The Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation in April announced its full list of 2022 recipients of the Golden Apple Award, a field of 22 educators and support staff that included 15 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduates.
The annual awards honor outstanding Eau Claire Area School District (ECASD) teachers or staff members from every school, plus one districtwide support role, for their exceptional service to students and families.
Dr. Carmen Manning, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, is proud of the outstanding representation of Blugolds among these deserving award recipients and understands that it speaks not only to the talented K-12 educators earning degrees at UW-Eau Claire, but also to the ways that the community works to attract graduates to remain in this district.
“The Golden Apple awards are all about recognizing excellence,” Manning says. “Going back to the original mission of the Eau Claire State Normal School and Teachers College, the advancement of teacher education and overall excellence in education has been at the core.
“For over a century we have continued to educate high-quality teachers and school professionals at UW-Eau Claire, and they are out in our local schools and districts in impressive numbers, embodying our standards of quality and innovation in education.
“In these times, maybe more than ever, it is important to recognize excellence and affirm the value, the high-level public good, that our graduates are delivering in K-12 education. I extend my sincere congratulations to our graduates who have been honored with a Golden Apple award; we are so proud that they are continuing the tradition of Blugolds going above and beyond in educating students.”
For Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation chair Jim McDougall, being able to recognize so many UW-Eau Claire degree holders is especially satisfying as it affirms the value of continued collaboration and mutual support between the two community pillars of public education.
“We created the Golden Apple awards to offer thanks and recognition to those working in our school district, dedicated professionals thinking creatively about how they can help our children grow and learn,” McDougall says.
“It's a pleasure to see so many UWEC alumni recognized this year. The relationship between UW-Eau Claire and the Eau Claire Area School District is vital to both — these two organizations foster one another’s growth through collaboration and creating opportunities for new graduates. The Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation is proud to play any role we can in growing this relationship."
Michael Johnson, a Blugold alumnus and superintendent of the Eau Claire Area School District, says that while he is always pleased to recognize standout educators with the Golden Apple awards, he is also proud to see so many fellow Blugolds earn this district recognition for 2022.
“As a Blugold alumnus, I am extremely proud of the university’s “Excellence in Education” mission. The Eau Claire Area School District shares that mission of high-quality teaching and service to students and families,” Johnson says.
“We are so thankful for these award winners and their impact on our system and school district community. These recognitions are so important during the most difficult and challenging time in education. We are also proud of our partnership with UW-Eau Claire, its alumni from the Teacher Education Program, and how these special staff members promote excellence in the Eau Claire Area School District.”
Talented and grateful Blugolds
The last two years in teaching have been nearly universally described at the most difficult times in educators’ careers, so receiving this district recognition has been especially meaningful for recipients.
Several of the Blugold recipients shared their thoughts about their Golden Apple Award and their connections to UW-Eau Claire.
Sarah Duerre, ’01, master of education in professional development; special education teacher at Longfellow Elementary School.
“Earning my master's degree at UW-Eau Claire was a completely different experience than getting my undergraduate degree at UW-Madison,” Duerre says.
“The professors and instructors that I had the privilege of working with really took the time to understand what my future goals were and then designed a program to help me achieve them. I'm so grateful that I made the decision to pursue my master's degree at UW-Eau Claire.”
Maddy Blaser, ’17, bachelor of science in elementary and early adolescence education; fourth and fifth grade teacher at Chippewa Valley Montessori School.
“This award means so much to me, especially in the middle of such challenges in education,” Blaser says. “There are days that you feel like you aren't doing enough for the kids even though all educators are truly doing more than we've ever been asked to do. Recognition offers a sense of validation and I really hope all teachers feel the importance of their impact right now.
“My UW-Eau Claire student teaching placement is what led me to the position I have now at Chippewa Valley Montessori. It offered a unique opportunity to experience the strong connections between UWEC, ECASD and the community — that connection is one of the things I love most about Eau Claire.”
Amber Dernbach, ’94, bachelor of arts in theater performance with a minor in teaching English to speakers of other languages; theater teacher at Memorial High School; University Honors instructor at UW-Eau Claire, course titled “Documentary Theatre.”
“Working with the University Honors program, in addition to teaching for ECASD, has given my university students a chance to learn the Eau Claire community on a different level,” Dernbach says. “Each week I leave my UWEC course inspired with new ways I can foster the connection between my high school students and UWEC. My continued relationship with UWEC is a win-win for both schools; more of my high school students are considering attending UWEC than in the past.
“I’m not at all surprised to see so many fellow Blugolds on the Golden Apple list. Long before the “Power of AND” slogan was developed, UW-Eau Claire fostered in students the desire and ability to pursue many skills and passions. And one of the reasons so many of us stay in Eau Claire to teach is strong connections to the community that UW-Eau Claire helps students develop.”
All Blugold 2022 Golden Apple recipients
- Maddy Blaser, ’17, bachelor of science in elementary and middle school education; fourth and fifth grade teacher at Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School.
- Angela Berg, first grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School.
- Amber Dernbach, ’94, bachelor of arts in theater performance; theater teacher at Memorial High School.
- Sarah Duerre, ’01, master of education in professional development; special education teacher at Longfellow Elementary School.
- Jim Ivory, ’09, bachelor of science in geography; special education teacher at DeLong Middle School.
- Alan Hudacek, ’85, bachelor of science in physical education teaching; physical education teacher at Robbins Elementary.
- Bob Johnson, ’05, master of education in professional development; physical education teacher at Locust Lane Elementary School.
- Joe Lilek, ’12, bachelor of science in social studies education; social studies and economics teacher at North High School.
- Kelsey Maki, ’17, bachelor of science in elementary and middle school education; third grade teacher at Manz Elementary School.
- Meta Miske, ’07, bachelor of arts in music; human resources generalist for the Eau Claire Area School District Office.
- Lori Olsen, ’90 bachelor of arts in music; ’95 master of education in professional development; band teacher at South Middle School.
- Charlie Rohlik, ’06, bachelor of science in elementary and middle school education; science teacher at Northstar Middle School.
- Liz Walsh, ’91, bachelor of science in elementary and music education; first grade teacher at Northwoods Elementary School.
- Pamela Woletz, ’85, bachelor of science in elementary education; interventionist at Sam Davey Elementary School.
- Angie Yates, ’95, bachelor of science in communication disorders teaching; speech-language pathologist at Prairie Ridge Learning Center.
The full April 1 Golden Apple awards announcement can be found on the Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation website, and videos of individual award presentations can be viewed on the WEAU-TV 13 website.