It was a great night to celebrate public education in Winona.
The Winona Education Association held its annual American Education Week banquet on Tuesday at the American Legion. The event honored WEA Teacher of the Year Scott Halverson, as well as Education Advocates Shelley Milek and Vanessa Butenhoff, as well as Muddled Thyme, which was honored as the Community Partner.
Halverson was announced as the WEA Teacher of the Year in a surprise earlier this month. The surprises continued at the banquet, as state Rep. Gene Pelowski, a former colleague, presented Halverson with a House Resolution honoring his achievement.
Halverson has been a math teacher for more than 30 years at Winona Senior High School.
As speeches were made, a slideshow featuring quotes from colleagues and students rolled in the background. Among them was this quote from Rachael Weess Blom, class of 2025:
“Mr. Halverson had a talent for connecting with students. He took world problems and related them to his own life. He may have gotten a bit off task at times with his stories that lasted over 15 minutes, but he made math enjoyable. I never thought in a million years I’d become a math teacher (goal was kindergarten), but here I am teaching middle school math and getting off task with my own relatable math stories. Thanks Halvie for being a great role model!”
Shelley Milek was honored as an Education Advocate for her years serving as the Executive Director of the Foundation for WAPS.
“Her creativity and passion has inspired many individuals and organizations to support educational opportunities for our students, and those connections will benefit thousands of current and future Winhawks,” said John Casper, communications coordinator.
Vanessa Butenhoff is known around the district as being every teacher’s favorite sub. She started as a volunteer and helped in Toni McDevitt’s room. It was, they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
“Little did I know that when I gained a classroom volunteer I would also be gaining a best friend,” McDevitt said. “Vanessa’s talents have been a gift to Winona Area Public Schools through her volunteering and subbing.”
Muddled Thyme and owner Amy Jo Marks was honored for hosting several WEA functions and celebrations.