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Baraboo teacher named Wisconsin representative to the National Teacher of the Year program

| May 1, 2014 | 0 Comments
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WEAC member Jane McMahon, an English-language arts teacher at Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo, is Wisconsin’s representative to the National Teacher of the Year program.

“Jane exemplifies excellence in teaching,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “She steps up for her kids, for her school, and for the community in ways that make a true difference.”

McMahon was named Wisconsin’s Middle School Teacher of the Year in a surprise ceremony at her school in September. She received a Kohl Teacher Fellowship last spring. As part of the honor of representing Wisconsin in the national Teacher of the Year program, McMahon will receive $6,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. Established in 1990 by U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (retired), the foundation’s various award programs have given $8.6 million to Wisconsin educators, students, and schools over the past 23 years. The total award McMahon will receive from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation is $10,000.

“Teachers play a vital role in shaping the life of a child,” Kohl said. “Recognizing and rewarding that work is an important reason for my support of the Teacher of the Year program in Wisconsin. Teachers deserve recognition for the commitment they make to preparing students for life beyond school as citizens, workers, leaders, and entrepreneurs.”

“I believe that every child is a unique individual with her or his own learning needs. It is my responsibility to identify these needs and provide each student with authentic learning opportunities, and inspire curiosity and introspection,” wrote McMahon in her application materials. “Rather than questioning children, we must do more to allow them to create their own questions — pursue their own rewarding pathways. This is the journey of the individual, but as an educator, I can open doorways to facilitate this process.”

One of McMahon’s recent successes was creating an elective course called “Young Adult Literature” that allowed her to combine her love of technology and literature. Students study various genres of literature and use technology to showcase their learning. They have created blogs, podcasts, graphic novel pages, and book “trailers” on iMovie. Students were able to use these tools to extend their learning and many community members followed their progress online.

Crystal Ritzenthaler, superintendent of Baraboo schools says, “Jane is highly respected by students, parents, board members, administrators, and colleagues as a visionary leader.” A recent example of her leadership and impact on students was her willingness to assume an additional role as a gifted and talented instructional coach. In this position, “she works with her colleagues to build capacity in all classrooms to meet the needs of all students,” Ritzenthaler said. “With tear-filled eyes, a parent recently shared with me that her son had become disengaged from school, but once again had a love of learning due to this teacher’s understanding of and responsiveness to the unique needs of her child.”

Natalie Disney, a former student, said McMahon’s classroom was “marked by memorable minutes of inspired reading and particularly thought-provoking discussion.” She added that McMahon is someone who, “…fed light, color, and opportunity into learning and into life.” Disney said her “education would not have been as successful, as enriching, or as life-altering” had she not had the “extraordinary joy” of learning from McMahon and that those experiences influenced her decision to choose English as a college major.

In addition to McMahon’s work in the classroom, she volunteers for several non-profit organizations, including “Wisconsin Women Fish,” promoting fishing and outdoor opportunities for women and girls across the Midwest. She also belongs to the Baraboo chapter of “Kids and Mentors Outdoors,” providing children in the Baraboo area with opportunities to learn more about hunting, hiking, fishing, photography, and paddling. As a member of the Baraboo River Canoe Club, she is a regular participant in spring Baraboo River clean-up efforts.

McMahon earned her teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from Viterbo University in La Crosse. She has been an educator at Jack Young Middle School since 1989.

McMahon is one of four Teachers of the Year chosen to represent Wisconsin’s PK-12 teaching corps for the 2013-14 school year. The others are Richard Erickson, a chemistry, physics, and alternative education teacher at Bayfield High School; Anne Hasse, a fifth-grade teacher at Wakanda Elementary School in Menomonie; and Lynne Kohlhepp, a specific learning disabilities teacher at Wausau West High School. Erickson and Kohlhepp also are WEAC members.

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