AASD Staff Recognition

AASD Staff Recognition
Posted on 09/03/2020
Each year our staff looks forward to our annual “Welcome Back” event as a kick-off to the new school year.

This year we were unable to host it in person, but we still wanted to highlight our award-winning staff! We worked with our school principals to surprise them at their school the week before school began.

Dr. Baseman presented them with their plaque and we invited their colleagues to join in the surprise celebration.

We are so proud of this year's winners!

Elementary Mielke Educator of the Year Award for 2019-20
Lori Bjelde, Edison Elementary School
Special Education/Early Childhood Teacher

Lori Bjelde

Lori was nominated by Community Representative Anna Simeth who volunteered and partnered alongside Lori for Edison’s Family Dinner Nights. The ultimate goal of the Family Dinner Night is to bring families together to spend quality time learning about healthy eating habits while preparing, cooking, and eating a meal together, as a family. Mrs. Simeth, along with other community members shared that “Lori’s drive, commitment, and desire to make a lasting impact for children in our community is admirable. It has been an honor for us to partner with Lori and be involved with the Family Dinner Night program.”

Lori’s philosophy includes the following:

“A successful educator needs to be understanding and compassionate and motivated and inspired to gain student trust. When a child feels safe and welcome to explore, learning will occur. All students are unique, learning at their own pace. Educators need to know their students and families so they can appropriately build relationships, guide young learners, give support, and build confidence.”

A parent shared a letter thanking Lori for everything she has done for her son. Her son was so excited to go to school every day just to see Mrs. Bjelde. She added that Mrs. Bjelde takes the time to get to know all of her students and families and that her son refers to Mrs. Bjelde as “his best friend.”

Nominators go on to say that Lori’s contributions go beyond the classroom. She has mentored 22 student teachers over the years, recruits volunteers, builds community partnerships, and seeks out grants and donations to support educational initiatives in our district, not only for Family Dinner Night, but for other classroom, school and community initiatives.

Because of Lori’s many outstanding contributions to students, parents, colleagues, volunteers, and community partners, she is so very deserving of this prestigious award, the 2019-2020 Mielke Family Educator of the Year Award!

Secondary Mielke Educator of the Year Award for 2019-20
Steven DeMay, Valley New School Advisor

Steve DeMay

Over 20 years ago, Steve, along with 2 other educators, “embarked on an adventure of a lifetime” as the co-founder of Valley New School, a charter school in the Appleton Area School District, which focuses on project- based learning for students in grades 7-12. 

One of Steve’s VNS team members, Nicole Luedtke, indicates that she most admires Steve’s devotion. “He is passionately focused on his family, students, and Valley New School. Daily he listens thoughtfully, reflects on what is really needed, and respectfully assists others. Students embrace Mr. DeMay, seek out his advice and guidance. He is the pillar of reliability at VNS, always providing the presence, preparedness, leadership, and time needed to make our school so great.”

Steve’s philosophy includes the following:  “I work to model responsibility with kids and earn their trust. Valley New School allows me to view kids holistically in order to build long-term supportive relationships with them. 

A former student of Valley New School, now a successful community member, indicated the following:  “I dreamed of attending a pre-college program at Barnard University in New York City. Mr. DeMay was a constant source of support, the adult in my life that regularly demonstrated concern for my education and wellbeing. Now as an adult, I marvel that ‘16-year-old me’ was brave enough to chase this big dream that changed the course of my life. I know that I only could have taken the risk because of the support and encouragement from Mr. DeMay.”

A community member shared that Mr. DeMay encourages his students to contribute significant volunteer time to local nonprofits and makes sure they explore life outside the school building. He connects students to community members so they can pursue internships and job shadow opportunities. 

Because of Steve’s many outstanding contributions to students, parents, colleagues, volunteers, and community and national partners, he is so very deserving of this prestigious award, the 2019-2020 Mielke Family Educator of the Year Award!

Congratulations Steve!

Dillon Award for 2019-20 
Jake Larsh, Appleton West Social Studies Teacher

Jake Larsh

Jake Larsh struggled during his teenage years. He has used this experience to work with students at risk at West. He has had an incredibly positive impact on West students and staff since then. A few years ago he was instrumental in the creation of Discovery Corp. He worked to select groups of youth, trained, collaborated, and supported the creation of a peer-to-peer mentoring program that promotes mental emotional physical, and spiritual health in our school community. He has worked hand-in-hand with Rise Together to write a new curriculum that will better meet the needs of youth in the Midwest.

One of Jake’s West and Discovery Corp colleagues, Christy deBoer, indicates that "Jake goes above and beyond with all students. he listens is kind relatable non-judgemental and often is just the trusted adult a student needs. During the COVID closure, he continued to Google Meet with students to keep Discovery Corp active in reaching out, listening, and helping other students seeking support and a sense of wellness in a difficult and uncertain time. Jake was tireless in pulling together resources, listening, and talking with our students. He is one in a million in the West community is so fortunate to have him leading a better way."

A West administrator says that Jake Larsh "screams the Dillon Award. When this award was established it was with teachers just like him in mind."

A former West student indicated the following: "Larsh has been an irreplaceable stepping stone and catalyst into me becoming the person I am. Joining Discovery Corps has put me in the healthiest state of mind that I have ever been and it has empowered me to help others which is what I've always wanted. He is a mentor, friend, and father figure in my life at least that is how I see him and I know how many others see him. Jake Larsh is not only a great mentor but a great friend."

Another former student said that "My  Senior year I had a lot of bumps in the road and at first I didn't know who to talk to until I met Larsh. He created such a caring and loving environment not just for me but for every student his room was a safe space for kids to feel protected and heard. He pushed me every step of the way to make sure I graduated. I might not have been able to do it without his constant support."

Because of Jake’s many outstanding contributions to students, parents, colleagues, volunteers, and community and national partners, he is so very deserving of this prestigious award, the 2019-20 Dillon Award!

Congratulations Jake!

AEA Friend of Education Award for 2019-20
Cathy Schulze, McKinley Elementary
Nominated by Edison, Columbus, and McKinley staff members

Cathy Schulze


AASA Friend of Education Award Winner for 2019-20
Diane Barkmeier, former Board of Education member

Diane Barkmeier

This year's 30 year pin recipients:
Mark Leschke
Michele Tabak
Lori Adams
Laurie Burns
Judith Hoeft
Mary Huebner
Lori Kruepke
Paula Meyer
Patricia Murphy
Scott Niquette
Wendy Pitts
Jane Savatski
Lynn Schadrie
Thomas Wanamaker
Sara Wilda
Lynae Wolfgram
Sarah Wright
Vicki Zipperer