Teachers honored with Kohl fellowships
Two New Richmond High School teachers were honored with Kohl Fellowships this year.
Jeff Ayer and Ann Scharfenberg were were honored March 22 at Chippewa Falls High School during the regional Herb Kohl Educational Foundation luncheon.
Ayer and Scharfenberg were nominated for the fellowship by the New Richmond High School principals. Past New Richmond winners include Jessica Ferguson in 2008 and Dave Schleh in 2007.
This year there were 10 fellowships awarded to teachers within CESA 11 -- two of those went to New Richmond teachers. Three awards went to teachers in the River Falls district; one to Somerset Middle School; one to Luck High School; one to Osceola Elementary; one to Unity Elementary in Balsam Lake; and one to Barron High School. Teachers and their respective schools received $1,000 grants.
Ayer and Scharfenberg were selected for three qualities: ability to inspire a love of learning in their students, their ability to motivate others and for their leadership and service within and outside the classroom.
Jeff Ayer started teaching Turtle Lake in 1997 after graduating from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn.
In 2000, he accepted a job with New Richmond High School and hasn't looked back.
"New Richmond is far better professionally," Ayer said. "There isn't a better place to teach as far as I'm concerned."
That's because of the quality of staff in New Richmond, he said.
"There are such strong people here that you can't help but get better as a teacher."
The language arts teacher said he started teaching because teachers "impact the lives of the young people who will be the leaders of the community."
For example, one of Ayer's former students is studying journalism at Northwestern University in Illinois. She often will contact Ayer with several story ideas, just to see what he thinks.
"Obviously I've impacted her life enough that she wants to share that with me," he said. "That's what fills my tank at the end of the day."
When he's not in the classroom, Ayer can be found in any number of places. In his extra time, he: coaches track and forensics, is a newspaper advisor, literary/art magazine advisor, NHS committee member, WHSFA Speech Advisory Committee Member and freelance writer.
"I have a great sense of fulfillment at the end of the day," he said.
Ann Scharfenberg started teaching in 1994 after a career in International Relations and Economics.
"I'm married with three kids," she said. "I was looking for something that was compatible with that lifestyle."
Turns out, once she got into her classroom she realized her passion for teaching.
"I enjoy students who come to class excited," she said. "Everything I teach I try to connect with their lives."
Scharfenberg's inspiration is what landed her a fellowship award, but she still can't believe she was nominated, she said.
"It's an honor to be singled out," she said. "There are quality people working in the district. I feel like I'm just trying to keep up."
When the social studies teacher isn't in the classroom, she's serving on the Council for Economic Education -- with economic study tours to Russia and economic curriculum writing in Romania; coaching the economics challenge, which will competed at state on Friday; is an AP reader for economics; presenter at Wisconsin State Social Studies Convention, UWRF and WITC consortium; is leading the drive to bring a financial branch to the new high school; and working with her Global Issues students to tap into renewable energy options at the new high school.
Excellence Scholarship and Fellowship recipients are selected by a statewide committee composed of civic leaders, and representatives of education-related associations and the program's co-sponsors: The Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (WCRIS) and regional Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESA).
The Kohl Foundation Scholarship and Fellowship program was established by U.S. Senator Herb Kohl in 1990. To date the foundation has awarded $6.4 million to Wisconsin educators, students and schools.