Teacher of Year Finalists

WINGS Teacher of the Year to Be Announced at Hall of Honor
Posted on 09/27/2018
Teacher of the Year FinalistsThe WINGS Educational Foundation’s Teacher of the Year winner from the School District of Washington will be announced at the WINGS Hall of Honor Gala on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Elks Lodge in Washington, 1459 W. Fifth Street.

Click on the links below for videos on each of the finalists.

The six Teacher of the Year finalists are:

Cody Stapel - Special Education teacher at Washington West Elementary.

Dan Brinkmann – Automotive Technology teacher at Four Rivers Career Center.

Melissa Ziegler - Science teacher at Washington Middle School.

Tim Branson - No Excuses teacher at Washington High School.

Heather Clark
- Counselor at South Point Elementary.

Jennifer Maune - Third grade teacher at Augusta Elementary.

Cody Stapel: Special Education Teacher at Washington West Elementary

Cody Stapel

This is Cody’s third year with the SDOW and sixth year in education overall. He’s been a special education teacher since joining the district, facilitating the BASE program to help students with emotional disturbance diagnosis with improving behavior and emotional regulation skills. He will graduate in December with his Masters in K-8 administration.

Cody has a special place in his heart for students. It is with open arms that he welcomes each student and parent into the behavior program that he has developed and leads. He has given up days off to visit and research schools out of district, worked countless hours to develop protocols, procedures, and strategies for all stakeholders.

Cody has a philosophy that even the toughest students deserve a chance to be a student to learn and participate in all activities despite their behaviors and backgrounds. He has established strong relationships with students and parents.

Cody brings in the community to help teach and facilitate functional skills for students and to help provide experiences that many students may not get. He seeks out additional training to bring back to his team. He is a leader that teachers seek out for help with strategies for other students.

Cody works continuously while pursuing an administration degree and raising his one year old son with his wife, Michelle.

Cody also works at the Knights of Columbus in town and for an at-risk middle school program at the YMCA.

He chose to become a teacher to make an impact for kids who have unique needs.

“I believe my patience and flexibility allow me to create a successful atmosphere for our special students to succeed and feel accepted,” Cody says. “I am lucky to have a great team at Washington West to help build a supportive foundation for my students and a positive atmosphere to encourage improvement.”

Dan Brinkmann: Automotive Technology Teacher at Four Rivers Career Center

Dan Brinkmann

Dan is in his 15th year teaching Automotive technology for the School District of Washington. He’s involved with Dr. Judy Straatmann’s Academic Innovation Planning Team, and he’s also involved with the annual Parade of Lights in Downtown Washington, helping his students build their float.

Dan got into teaching after first being approached by his fellow Auto Tech instructor Gary Maune, who asked Dan to consider being a teacher. At first, he was not convinced, but after some serious thought, he turned in an application. It was after a heart to heart talk with his former Auto Tech instructor, Mr. Robert Barbarick, that he decided to make the move.

According to Dan, Barbarick told him that his best qualification was just being a dumb old country boy, like he was. If a dumb old country boy like him could change lives and have an impact on young people, then he had a new calling in this world.

“He set the bar high for me,” Dan says. “I don’t want to let him down.”

Along with Dan's regular classroom schedule, he also started and facilitates the Night Shift program at Four Rivers Career Center.

It is a voluntary, extra-curricular activity where students earn their way into the program. To participate in Night Shift, the students must maintain good grades, excellent attendance, and they cannot make poor life choices. The students involved in the program learn leadership, responsibility, communication skills, how to cook, and other life lessons. They also learn mechanical skills with tractors, and other motor vehicles.

“These students are learning valuable life skills that are preparing them for life after high school,” says Dan, who believes strongly in this program, and volunteers his time each week so those students can benefit from this program.

Dan knows how to gently nudge his students out of their comfort zones to perfect skills that may have intimidated them at the beginning of the class. The community is also benefitting from Dan's efforts, as students go on to work at some of our local industries. Dan loves what he does! He loves watching students gain confidence and skills as they go through the Night Shift program. He is making a difference in the lives of his students, while giving back to the community at the same time.

Dr. Jennifer Maune: Third Grade Teacher at Augusta Elementary

Jennifer Maune

Jennifer is in her seventh year with the SDOW and 15th year in education overall. She’s taught first and third grade, and has been a cohort facilitator. She’s served on Dr. Lori VanLeer’s C-SIP Team, Dr. Judy Straatmann’s Academic C-SIP team, Pathway for Teachers, and Building leadership Team.

When you walk in Jennifer’s classroom, you will find a classroom buzzing with students learning. Much of the time they are engaged in their learning through one of the many Kagan strategies that she incorporates throughout her lessons.

Students might be part of a Problem Based Learning Project where they are actively working together as part of a team to solve a problem or create a project to share with the rest of the class. She works hard to create a classroom where students can feel comfortable and accepted for who they are and for their learning styles.

Jennifer recently completed her doctorate dissertation. She is always growing professionally. She keeps an open mind and is willing to try new ideas. Even though she has a wealth of knowledge, she is constantly asking others for advice and ideas. She is willing to serve on many committees striving to make education better for everyone.

She works hard to keep a balance between home and school. She often shares her busy evening schedule with others as she rushes out the door at the end of the day. Amazingly, she manages to get things done. She plays an active role in her own children’s lives as she helps coach many of their teams. She also serves as a school board member at St. Vincent School.

She establishes good rapport with students, staff and parents. She is a voice and cheerleader for her students. She treats her students with respect while at the same time not letting down her expectations for them. She is an asset to Augusta Elementary and the future of education.

“I chose to become a teacher because I believe that I have the ability to teach others in variety of ways that help them learn,” says Jennifer. “All students are capable of learning, and I have the awesome responsibility of helping them discover their passions and abilities. I want students to know that I will always be on their team to support them.”

Dr. Heather Clark: Counselor at South Point Elementary

Heather Clark

Heather is in her sixth year with the SDOW as an Elementary School Counselor and 12th year in education overall. She’s been a part of the Positive Behavior Intervention Support Committee and the Health and Well-Being Strategic Planning Team.

Heather is the person at South Point Elementary that staff and students turn to for compassion, understanding and empathy. She counsels not only students, but the staff as well. When there is a situation within the community, she is the first to help. Dr. Clark has implemented a Student Success room in the building. This allows students a quiet place to work, a place to take a break when needed, or a place to meet with her to work through a situation; whatever they need to be successful in the classroom.

Heather has created an inviting atmosphere, which is relaxing and calming. She uses the Zones of Regulation to teach students tools for regulating their emotions and behaviors giving them tools to return to a regulated state and return to the classroom to be successful.

Dr. Clark is a critical member of the building PBS team. She provides Check in and Check Out services for students, which are meeting with students at the beginning and end of the day to review goals. She was also instrumental in organizing the school’s Problem Solving Team, which meets monthly with teachers to discuss behavior and academic needs of students where the team problem solves ideas for interventions to use.

She is the coordinator of all 504's in the building, does suicide or threat screenings, and is instrumental in helping families obtain resources available for needed services within the community.

Dr. Clark is currently coordinating the implementation of Ready Bodies, Learning Minds next school year. She is always researching and attending trainings to help students be successful in school. She is also the person to call when an animal rescue is needed. She has a bleeding heart for animals and people in need.

Heather chose to get into education as an Elementary Counselor because of her love of learning and her desire to motivate people, which made her passionate about wanting to teach and counsel.

Melissa Ziegler: Washington Middle School Science Teacher

Melissa Ziegler

Melissa is in her 17th year with the SDOW and 20th year in education overall. She’s taught in the elementary classroom and also served as full-time instructional coach and curriculum coordinator at the district office before returning to the classroom at the middle school in 2016.

Melissa has worked on the Strategic Planning Committee and the Achievement Innovation Team on the District level and the Science Curriculum Committee and the Positive Behavior Support Team on the Building level.

Melissa’s co-workers have been impressed by her dedication to student success and have learned from her teaching methods. She puts in hours of work outside of the "regular" school day. She is thorough in every lesson she creates and executes. She truly implements the 5 E method to fully engage her classes to make them come to their own conclusions about science phenomena. She is involved in numerous professional organizations.

Melissa is always finding ways to learn new strategies to better her own instruction for her students, whether it is by taking a course to gain knowledge for herself, researching best practices or getting creative with her own ideas and strategies in the classroom. She is the perfect example of a life-long learner and that is evident in everything that she does. She shares her passion of learning with her peers, always providing support and instructional strategies. She is a great teammate, admirable educator, and an asset to the middle school.

“Melissa has come on board, and in less than two years, has completely changed the culture of our science PLC and its teaching and collaboration methods,” says Middle School Principal Ron Millheiser. “She leads by example in all she does, and more importantly, is willing to share her vast knowledge. We can also see a shift in the data of our Science QA scores, as kids are scoring better on more rigorous exams in both grade levels.”

Melissa said she originally considered becoming a teacher because it was a profession that several people she admired suggested when she was "undecided”….She’s still a teacher because she loves being a part of the daily struggles and successes of each student in and out of the classroom. She enjoys the fast-paced, critical decision-making that defines education.

Tim Branson: Washington High School No Excuses Director

Tim Branson

Tim has been in education for 22 years. He’s been with the School District of Washington for 13 years, all as the No Excuses Director. He’s been involved in the Care Team, the Achievement Planning Team, and the Restorative Practices Committee.

In the classroom, Tim creates an engaging environment for his students and is constantly trying to find ways to keep them motivated to learn by going beyond the text book. He creates games and activities where students are inspired and motivated. He brings in outside materials that are history related to generate interest in his lessons. He asks kids questions, listens to their opinions, and truly engages them in conversations about current events each and every day.

Tim teacher works with a special group of students that need guidance, love, compassion and boundaries. These students often do not have this in their home lives. He has taken the time to get to know each student individually, help them set personal goals, and uses every spare minute he has to make sure they are staying on track.

He is responsible for countless students’ success that would otherwise have fallen through the cracks. He acts like a father figure to his students. It’s hard to get some kids to be respectful to adults and feel like they should “care” about school when they have difficult home lives. Tim gains the students trust and respect very early on and gives them something to hope for, believe in, and know that when they come to school, someone cares about them.

This is not an act, but the true nature of Tim. The students know where they stand with him and he helps them learn boundaries. He does it with a stern, but compassionate nature. You can see the respect the students have for him in how they talk and interact with him on a daily basis. He has given food to kids countless times, and has tracked down clothing items for those in need. He runs an after school study hall every day for his kids and does it because it's what they need.

“I became a teacher because I love seeing the excitement of my students learning and becoming successful,” says Tim. “The biggest satisfaction is when students finally find their passion and start laying out their career path. One of the most rewarding parts of becoming a teacher is helping students break the cycle and write their own story.”

Teacher of the Year Finalists
Six finalists for the WINGS Educational Foundation’s Teacher of the Year from the School District of Washington were named last spring. The winner will be announced at the WINGS Hall of Honor Gala Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Elks Lodge in Washington. From left are finalists Dr. Jennifer Maune, Dan Brinkmann, Dr. Heather Clark, Tim Branson, Melissa Ziegler and Cody Stapel, and WINGS representatives Brad Mitchell and Bridget Phelps.