing those without regular transportation a service so that they can participate in LAUNCH courses across the District.
Excellence in Student Services
Katie Bachman (Psychologist, Swanson)
Katie Bachman has become a fixture at Swanson in just her first year! Katie builds support for staff throughout the building and cares deeply for each student that comes her way. Katie adeptly assesses new situations, and calmly leads others to resolution. Katie is sought out by both families and students for her professional care of students, and is very skilled at interventions. Every interaction with Katie shines through with compassion and professionalism.
Heather Sibley (Psychologist, PPMS)
Heather has created strong relationships with her students and is respected as a school psychologist throughout the PPMS community. Heather often works with students on dysregulation strategies and has difficult conversations with students and staff in an effort to improve student behavior or outcomes. She has shown a great amount of leadership, poise, and humility in her work - always being steadfast in her approach and constantly advocating for students above all else.
Rae McClain (Psychologist, Dixon)
As a school psychologist, Rae serves both students and staff with care and compassion, while focused on providing the right services at the right time. Staff trust Rae because she leans in without judgment, and students respond to her knowing she has their best interest at heart. This year Rae has deftly balanced providing student and teacher support, leading data-driven conversations, and filling in wherever needed, all for the benefit of the Dixon school community.
Andrea Jungers (Psychologist, Brookfield Elementary)
Andrea is an excellent school psychologist and an asset to her school and the entire district! At Brook El, Andrea works collaboratively with both general and special education teachers to support students with a wide range of needs. Andrea also shares her training and expertise in Collaborative Problem Solving with other school psychologists, providing coaching feedback and exploring creative ways to support students who display behavioral challenges. Andrea’s kind, calm, inquisitive demeanor puts teams at ease and helps Andrea advocate for students’ best interests.
Nichole Lahodik (Social Worker, BCHS/WHMS)
Nichole serves students and their families with an unwavering commitment to supporting their social, emotional and academic needs. Nichole creates a safe learning environment by building positive relationships with students, and has been instrumental in connecting community resources to students and families in times of need. Nichole expertly balances the needs of two schools, relying on strong communication that contributes to a positive and inclusive culture that values the whole student.
Excellence in Service & Support
Frances Bridger (Office Manager, BEHS)
Frances sets the standard in her work as office manager, serving as the source of knowledge about everything that happens at Brookfield East. She is also the advisor to National Honor Society and her student-facing work is thoughtful, organized, and impactful. Frances is a master at getting things done, and she makes every process she touches better. She is a leader among her peers, always willing to share and collect new ideas. Frances has even presented her work on onboarding new staff at a state conference for the benefit of districts across the state.
Lisa Giammo (Student Services Assistant, PPMS)
In her role as Student Services Assistant, Lisa raises the bar for work quality and output each year. Respected by her colleagues and students, Lisa is a leader and effective coordinator of the work performed by the student services team on behalf of kids. Her professionalism and genuine commitment each day is unmatched, and she fosters a positive, friendly, welcoming personality to the student services office.
Kayla Simpson (Student Services Assistant, WHMS)
Kayla is an absolute rockstar! In her first year in the district, Kayla has built positive relationships with students and created a welcoming atmosphere in the student services office. She has a positive attitude every day and boosts staff morale in our building through her willingness to assist anyone who walks into the office. Kayla wears so many hats and has exceeded the responsibilities that come with each and every one. She is kind, knowledgeable and efficient, and solves problems with creativity and enthusiasm.
Eileen Zingale (Staffing Budget Coordinator, District Office)
Eileen’s experience in several roles on the Business Services team has proven to be critical this year in the transition of staff to new roles and the onboarding of a new hire. She is patient and supportive, and her attention to detail instills confidence in her work and in the training she provides to others. Eileen epitomizes what it means to be a team player, quickly responding to others’ needs while still following through on her own job duties and expectations at a very high level.
Excellence in Teamwork
Burleigh Office Staff (Burleigh Elementary)
The Burleigh Office Staff Team is a shining example of what teamwork can achieve. As the face of Burleigh Elementary, they go above and beyond to ensure that the school runs smoothly and that every student and parent feels welcome. With their exceptional communication skills, they resolve issues quickly and efficiently, supporting the administration in every way possible. In just their first year together, this team has made a significant and positive impact on the school’s culture and the entire Burleigh community is grateful.
First Grade Team (Dixon Elementary)
The 1st Grade Team at Dixon is a high functioning Professional Learning Community (PLC) that works together seamlessly to provide the best possible education for their students. With their strong team dynamic, they are able to prioritize individual student needs efficiently and effectively. Recently, the team has collaborated with the reading interventionist to improve student outcomes, and their collaborative efforts have been recorded and shared with other district teams as a model to aspire to.
Lunchroom Team (Brookfield Elementary)
The lunchroom staff and supervisors at Brookfield Elementary are second to none. Each member of the team treats students with dignity and respect, and is quick to help students navigate difficult social interactions that may arise. This year, the team was challenged by administration to “own” the lunch experience, and their efforts now serve as a model for other schools across the District. Their dedication and smiles during this important piece of the school day are a large part of making the students’ days fulfilling and enjoyable.
Middle School Orchestra Teachers: Alexis Ganos & Krista Witak (PPMS/WHMS)
Alexis and Krista have embraced a new, co-teaching model for their orchestra classrooms that includes whole group and small group instruction during the same class period. Their planning and preparation has resulted in an enriched orchestra experience for students at both schools, and their approach will guide their instrumental music teaching colleagues. Together, they developed a tool for tracking student growth that helps students become the best musicians they can be!
High School Resource Officer (SRO) Team: (Tony Kader (BCHS) & Stephanie Zartner (BEHS))
Now in their fourth year as SRO’s in our high schools, Officer Kader and Officer Zartner continue to play a critical role in maintaining a safe and secure learning environment. They build relationships with students by being present and approachable, while constantly encouraging them to make the right decisions. They are a great resource for staff, and collaborate with school administrators in response to small and large situations. This year, they have spent considerable time and effort onboarding the District’s new SRO’s to our middle schools and their wisdom and experience has proven invaluable.
Literacy Alignment Team (District Office)
Together, Emily Greiber, Lisa Rettler, and Mekenna Ellis, have led the District’s 4K-12th grade curriculum review process, and have laid the groundwork for the District’s transition to a science-based reading approach across all schools. Combining their expertise in change management and literacy, this team has provided staff with the vision, support, encouragement, and skills necessary to pilot new resources and make informed decisions. They are always open to feedback, and they have never wavered in their commitment to impact student learning now while planning for the future.
Excellence in Leadership
Beth Chapin (Teaching & Learning Specialist, BEHS)
Beth is the backbone of Brookfield East and the epitome of servant leadership in her role as teaching and learning specialist. Her impact is wide, spanning from students to staff to coaches. Through her work as an instructional coach, Beth makes all staff members better by instilling confidence in their skills and abilities and by providing support and encouragement when needed. Beth has built a model for the District’s Future Teachers LAUNCH strand that can help any district address the teacher pipeline shortage. Simply put, she is a champion for all kids and the staff that serve them.
Megan Gray (Teaching & Learning Specialist, Tonawanda)
As a Teaching and Learning Specialist, Megan wears many hats each day - working with small groups of students to support math concepts; meeting with teachers before/after/during the school day to plan for "just-right" math instruction; and collaborating with parents and staff to organize events. When challenges arise, Megan steps up and does not give up! She works to identify possible solutions and seeks feedback from staff as they explore the best options.
Christie Johnson (Associate Principal, Swanson)
Christie has embraced her new role as an Associate Principal with the wisdom and experience of a veteran administrator. In challenging school situations, Christie is poised and calm, expertly balancing the needs of students, staff, and families. She holds high expectations and pushes staff and students to do better each day. Her leadership style makes her approachable, and her literacy experience benefits everyone.
Marian Pintar (Associate Principal, Dixon)
Marian is an Associate Principal whose impact has been nothing short of transformative. Through her leadership, Dixon has an unmatched focus on teacher efficiency and student growth. Her creative and innovative approach to education has already made a lasting impact in less than two years. Marian is an integral part of continued improvements in instruction and culture at Dixon (sometimes she can be found as Zero the Hero), and she embodies all that Elmbrook strives to be.
Excellence in Teaching Support
Clint Girard (Special Education Teaching Assistant, BEHS)
Clint has been an integral part of every team he is a part of, both in and out of the classroom. He seeks to authentically connect students with disabilities to the general education classroom. His impact beyond the classroom extends to athletics and activities and supervisory roles, as he interacts with students in multiple environments. He mentors our newest special education assistants to provide support as they navigate a new system, and volunteers his time to serve on district committees.
Denise Morrissey (5K Teaching Assistant, Brookfield Elementary)
Denise Morrissey is immensely valued by both staff and students alike. Denise displays high levels of communication and collaboration with her classroom teacher and always comes to work with a positive attitude and dedication to her students. She has strong instructional knowledge and delivers small group instruction effectively. Denise is a huge contributor to the wonderful 5K experience that is offered at the elementary level.
Angela Schladweiler (Special Education Teaching Assistant, Swanson Elementary)
Angela Schladweiler is a flexible, calm and positive Special Education Teaching Assistant. Angela works with the most vulneration population of students and always embodies the values of excellence, dedication and compassion. She deals with high-pressure situations with ease on a regular basis, and always ensures that her students receive the attention, care and assistance that they need to succeed in both their academic and personal lives. Her leadership and support is invaluable to the school community.
Lynn Surtees (Special Education Teaching Assistant, WHMS)
Lynn is a genuine person who really cares about her students, wanting them to be the best person they can be. Lynn is flexible throughout the day and has the ability to collaborate with any student or staff member. She is dependable, and reliable, and has proven to be successful in her efforts to grow all learners. Her personality and positive attitude makes staff and students want to be around her!
Carol Wenzel (Special Education Teaching Assistant, Burleigh)
Carol is a highly respected educator who has an exceptional ability to adapt standards and lesson plans for students of all abilities. She is a strong advocate for students with disabilities, ensuring they receive the accommodations and support they need to succeed. Carol gives students the space they need to become independent learners and is an important link during students’ transitions throughout the day. Carol is a true stand out at Burleigh.
Jenna Ziemke (Special Education Teaching Assistant, Tonawanda)
Students at Tonawanda love working with Jenna! Jenna is such a happy and helpful soul to have around. She is supportive of her co-workers and does everything she can to ensure that things are going smoothly in classrooms. She makes learning engaging and she is fiercely dedicated to some of our most striving learners. Jenna problem solves and is able to creatively meet the varied needs of the many students she works with each day.
Excellence in Coaching or Advising
Neeraja Arvind and Mary Francesca - Rising Rhinobots Robotics (PPMS/WHMS/BCHS/BEHS)
Neeraja and Mary are advisors to the Rising Rhinobots, a First Technology Challenge club with students from all four middle and high schools. They have worked tirelessly to develop students’ knowledge in the core concepts of FIRST Robotics, supplementing their expertise with mentors from the field. They have prioritized gender diversity, resulting in the most female participants on their team among any of the five Elmbrook FTC teams. Their selflessness and dedication is appreciated by team members and their families.
Dan Pronley (BCHS)
Dan has had an amazing year. In his first year as Director of the Fall Musical Production, Matilda earned 17 Jerry Award nominations including one for Best Director! Dan was also instrumental in helping the Elmbrook Education Foundation raise $80,000 for our shared theater program, emceeing Ladies Night and securing a significant matching donation. Dan promotes other Fine Arts opportunities in the District as the Director of the Summer Theater program and founder of the District’s Student Film Festival which honors and celebrates students’ video productions.
Tyler Saxton (BEHS)
Tyler has built an incredible girls basketball program with two straight state semifinal appearances including this year’s State Runner-Up finish. Coach Saxton’s emphasis on building connections among all East basketball players, from freshmen to seniors, creates a positive team culture that is deeply committed to continuous improvement and individual and team success.
Excellence in Substitute Teaching
Marty Emery (Fairview South)
Following her retirement as an educator at Fairview South, there is nowhere else Marty would rather be than back in the classroom serving the students and staff at her favorite school. Marty has filled in for teachers and assistants, knowing the importance of every role in providing a quality education for the students at Fairview South. Marty’s flexibility and willingness to help make her an invaluable resource to the Fairview South team.
Barb Hetzel (BCHS)
Brookfield Central is very lucky to have Barb’s science expertise! She fills in regularly for short and long-term science assignments. Teachers value her willingness to always step in during a time of need and appreciate her vast content knowledge and teaching experience. Barb is the first one considered for substitute needs, and Science Department members know they can count on her to continue teaching and learning with high fidelity in their absence.
Megan Reuter (Tonawanda)
Megan is always available and willing to sub on a last-minute notice. She goes above and beyond to make sure the students maintain their regular routine and successfully delivers any lesson she is given. She is always excited about being with the students and makes sure to leave detailed notes about the day for the classroom teacher. It is great having her as a reliable option for our students and she recently expanded her reach and impact by filling a sub need at another elementary school!
Kerri Richlen (Burleigh)
Kerri Richlen is a remarkable substitute teacher who has proven to be an invaluable asset to Burleigh Elementary. Kerri is a licensed teacher and WCTC instructor, but will often choose to substitute in special education assistant roles due to her passion for students and the importance of the role. Kerri's patience, flexibility, and willingness to do whatever is asked of her make her a dependable and highly valued member of the Burleigh community. With her tender heart and tireless work ethic, Kerri is an MVP in every sense of the word.
Joanne Wacker (Brookfield Elementary):
Joanne Wacker helps Brookfield Elementary function day-in and day-out by filling in where needed. She creates a seamless transition in the absence of a teacher because she steps in with a broad understanding of how the school functions. Joanne’s diligence and professionalism helps students continue to learn at a high-level, and her reliability and great student expectations make her a valued member of the school community by both students and staff.
Excellence in Volunteering
Courtney Hobbs (Brookfield Elementary)
Courtney Hobbs is a consistent, reliable and dedicated volunteer at Brookfield Elementary. Courtney has been instrumental in the reopening of our renovated library, and continues to support weekly operations. She also has supported special events and projects, contributing to the amazing climate and culture at Brookfield Elementary.
Chuck Mazza (PPMS)
Chuck dedicates his time to tutoring students in math simply because he wanted to impact the lives of kids. His enthusiasm is contagious, helping students learn new math skills or reinforcing concepts taught in the classroom. In addition to tutoring, Chuck volunteers with the school’s Math Clubs, which has helped them win local and state awards for their problem-solving.
Deborah Nustad (BCHS)
Deb is an advocate for the District who willingly shares her talents and abilities in a variety of capacities. She maintains leadership roles with the Brookfield Central PTO and Elmbrook Education Foundation, and has been a long-time supporter (and expert guide) for the District’s fast-growing robotics program. Her vision and capacity truly knows no bounds!
Megan Vaughan (WHMS)
Megan is a devoted volunteer at Wisconsin Hills who serves on the PTO to positively impact school operations. Megan has partnered with local businesses to solicit donations and support, always engaging with passion and heart in order to make sure goals are met. Her selfless work unites a school community and enhances partnerships with families, students, and staff.