Some teachers dread the question from the back of the room — the one where the frustrated student calls out, “Why are we doing this?”
Brad Markhardt, Wisconsin Teacher of the Year and a 2001 UW-La Crosse alumnus, loves that question.
The agriculture education teacher at Black River Falls High School sees it as an opportunity to help students make connections between their lives and what they learn in school. “I get a lot of ‘aha’ moments from students,” he notes.
In agriculture classes, Markhardt draws the connection between agriculture and students’ basic needs. When people think of agriculture, they tend to think of the small percentage of people — 1.8 percent in the U.S. — who live on farms, says Markhardt. They may wonder about the relevancy of studying such a tiny sliver of the population.
But Markhardt tells students most jobs in agriculture aren’t farming jobs. Agriculture is the largest employer in Wisconsin. One in five people in Wisconsin have a job directly related to agriculture, he explains.
“We all eat and we all wear clothes,” says Markhardt. “The agriculture industry is all about meeting those basic needs. Yet so many people today are so far removed from the industry, they don’t see it.”
Part of Markhardt’s teaching strategy involves taking students out into industry to see it. Students in his agriculture classes regularly go to dairy farms, animal shelters and other community sites to see agriculture in action.
“I see myself as a facilitator of experiences,” he says.
Earning a Master of Education degree in Professional Development at UW-L in 2001 helped him with this more subjective style of teaching that involves helping students to reflect on an experience rather than search for a correct answer.
UW-L’s 14-year-old Master of Education-Professional Development Program (ME-PD) Learning Community Program officially became The Institute for Professional Studies in Education July 1. This year’s Minnesota Teacher of the Year Katy Smith was also a graduate of the program.
Markhardt was honored as Wisconsin Teacher of the Year during a surprise assembly at school. He was nominated by Paul Rykken, a fellow teacher at Black River Falls High School.
“Beyond his exceptional leadership, Brad exhibits a love of learning that is truly genuine,” wrote Rykken in the nomination letter. “This enthusiasm comes through to his students at all times.”
Markhardt was also selected to represent the nearly 60,000 teachers in the state in the national Teacher of the Year program. As part of his award, he received $10,000 from the Herb Kohl Education Foundation.
“Recognizing excellent teachers is one way to improve the quality of education for young people in our schools,” Kohl said in a prepared release from the Department of Public Instruction. “My support of the Teacher of the Year program focuses attention on the ability of educators to inspire a love of learning in young people so our students are prepared to be the workers, leaders, and citizens that will build a better future for our state and nation.”
UW-L’s ME-PD Program becomes part of the Institute for Professional Studies in Education
The 14-year-old Master of Education-Professional Development Program (ME-PD) Learning Community Program officially became The Institute for Professional Studies in Education (IPSE) July 1, 2011. Previously, the ME-PD Learning Community Program was a single graduate degree program. Now the ME-PD Learning Community Program is part of IPSE, which will expand to meet the academic and professional needs of educators and other professionals. The mission of the institute is to build a Master Teachers Community dedicated to improving the craft of teaching to help all students reach their highest potential.
ME-PD Learning Community Program
This is a 2-year comprehensive program within the Institute for Professional Studies in Education that allows students to complete their graduate degree in face-to-face classes, online or through a combination of traditional classes and online instruction. PK-16 teachers are eligible to enter as well as other professionals in education and related fields if they meet the requirements for admission to graduate school at UW-L and the institute. Graduates from the program have included physical and occupational therapists, D.A.R.E. officers, counselors, nurse practitioners and others. About 100 students will graduate with their ME-PD degrees from The ME-PD Learning Community Program at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year.
Form more information visit MasterTeachersCommunity.org.
Brad Markhardt accepts Wisconsin Teacher of the Year award