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Janesville School District honors 6 in annual program

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Gazette staff
November 19, 2009
— The Janesville School District this week honored its teachers and staff members of the year. Following is information from the district about the award winners.

-- Cecilia Hladky, emergent teacher of the year—Hladky graduated from UW-Whitewater with a bachelor’s degree in 2005. This award goes to a teacher who had been teaching fewer than four years and is doing great things for students.


Hladky joined the school district in 2006, teaching second grade and now first grade at Jackson Elementary.


“Cecilia is a role model for kindness, integrity and hard work that all of us—students, parents and staff—recognize and value on a daily basis,” said Jackson Principal John Walczak. “She is a consistent, caring and integral part of Jackson Elementary School’s family and culture.”


Fellow second-grade teachers Karen Sullivan, Andrea Dunmore and Tina Janssen wrote this about Hladky: “She builds a rapport with the students in her classroom and is able to reach each student at his or her learning level. She brings fresh teaching ideas to our unit … She spends many non-contract hours preparing her lessons to make them fun and interesting for her students. She is genuinely happy to be here, and it shows.”


Jackson PTA Vice President Mary Orley said Hladky helped plan the school’s holiday bazaar, in which new and gently used items were collected to give to Jackson families to be used as holiday gifts or for household needs.


“She asked her entire family—she has 16 siblings—for donations, and in the end her dining room was filled to the brim with goodies for our Jackson community,” Orley said.


-- Sarah VanBerkum, high school teacher of the year—VanBerkum teaches business and marketing at Craig High School. She advises students who run the school store, co-op students working in the Cougar Credit Union, and DECA Club.


“I believe strongly in learning by doing and bringing in current and relevant topics from the marketplace,” VanBerkum said.


“Sarah brings creativity, inspiration and relevance to her classes on a daily basis,” said Craig Principal Mike Kuehne.


VanBerkum revived the DECA Club, an association of marketing students, after it had been “almost non-existent at Craig,” Kuehne said.


VanBerkum was instrumental in setting up “Reality Check,” a program that taught students to manage home finances in a real-world simulation.


“The students enjoyed the ‘Reality Check’ simulation, but many were given a shocking wake-up call to how expensive the real world can be. Because of this experience, students were then able to discuss budgeting with a new understanding,” Craig parent Kathleen Clanfield said.


-- Cheryl Burri, co-support staff member of the year—Burri began working for the School District of Janesville as an aide to the School Aged Mothers program at Parker High School in 1986. In 1999, she transferred to the Rock River Charter School when the program, renamed SAPAR, moved to that school. She became that school’s head secretary in 2008.


“I would be lost without her. She has answers that no one else seems to have. She has a strong connection to others in the district and can always find the person I need to talk to. She has an amazing ability to take a situation and put it into perspective,” said Rock River Charter School Dean of Students Coleen Shaw.


“Cheryl has nurtured and cared for multiple generations of teen moms in the district. Many of the parents that we serve at the Rock River Charter School fondly remember Cheryl,” said Administrator Marge Hallenbeck.


“Her patience and willingness to explain things during my training has made my experience as a member of the Charter staff an absolute pleasure, said Patricia Surber, clerk at the school.


-- Rita Kettleson, co-support staff member of the year—Kettleson’s first job in the district was as an office clerk at Parker High School from 1976 to 1978. In 1984, she returned to Parker as the school’s receptionist. She became the principal’s secretary in 1987.


“Rita has served in this position through three principals, helping to bring consistency and experience during these times of transition,” said veteran social studies teacher Bruce Kerbel.


“She is exactly the type of person you would want to greet members of the community as they enter the principal’s office,” Kerbel said.


“Ms. Kettleson has excellent people skills which enable her to develop the ability to relate effectively with both students and staff,” said Thomas Heiss, technology engineering education teacher.


“She, in many ways, is the ‘go-to person’ whenever a question needs answering,” said English teacher Trygve Danielson.


-- Niel Bender, co-administrator of the year—Bender retired at the end of the last school year after 23 years with the district.


Bender taught grade school in Dubuque, Iowa, and was principal for two years in the Beloit Turner School District before becoming principal of Janesville’s Madison Elementary School in 1986.


Bender was named the district’s principal of the year in 1994. In 1997, he was selected as principal of the new elementary school that was to be built on the city’s northeast side, which later was named Kennedy.


Bender helped plan for the school’s construction and every facet of its educational program. Kennedy opened in 1999.


“Niel created a positive working climate and supported the professional staff to do what was needed for each child. He is highly respected as a principal,” according to a comment from a staff survey.


“The Kennedy staff and principal are always looking for different ways that children can learn. Great communication between school and parents,” a parent wrote on a parent survey.


-- Catherine “Kitty” Grant, co-administrator of the year—Grant joined the district in 1989 as principal of Adams Elementary School, a job she continues to hold.


Grant was named principal of the year in 1999. She serves on the district’s Communication Arts Committee and the Leadership Development Institute. She is credited for the “family” feeling at her school, which she continually refers to as “Awesome Adams School.”


“Our principal is very supportive in all areas—staff welfare to student welfare. She is a caring, sincere and nurturing person,” according to a comment on a staff survey. “She is also firm but conveys her discipline always with the best interest of student improvement in both academics and behavior.”


“Everything is perfect at Adams School,” a parent wrote in a survey. “Mrs. Grant has a passion for students, families and the staff. Adams School makes learning fun and meaningful.”



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