Mary Jo Wentland, health teacher at Lakeland Union High School, was recently presented with the Health Teacher of the Year Award at the Wisconsin Health and Physical Education Association’s annual convention in Waukesha.
In a news release, the association said Wentland was presented with the award because she reflects the following criteria:
• Shows leadership in developing, implementing and directing quality health education programs.
• Is involved in volunteer service.
• Gives service at local, state or other level professional organizations.
• Shows evidence or meritorious professional activity in teaching, presenting, seeking grants, special projects and other health-related activities.
The convention program when discussing Wentland’s background said, “she’s creative, holds high expectations for everyone and uses technology to engage learners. She has and is continuing to make a huge impact upon the students and families she serves.”
The program went on to say that Wentland has helped integrate innovative opportunities for those with whom she works.”
The three “Rs”
Wentland, who has taught at LUHS since the fall of 2000, involves the three “Rs” in her daily classroom activities. The three “Rs are rigor, relevance and relationships.
“Seeing, hearing and touching are just a few of the ways students recall information,” Wentland said.
“We try to teach the students in a way that helps them retain the lesson and apply it to their lives now and in the future.”
Wentland isn’t afraid to use a large number of visuals such as stuffed animals, a piggy bank or glow worms to try to have her students better understand what she is trying to have them learn.
“When we talk about depression we can use this puppet to explain how the rabbit can hop around and look and act normal but it is really hollow inside,”
Wentland said. “I use a rubber chicken when we talk about stress and say the rubber chicken, like stress, stinks.”
She’s been known to use a piggy bank that she received as a gift from a colleague for a visual aid when discussing students’ “emotional bank.”
LUHS students and administration agree Wentland is a special teacher because she can reach students and help them learn in ways that allow them to apply the classroom lessons to students’ everyday life.
LUHS Principal Jim Bouché calls Wentland “the ultimate teacher” and a “great representative of LUHS.”
“She’s so deserving of this award. She does her job, does it very well and she’d rather give the credit to others,” Bouché said.
“She’s not afraid to try new things. She develops positive relationships with her students and gets across to them the relevancy of what they are learning in the classroom to their lives now and in the future.”
Health class sophomore student Brandy Peter said Wentland makes learning fun.
“She’s fun, talkative and has a way of getting her point across in a way that is easy to understand,” Peter said.
Marissa Moore said Wentland makes the class “real.”
“She just has this way of making class easy to understand,” Moore said. “ She’s also a resource I can talk to about anything.”
Sophomore Cody Valliere said he has learned much in Wentland’s class.
“She has a different way to make it easier to learn,” Valliere said. “And different is always cool.”
“She’s not an out-of-the-book kind of teacher,” sophomore James Bant said.
“She teaches by using examples of things that you can connect to the real world and use for the rest of your life.
Connection with students
“Students want to know why they need to learn something and I try to help make that the connection,” Wentland said.
Wentland said the methods she uses help students better retain the lessons they discuss and how to apply them to their lives.
“How do I get my ideas? Wentland asked. “I have my eyes and ears open constantly looking for new ideas.
“I’m not afraid to make a mistake and to try something different if it will help my students learn.”
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at email@example.com.