A night to celebrate public education in Winona

A night to celebrate public education in Winona
Three people pose for a photo

WEA Teacher of the Year Kirstin Schultz, left, was honored at the WEA banquet on Tuesday. Also celebrated as Education Advocates were communications coordinator John Casper, middle, and former principal Marianne Texley. 

The cold, wind and snow outside couldn’t compete with the warmth, love and community inside. 

On Tuesday night at the American Legion, the Winona Education Association held its annual banquet to celebrate public education in Winona. 

The ceremony honored the 2022-23 WEA Teacher of the Year — Jefferson third-grade teacher Kirstin Schultz — as well as Marianne Texley and John Casper as Education Advocates and the Winona State University Education Department as a Community Partner. 

Schultz, who has spent her entire 31-year teaching career in Winona Area Public Schools, was introduced by the reigning teacher of the year, Tim Gleason. 

A woman gives a speech at a podium

In her heartfelt speech, Schultz told those in attendance how she wanted to be a teacher as a child and had her own play classroom. She is still living her dream, all these years later, and she encouraged younger teachers to stay in the profession — “We need you!” she said. 

Schultz said she has enjoyed hearing from colleagues and students since it was announced she was being named the WEA Teacher of the Year. One comment was especially touching; it came from a friend of her son, Jeffrey, who was not a student in her classroom but volunteered as a helper when he was in high school.

Schultz graduated from Winona Area Public Schools and returned to the district after graduation to teach at Dakota Elementary, then went to Ridgeway Elementary for six years before landing at Jefferson. 

One of the principals to offer her a job was none other than Texley, who spent 23 years as a principal at various schools in Winona. Texley has 36 years of experience in public education and came to Winona in 1993. She has served as the principal of every elementary school in Winona during that time except for Jefferson. 

Even in retirement, Texley continues to support WAPS, filling in as a substitute principal, most recently filling in at Washington-Kosciusko Elementary earlier this year. She also hinted that she isn’t done helping out just yet. 

Casper joined Winona Area Public Schools in 2019 as the communication coordinator and makes it his mission to promote the amazing things that happen across the district every day. He said he is especially proud of the positive nature of the district’s social media channels, particularly Facebook, and how he has used social media to bring the WAPS community together during the isolating times of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A man smiles and talks with a microphone

James Kirk, chair of the Special Education Department in the College of Education at Winona State University, accepted the Community Partner award on behalf of those who help educate and inspire the next generation of school teachers. 

For many years, WAPS and WSU have partnered to help create outstanding educators, building an education bridge. In recent years, the WEA has partnered with the department to provide an Aspiring Educators program that matches WSU students with a veteran WAPS educator to engage, inspire and enrich each other professionally. 

The event was sponsored by Merchants Bank, Steak Shop Catering and The American Legion. Gina Johnson and Amber Scott served as co-chairs of the Community and Member Outreach Committee, which helped plan and organize the event.