By Marie Perry
Communications Director for the School District of Belleville 

Students in Belleville Get "Lucky" With Teaching Staff: Niche Gives Rural Educators a Grade of A+

 

October 14, 2021

Photo courtesy of Marie Perry

Erik Farrar, Belleville High School's Business and Marketing Education Teacher, is shown here with some of his students.

"But really, all I want to say is, when you get lucky with a teacher, you really get lucky." - the words of Perri Klass, MD, in a recent New York Times article entitled The Influence of a Perfect Teacher aptly describes the weight good teachers carry in the world of their students and the ultimate effectiveness of a quality education (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/15/well/family/teacher-reading-influence.html).

I would even be as bold to affirm that if we were to measure our life successes as adults, there is a moment we can trace back to the influence of a "good teacher" that we can thank for our future success. These "good" teachers offer us inspiration, support for the moments we struggle, and ultimately cheer us across the finish line as we grow as learners. Maybe there is just one teacher that stands out at the end of the day of our educational journey - in Klass's case, a fourth grade teacher who deeply inspired her students for years to come; but regardless, we forever know when our lives have been transformed for the better by an educator.


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Finding exceptional teachers to make students exceptional learners is important, and their work needs to be acknowledged if we want to inspire educators to strive to achieve excellence in their profession. As much as students need to hear words of encouragement, educators do too! Filling one's cup is necessary to make each day a brighter one and propel us as a nation to go further and set higher goals in the area of education. In the case of the rural community of Belleville, teachers just got a significant boost from Niche to fill their cups to the brim at the start of this academic season and enter their classrooms renewed and confident to help their students succeed as learners.

The School District of Belleville has been ranked #6 out of 360 schools in Wisconsin in the category of "Districts with the Best Teachers" by Niche for 2022, giving Belleville an overall grade of an A+. Though Belleville is a small, rural community in Wisconsin nestled next to the city of Madison, their educators still stack up with the big schools in the area - like Waunakee Community School District, ranked #27 and Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, ranked 34th in the state in this category, when it comes to quality of educators. According to Niche.com, "The Districts with the Best Teachers ranking is based on rigorous analysis of academic and teacher data from the U.S. Department of Education along with millions of reviews from students and parents."

But beyond what Niche has to say this fall, District Administrator Nate Perry already knew he's leading an incredibly passionate team of teachers. "As a teacher, principal, and administrator in a school district, a true sign of a top-notch staff is if you would want your own children to have these teachers. My answer, across the board in Belleville, is an unequivocal, 'Yes!'" And, the staff in Belleville feel that community support, which, in turn, encourages them to be the best they can be.

In rural areas where staff sizes are smaller, course offerings are more limited, and financial resources can be stretched thin at times; learning to be creative, and do the best with what one has available is paramount! Belleville only has a staff of 68 classroom teachers for a school district supporting just 915 students but their results are amazing. Its smaller size has not limited the scope of what this district believes it's students can do and it is building a strong reputation for its academic prowess! Their team of educators continue to stay positive, competitive, and push their students to compete with Wisconsin's bigger districts and they are showing everyone just what they've got!

Just last year the School District of Belleville won a Fab Lab grant of $13K from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to improve innovative educational opportunities at the secondary level to help it keep pace in an environment where technology is changing faster than ever and the workplace is demanding employees come equipped with needed skill sets that place technology at the forefront. So, it came as no surprise that Mr. Ed Neumann, 8-12 Tech. Ed./Engineering Instructor and S.T.E.A.M. Coordinator, soon after was recognized for his Project Lead the Way (PLTW) teaching in Belleville.

Mr. Neumann's work as an educator was recognized by PLTW.org on their blog last spring and quickly followed by his earning the award of the 2021-22 PLTW (Project Lead the Way) Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, which recognized 79 educators nationally who demonstrate a strong record of delivering an inspiring and empowering student experience, expanding access to PLTW programs, and transforming teaching. For his students, Ed Neumann demonstrates exactly what Dr. Klass was talking about in her article The Influence of a Perfect Teacher, and Ed stands out as just one example of a teacher in a rural district in the U.S. who is fueled by his passion to teach the next generation to shine, care about their dreams, provide cutting edge teaching strategies and opportunities, and make it happen! It helps that his school district applauds his efforts each step of the way.

For the educators in the small town of Belleville, Wisconsin, their message is clear...they see themselves as being a part of a team with one goal - to give their students a great education!

Band Teacher, Stephanie Meir, like many of her Belleville colleagues, describes why working for the School District of Belleville is so meaningful, "The staff here is passionate about what they do and they work hard to give our students the best education possible. We have an excellent support staff, faculty, and administration. I really like working on this team and we feel like a family."

What she and her fellow educators are describing is that coming to work feels like being a part of a larger, valued community. It makes the work they do for their students meaningful and provides them the needed inspiration to give their best.

Erik Farrar, Belleville High School's Business and Marketing Education Teacher, echoes Meir's sentiments, but also stresses the importance community backing from parents and local businesses play in enforcing a positive experience within a school environment. "I appreciate the relationships with my colleagues and the connection with the students. I appreciate the support from the community to make learning experiences for the students come alive."

So, in conclusion, Dr. Klass is spot on in saying, "...when you get lucky with a teacher, you really get lucky." I would just add that there is no time like the present to come together as a community and support each other from an educational standpoint in our nation for the sake of our kids. Our children all represent seeds of greatness, and if we provide the support and nutrients they need to grow as learners by acknowledging and supporting the educators in their lives that care about their continued success, we'll all get lucky!

 
 

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