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Yet another alumnus named Top Notch Teacher!

August Top Notch Teacher:
Longfellow Middle School’s
Julia Vradenburg

This past year of education has been difficult for students and teachers alike. Julia Vradenburg, a sixth grade teacher at Longfellow Middle School, hopes kids forge connections in school that keep them coming back for more.

Vradenburg always had a heart for education. At an early age, her grandma told her she should be a teacher.

“I loved all my teachers. I loved school growing up. I loved my teachers, and school,” Vradenburg said.

Now, as a teacher, she hopes to do the same for her students. But she and her students navigated online and hybrid classes this past year, it was harder for Vradenburg to forge connections.

“It’s hard to sometimes form relationships that way because it’s not natural, and I mean everyone that’s been on a zoom call knows: It can be awkward,” Vradenburg said.

After spending the first half of the school year online, returning to the classroom was beneficial for her and the kids.

“It’s so great having the kids come in every day,” Vradenburg said. “They are doing such a great job of wearing their masks and staying apart and really trying their best because they want to be here, too.”

Watch the story video here...


Vradenburg primarily teaches English and social studies. Her favorite part of teaching is instilling a love of reading in her students. However, she knows those lessons aren’t the only reason kids come to school.

“A lot of kids, unfortunately, they aren’t coming to my class to learn about this awesome lesson that I have planned about Latin America. They’re coming because they want to see their friends, they want to see their teachers. They want that relationship piece.”

She hopes that those relationships will be what gets kids to stay for the lessons.

“They just bring a smile to my face every day,” she said.

Vradenburg has taught at Longfellow for five years.

 Notable Alumni 

Tina Miller

Tina Miller

The Association of Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA) has named Tina Miller the 2021 Wisconsin Elementary Principal of the Year.  “We are excited to announce Tina Miller as this year’s Elementary Principal of the Year, as her focus on equity and removing barriers to student learning has been truly impressive within the Howe school community,” said Jim Lynch, executive director of AWSA. “We are celebrating a school leader who understands the unique needs of students, staff and families, especially at a time when so many are facing enormous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tina’s ability to recognize and respond to the challenges in her community has made a real, positive impact in the lives of the people she serves.”  Read the entire article here.

Eric Pederson

Eric Pederson

Eric Pederson likens himself to a modern-day Mister Rogers and with his warm smile and welcoming persona, he just may be right. Pederson, a sixth-grade science teacher with the Sparta Area School District, was selected as a 2021 Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship recipient.

Fellowship recipients are educators who have been chosen for their superior ability to inspire a love of learning in their students, their ability to motivate others and their leadership and service both within and outside the classroom.

Congratulations Eric!  Read the entire article here.

Alumni wins Wisconsin Outstanding Biology Teacher Award

 Michelle Griffin-Wenzel recently was recognized as Wisconsin’s Outstanding Biology Teacher Award winner at the National Biology Teachers Association annual conference. Michelle is a graduate of the UWL ME-PD Learning Community program. 

Every year, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) program attempts to recognize an outstanding biology educator, in grades 7-12 only, in: each of the 50 states, Washington D.C., Canada, Puerto Rico, and overseas territories.

U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges

2019 UWL Graduate Student Academic Achievement Award  


Congratulations to Trent Rasmussen, who recently received the 2019 UWL Graduate Student Academic Achievement Award in recognition of his scholarly accomplishments. Trent is a recent graduate of our Director of Instruction and also the Educational Leadership programs.  Congratulations on your accomplishment!  Read more HERE!

More of Our ME-PD Students are Top Notch Teachers!

June 2019 Top Notch Teacher, Stacy Rasmussen, helps her students find a passion for reading and math. View More

ME-PD Alumna, Sarah Compton, Earns Milken Educator Award !

Compton’s student stock market project teaches critical thinking and economic concepts as students invest an imaginary nest egg and manage individual portfolios.  

Compton’s innovative work in the classroom hasn’t gone unnoticed. The 2011 graduate of UWL’s Master of Education-Professional Development program was presented the Milken Educator Award Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 during a surprise assembly at her school.  As the 2018-19 recipient of the national award, she received $25,000. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Wisconsin and is among the 33 honorees for 2018-19.

Compton says she frequently uses the strategies, resources, and best practices she learned about in her UWL Master of Education-Professional Development cohort in her fifth grade class.

“One thing that still resonates with me is how to incorporate student choice, which improves behavior, motivation and retention,” she says. “I use layered curriculum in reading, which empowers my students to choose their method of learning, their pacing, their collaborative partnerships, and their end product for assessment. Layered curriculum allows me to take on the role of a facilitator, while still making sure my students are working within our content standards.”

Professional Studies in Education Receives
2019 Most Affordable Online College Award

UWL - Institute for Professional Studies in Education is ranked by SR Education Group in the 2019 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Educational Leadership for the Master of Education - Professional Development Educational Leadership Emphasis program.

These rankings represent online schools across the nation that are making an effort to provide economical options for students. UWL's Professional Studies in Education made the rankings at 22nd for Master's Degrees in Educational Leadership! Great program at an affordable price.

UWL ME-PD Student Making a Difference in Her Spanish Class

One of our ME-PD students, Katie Beyer, Logan High School Spanish teacher, created for her students a full Spanish language immersion experience instead of just a trip to a foreign country. “It gives them opportunity to see the real world, real-lifeMake a difference.png application of their language use and how it's not just doing or learning something for test and checking it off the list,” said Beyer.  See more here. Video

UWL - ME-PD Alumni Named
Top Notch Teacher for January 2019!

Merranda Boardman loves teaching and likes to have her room student led. "If I am doing the most talking, who is really doing the most learning?" says Boardman.  She encourages the kids to do the talking and communicate with each other for that is how they learn.  Congrats Merranda on being chosen Top Notch Teacher for January 2019!  Video

UWL Educational Leadership Student Awarded Grant 

The Onalaska Education Foundation (OEF) announced UWL Educational Leadership student, Larry Swiggum of Northern Hills Elementary, as a recipient of one of the Claude Deck Innovative Grants for 2018.

The OEF looks for projects that are innovative and inspire students and teachers to achieve educational excellence; impact a variety of students and/or schools; are collaborative in nature; and meet educational objectives. Great job Larry!

Professional Studies in Education Receives
2019 Most Affordable Online College Award

UWL - Institute for Professional Studies in Education is ranked in the 2019 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Educational Leadership for the Master of Education - Professional Development Educational Leadership Emphasis program by SR Education Group!

These rankings represent online schools across the nation that are making an effort to provide economical options for students. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's Professional Studies in Education made the rankings at 22nd for Master's Degrees in Educational Leadership! Great programs at affordable prices.

2018 Fall For Education - La Crosse Tribune Article

Michele Borba - Empathy 
Michele Borba will be at our2018 Fall for Education Conference presenting on UnSelfie - Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World

UWL ME-PD Graduate Named March 2018 Top Notch Teacher

Congratulations to our ME-PD graduate, Larry Noll, for being named La Crosse area "Top Notch Teacher" for March.  Larry is a long time physical education teacher at Sparta High School and understands the importance of student relationship building, a key building block of our ME-PD program.   Keep up the wonderful work with your students Larry!  Read more

Christopher Gleason - ME-PD Alumni 2002

Congratulations to our ME-PD graduate, Christopher Gleason, for receiving the Burt and Norma Altman Teacher Education Award Instrumental Music Teacher, Patrick Marsh Middle School, Sun Prairie, since 2004. La Crosse Logan Middle School, 1999-2004; East Troy Middle School 1997-1999.

  • Founder, Kalahari Band Festival.
  • Semi-finalist for the 2017 Grammy Music Education Award; Wisconsin representative for National Teacher of the Year Award; Michael G. George Distinguished Service Award; Kohl Teacher Fellowship; Melvin F. Pontious Sparks in Music Education Award.
  • Masters of Education in Professional Development from UWL, May 2002

2017 Fall for Education Conference - WKBT News Article

The 20th annual "Fall for Education Conference" brings those working with children from preschool through 12th grade to La Crosse from across the state. The different breakout sessions are helping the attendees better understand, address and prevent the problems that many young people face. 

Full Article

Michelle Powell - Making a Difference - 2012 ME-PD Alumni

Congratulations UW-La Crosse ME-PD graduate, Michelle Powell, on being named July Top Notch Teacher!  In Powell's bustling classroom, the lesson of the day is one in community.   Read more about Michelle.... Top Notch Teacher

Jean Ruprecht - 2011 ME-PD Alumni

  • University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, College of Liberal Studies 2012 Excellence Award Recipient!

Jean is currently teaching 5th grade at State Road Elementary School in La Crosse, WI.  She has taught in La Crosse since 1996 and in Chicago for three years prior to that.  In 2008 she received a Top Notch Teacher Award and in 2011 she graduated with a Master of Professional Education Degree from UW-La Crosse.  The title of her Action Research Work is “Differentiating Instruction in 5th Grade Mathematics.”  For the past two years, Jean has combined the challenges of graduate school, a full time teaching job, and parenting sons Robert and Charles.  Billie Finco says that Jeanie’s passion for learning is rooted in a desire to see her own students achieve at the highest levels. 

Weston Glasbrenner - 2002 ME-PD Alumni

  • Recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching!

Katy Smith - 2003 ME-PD Alumni 

  • Minnesota Teacher of the Year 2011!

Read Article >

Bradley Markhardt - 2001 ME-PD Alumni

Markhardt meets with President Obama
Read Article >

2010 ME-PD Learning Community Conference - WKBT News

Watch Video >