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Winners of the Exceptional Teachers Contest

School and teaching look different these days, but we know educators are continuing to serve their students the best way they can. For Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8), we asked teachers to nominate their co-workers who have gone above and beyond for their students during these challenging times for the Exceptional Teachers Contest.

We encourage you to reach out to any educators you know and thank them for their continuous, tireless work in our schools for our kids and communities. They’re an invaluable resource and we cannot thank them enough for all they do. We received dozens of remarkable nominations – all of which were worthy of mention, but we selected ten winners for the contest that are shining examples of the hard work being done. We hooked them up with an EatStreet gift card as a small gesture to show appreciation for all they do. Read about the winners and a snippet of the incredible work they’re doing!

Nicholas Welton

School: Midvale Elementary
City: Madison, WI

“Nick is the kind of teacher that anyone would want their child to have and who is an honor to work with. His compassion for students is contagious. He goes out of his way to celebrate their successes and support them when life is hard. Nick volunteers his time to help families, work with the parent/teacher organization, and the teacher’s union. His support stretches way beyond the children and families he teaches. Nick is the most supportive colleague I have ever worked with. He will pick up any load before you even tell him it’s too heavy to carry alone. He will bring coffee when you’ve had a rough week and will always make you feel like you are special and important. Being his teammate means always knowing he has your back and all students will be treated with warmness and care. He is an exceptional teacher, colleague, friend, and community member.”

Mitch Peskie

School: Oakwood Elementary
City: Oshkosh, WI

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“Mr. Peskie is a first-year teacher in a pandemic. This teaching environment gives even the most experienced teachers a run for their money, but he has focused on what matters the most with his students–strong relationships. He hosts a workout each morning for his students to help them stay active (and some mornings it is a “mental workout” to keep their mind active as well). He meets with his students throughout the week in live video chats where they discuss books he is reading out loud to them and have math time where they work through challenging math problems together. Through this challenging time, he has used his sense of humor and his connection with his students to keep them feeling connected to each other and school. His students absolutely love him and he works hard to create engaging lessons for them. I know he is spending a lot more time on schoolwork than the normal hours. He definitely deserves a lot more than a free dinner, but not cooking for a night would be a nice perk for a hardworking first-year teacher.”

Debbi Roh

School: Southern Bluffs Elementary
City: La Crosse, WI

“Mrs. Roh has been going above and beyond all year, but especially during the unexpected closing of our schools. She has been available to her students all day long and corresponds with our daughter several times per day. She posts daily videos of her reading aloud to her students and even painted special rocks and dropped them off at each student’s house. When our daughter needed more challenging work in math, she immediately found additional resources and sent them out. She has been a fierce advocate to get technology into the hands of all of her students to level the playing field for all children. We appreciate all of your hard work, Mrs. Roh!”

Melissa Smith

School: McCarter Elementary
City: Topeka, KS

“Mrs. Smith is an amazing teacher. When you walk in her class you can feel from the students they are loved, safe, and cared about. Mrs. Smith is always telling her students how much she loves them and how proud of them. She has her students work as a team and everybody helps each other. The students always know that if they need to talk to someone about a problem they can go to Mrs. Smith. If you don’t know her you should, she is very nice and fun to be around.”

Kelsey Felsman

School: Creekside Elementary
City: Sun Prairie, WI

Kelsey is in her first year as a special education teacher at Creekside. Special education teachers are a special breed who believes that everyone needs their opportunity and in life sometimes adults are affording the OPPORTUNITY to unlock just what it is that a student needs in order to be successful. Kelsey works tirelessly on building and maintaining a positive connection with her students. She adjusts her instructional planning to better meet their needs, thinks on her feet, and problem-solves about a million times a day. When schools closed due to COVID-19, our entire special education department was really struggling to find ways to support students from a distance, but Kelsey rose from that chaos by leaning on what she does best… connecting with students in a very personal way. Kelsey currently spends hours and hours on Zoom with her students every day making sure they know they are loved and thought of and that she is there to help them to continue to build their academic skills. Kelsey was supposed to be in Italy for an amazing trip planned by her boyfriend right when everything shut down. A free dinner (or two) from EatStreet wouldn’t be the same, but it sure would show her that the work she’s doing to support students on a daily basis even in the middle of a global pandemic sure is appreciated!”

Alyssa Cruickshank

School: All Lawrence Public Schools
City: Lawrence, KS

“Alyssa is a teacher for both students with visual impairments and hearing impairments. As you can imagine, transitioning to online learning is particularly difficult for students who rely heavily on their teachers to access their education. Alyssa typically goes “above and beyond” during “normal” operation, but the pandemic has her on a whole new level. She has worked tirelessly to assure that the special education students under her watch are not forgotten. Students who have gone from receiving daily (if not hourly) support are thrust into a situation they must navigate alone. I have, over the past weeks, checked in with her. only to find that she is voluntarily converting online assignments to braille, at home. She has scrambled to provide tactile materials to blind students and modified curriculum for students with hearing impairments. These are things that administrators did not expect of her and she would never “toot her own horn” about. There isn’t a better example of what it looks like to be an exceptional teacher.”

Sasha Jacobson

School: Lake View Elementary
City: Madison, WI

Ms. Jacobson is a hard-working teacher that goes over and beyond in every aspect of the job. She truly cares about each student succeeding and pushes each kid to be their absolute best. She builds a unique relationship with each and every one of her kids that helps them succeed. During the Covid-19 crisis, she took the time to handwrite each student’s letters and delivered them to their respective houses along with their beanie babies that each child had at school for one of her activities. Ms. Jacobson is a leader by example and is a true inspiration for not only her students but the Lake View community.”

Andrew Britton

School: West High School
City: Oshkosh, WI

“He is without a doubt the most dedicated teacher at West. He comes to school early to do 6am review sessions and stays late. I’ve frequently seen him in his classroom working on Saturdays. He has every day of class planned out and does not allow any student to fail. He’s the hardest worker I have ever met and the most dedicated teacher I’ve ever had in my 13 years of schooling.”

Sarah Graves

School: Lincoln Elementary
City: Janesville, WI

Miss Graves has always gone above and beyond for our children. Since school has closed, she created a Facebook page for her class and reads them a story almost every. single. night. On top of that, she stopped by every student’s house to drop off a goodie bag and say hi (from a safe distance, of course). She started a pen pal program so they can keep and touch. She goes above and beyond, every single day and it’s so amazing how she connects with each and every child she comes in contact with. For lack of a better word…she is a Saint. And she deserves all of the good things in this world!”

Abbie Perez

School: Aldrich Elementary
City: Cedar Falls, IA

“It is obvious that Abbie Perez truly cares about and loves her students! She is working so hard to provide learning opportunities and stay connected with all of her students during this time. Very soon after it was announced that schools would not be returning after our scheduled spring break, Ms. Perez put together a package for each student that she sent through the postal service. It included items such as an eraser, a name tag, writing papers assembled into books, etc. She included a letter to her students, and she has since written my son two more hand-written letters that she sent in the mail. She calls all 25 families each week to talk to the parents and kids. She responds to all students’ work whenever submitted online, and she is always encouraging. We love Ms. Perez!!”