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Janesville students give teachers kudos

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 31, 2010
— Four college students reminded their former teachers Monday of just how important teachers can be.

The four spoke to an assembly of district employees at the annual back-to-school meeting Monday morning at Craig High School.


All four talked about turning points in their lives, when teachers showed them a glimmer of what they could become.


Kendra Fierro spoke of coming from an abusive home. School was her refuge.


Many teachers helped her through her troubles, Fierro said. One in particular was Andrea Nickel:


“She helped me with everything. I would come to school and be in this awful mood, and she knew something was wrong so she’d come and talk to me about it,” even though Fierro might push her away.


“She never gave up on me, and that’s kind of what I like about teachers. You guys are really caring about your students, and we as students see that. We think it’s a little annoying at first, but as I got older, I was, like, they really care about me, so I really want to thank all of my teachers.”


Fierro and her three fellow speakers, Fabiola Fajardo, Daniel Jackson and Jesse Ramirez, all graduated from high school in Janesville, and all are going to college on Janesville Multicultural Teacher Opportunities Scholarships.


The privately funded scholarships pay much of the students’ college expenses in exchange for them becoming teachers and agreeing to work in Janesville.


Fajardo came to the United States seven years ago.


“I didn’t even know what ‘hello’ meant,” she said.


Fajardo credits Janesville teachers with her English fluency.


Fajardo recalled a turning point in U.S. history class with Parker High School teacher Steve Strieker.


A shy student, Fajardo rarely talked in class. But Strieker scheduled a talk about immigration, a topic that inspired Fajardo. She spoke up in class like never before.


Afterward, Strieker told her how proud he was of her.


“I had never felt so proud of myself for accomplishing something I was afraid of,” Fajardo said.


Whenever she thinks of becoming a teacher, Fajardo said, she thinks of how Strieker made her feel, “and I want to be that teacher, too.”


Jackson recalled a long list of teachers, going all the way back to elementary school.


“I was always a shy kid growing up—I still am—but they were always encouraging me, and I thank them for that,” Jackson said.


In high school, Jackson said English teacher Bonnie Braem noticed a talent:


“I wasn’t really confident in my abilities in writing. However, she thought I had some type of ability, and when I handed my papers in she would tell me how they were decent writings, I guess, and I really didn’t understand.”


But that encouragement followed him into college, where he did well on his papers, Jackson said.


Jackson, who is working as a special-education aide in the district, said the teachers he works with have become like second mothers to him.


“I’m very excited for this upcoming year. I don’t think the summer was going fast enough for me,” Jackson added.


Ramirez told of elementary teacher Heather Littlejohn, who would give his class spelling tests while costumed as an astronaut, a cowboy or an Olympic athlete.


“I was like, wow, she’s really having fun, and she’s a teacher?”


After the talk, the former students got to greet and hug their former teachers.


School for this year’s students starts Wednesday.


To help

A benefit for the Janesville Multicultural Teacher Opportunities Scholarship Fund, titled the “Blues and Other Colors Gala,” is scheduled from 3-6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Janesville Country Club, 2615 W. Memorial Drive, Janesville.


The event will feature a performance by the Eddie Butts Band. Donations of $50 for each attendee can be sent to Janesville School District offices at 527 S. Franklin St., Janesville, WI 53548, attention Karen Schulte, or to the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, 26 S. Jackson St., Janesville, WI 53548.



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