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Community Corner: Thanks to those who make a difference
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I have clear memories of sitting in my first-grade desk while Sister Cabrini opened up the pages of a really large book and begin to teach us to read all about the fascinating lives of Dick and Jane.
Sister Cabrini could not only teach reading, but she could play baseball as well as any of the eighth-grade boys on the playground.

I can empathize with St. Mary’s parishioners as my small country parochial school closed a couple of years later and I was bused to a larger nearby community. I experienced my first day in public school and a new teacher, Miss Morrow, with no small amount of anxiety. My lack of worldly experiences at that age led me to run up the driveway after getting off the school bus and excitedly telling my parents that I loved Miss Morrow and did they know that she wore lipstick.

Many of us grew up, left the classroom and returned only rarely, perhaps for parent–teacher conferences or open house, or as a speaker in a classroom. Others of us never really left the classroom, opting for a career in education and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the next generation filling the seats left empty by those going on to the next grade or stage in their education.

Those who left may not have realized that last week was National Teacher Appreciation Week. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers encouraged the citizens of Wisconsin to take the time to “recognize the efforts of educators in our state, encourage the young people who are training to become tomorrow’s teachers, and thank the many teachers who work with children in Wisconsin public schools.”

I would like to broaden that to express my appreciation to all of the teachers and the educational support staff employees throughout the community of Platteville. When someone coined the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child,” they must surely have envisioned a community like Platteville. Platteville Public Schools, St. Mary’s, Southwest Technical College, UW–Platteville … all engaged throughout this year in providing an education for Platteville youth and community members.

It has been an interesting year to be a leader in education. People use the word “interesting” when there is really no other word that can be used to describe the tumultuous times that educators have experienced over the last year — a year filled with phrases such as “educational accountability,” “No Child Left Behind,” “employee handbooks,” “budget adjustments,” “common core standards,” “district report cards” and “new superintendent.”

What stood out to me most were the many, regardless of their job description, who walked through it all with their eyes keenly focused on the students coming through the front door and their minds heavily engaged with envisioning the future those students would be stepping into when they left us.

The Platteville School District will be saying goodbye to many outstanding educators who have invested many years into educating our community youth. Thank you … you have made a difference in their lives and in our community.

We will have many outstanding educators who will return next fall with a renewed commitment to continue our mission of providing the best possible education to the youth of the Platteville community. Thank you … you will continue to provide what no policy maker, test score analyst, or budget reviewer can provide: an encouraging and caring presence that inspires us all.

We will have many new members join our staff. I have already had an opportunity to meet a couple of them. Thank you … your enthusiasm and excitement is contagious and gives me great hope for the future of education.

And lastly, thank you to Sister Cabrini, Miss Morrow, and many others … you did your best to make something of me. When I received my Doctorate in Education from UW–Madison, perhaps the most inspiring card came from Miss Morrow, now Mrs. Neff, who after nearly 40 years of my having left her classroom, wrote “Congratulations … I am proud of you!”

The truth is, I am humbled by what goes on in the education profession every day, in every school, and for every child.

The Community Corner is a weekly column of opinion written by guest columnists UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields; Platteville School District Superintendent Connie Valenza; Chamber Director Kathy Kopp; Main Street Program Director Jack Luedtke; Common Council President Mike Dalecki, Platteville Recreation Coordinator Jordan Burress, State Rep. Travis Tranel, Platteville City Manager Larry Bierke and Police Chief Doug McKinley.