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Local Teacher Shows Others How to Use the Iditarod as Teaching Tool

RELEASED: Dec. 8, 2005

Terrie HankeEAU CLAIRE — Even though the next Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska isn't until March, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumna Terrie Hanke has been planning for the race for months after being chosen as the Wells Fargo 2006 Teacher on the Trail. Hanke was notified that she'd been chosen for the national honor in April 2005.

Being a WFTOTT is a yearlong commitment. At the beginning of every month, Hanke posts lesson plans and journal entries on the Iditarod Web site that focus on using lessons or skills learned from the Iditarod. The lessons posted are standards-driven to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

When creating these lessons, Hanke uses the theme of the Iditarod as a tool to deliver the standards-driven curriculum and to enhance teaching and learning, said Diane Johnson, WFTOTT coordinator.

"One of the exciting aspects in Terrie's teaching is her dedication to meeting the educational needs of the student," Johnson said. "Although Iditarod is a fun and amazing concept to learn about, the focus of the fun activities are the skills that students need to learn. Terrie knows how to balance all of those standards with the activities so that educators can use the Iditarod as an educational tool within their existing curriculum."

Hanke, a physical education teacher and golf coach at North High School, her alma mater in Eau Claire, said she has been able to use the Iditarod as a vehicle to teach kids because they need a reason to learn.

"Kids don't just practice what they learn, you need to give them something to practice with those standards," Hanke said. "For some it's their love of dogs and others love the outdoor aspect of the Iditarod. But whatever it is, the kids have something to be interested in with Iditarod themed lessons."

Hanke said that she even uses some of her lessons with her athletes.

"Some of the motivational lessons I have initiated with my golf team, including the eight traits of Iditarod, which gives a motivational word for each of the eight letters in Iditarod," Hanke said. For example, in Hanke's eight traits of Iditarod, I stands for innovation, D stands for diligence, and I stands for integrity. Each month the new trait is explained in her monthly journal posting.

In addition to the lessons she posts for all subject areas, Hanke visits classrooms to explain her role in the Iditarod. She will continue to do so until the 2007 WFTOTT is chosen.

"Within two days of being chosen as the Teacher on the Trail, I was going into classrooms, sharing my activities," said Hanke. "Coming up, I will be visiting Madison area schools, Manz Elementary School, Sam Davey Elementary School and will also do a video IP at Sherman Elementary School, which will be shown at schools throughout Wisconsin and Tennessee."

Hanke's initial interest in mushing began after handling sled dogs for a friend at Just Guts Kennel east of Eau Claire. When her friend is out of town, Hanke feeds and cleans up after the dogs.

Hanke said that she has been fortunate to run with the dogs on training runs and also has made a trip to the boundary waters for an extended mushing trip.

When Hanke began looking at the Iditarod Web site for pictures of the 2003 race, she noticed a WFTOTT application. Hanke sent for the application but decided not to apply that year. Instead, she attended the Iditarod's Professional Development Conference for Teachers that summer and took away useful information for working with her athletes.

The next year, when Hanke returned to the summer conference to present how she used the themes of the Iditarod with her golf athletes, she was encouraged to apply for the WFTOTT by a former Teacher on the Trail.

Once Hanke felt more confident about using the Iditarod as an instructional theme, she decided to tackle the application and apply for the 2006 position.

She spent a lot of time on the application and was asked to travel to Alaska to participate in a hands-on interview process with three other finalists considered for the WFTOTT.

"The highlight of being a finalist was participating in the Iditarod restart race in Willow, Alaska, in March 2005," Hanke said, "During the restart I was a handler for four different teams as they made their way to the starting line."

As WFTOTT for the 2006 Iditarod race, Hanke will participate in the race's events by speaking at the winter conference prior to the race in March, traveling in the Iditarod Air Force plane to the different checkpoints along the race trail, journaling about her experience during the Iditarod for students and educators, and visiting classrooms along the Alaskan trail with her prepared lessons to show educators how to incorporate the Iditarod into teaching.

"I am most looking forward to the awesome cultural experience in the villages along the Iditarod trail," Hanke said. "These villages you can only access by boat or plane, and that will be amazing."

Hanke is also excited about being at the checkpoints with the mushers and dogs throughout the Iditarod, enabling her to see the actual care procedures.

"It will be really eye opening, because with pictures on the Iditarod Web site you don't get a flavor of how intense the work is to care for the dogs and also the tremendous organization that it takes to put on the race," Hanke said. "In seeing the preparation and planning, I'll be able to say 'Wow, that's huge.'"

Hanke received her master of education in professional development degree from UW-Eau Claire in 1986, in addition to her driver education certification from UW-Stout in 1998 and her physical education undergraduate degree from UW-La Crosse.

Hanke said she learned many things in her master's program that have been beneficial for her experience as the Iditarod's WFTOTT.

"I received my MEPD degree in 1986, and at that point I took a boatload of computer classes, so my UW-Eau Claire education was the basis of my computer knowledge," Hanke said. "With the Teacher on the Trail program, I used my computer skills to write lessons about technology spreadsheets. I also learned the basic principles of lesson design at UW-Eau Claire, so I'm now able to write lessons in areas I am unfamiliar with such as English, math and science.”

The MEPD program at UW-Eau Claire was excellent, Hanke said, noting that it helped her consider the educational possibilities in all aspects of her life, not just in the gymnasium.

Students and educators can view Hanke's posted lessons and journal writings, as well as follow her along the Iditarod trail in March by going online.



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