/ Articles / LUHS’ Mary Wentland receives Sanford Teacher Award

LUHS’ Mary Wentland receives Sanford Teacher Award

July 03, 2020 by Brett LaBore


They are many teachers who inspire and bring out the best in others. Lakeland Union High School’s Mary Wentland was honored as one of the best in Wisconsin.

Wentland, a physical education, adaptive physical education and health teacher at LUHS was a recipient of the National University System — Sanford Teacher Award for Wisconsin on a surprise Zoom announcement. 

“It’s an honor to be recognized for what many teachers in Wisconsin do everyday,” she said. 

The Sanford Teacher Award honors the top teacher in each state and the District of Columbia with $10,000 for supporting student development and achievement in inspirational and harmonious ways. 

The award was established in the name of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who is committed to supporting inspiring teaching nationwide through PreK-12 programs focused on developing the social and emotional (SEL) skills of young people. 

Each teacher recipient is now eligible to be named the national winner of the Sanford Teacher Award, which comes with a total award of $50,000 and will be announced at a future date.

Wentland helped to draft Wisconsin’s human growth and development curriculum, My Sexual Health My Future and she is now working on a new learning program that will help educators, social workers, counselors and therapists prevent, recognize and support the victims of human sex trafficking.

“Eileen Hare who used to be Wisconsin’s head of physical education saw me speak at a Wisconsin health and physical conference in October and asked if I’d be willing to write the human growth and development curriculum,” she said. 

In addition to that curriculum, Wentland teaches classes such as health and physical education for at-risk students.

One of her teaching strategies is making everything pertinent for the students in a way that is applicable to them.

“I try to make things relevant and real,” Wentland said. “And I strive for inclusiveness in addition to that relevance.”

COVID-19 has been a challenge for all teachers all over the world. One of the biggest hardships Wentland has learned is not having the face-to-face interaction.

“Many of the students via Zoom don’t want a camera on their home or in their space and as an educator that is difficult,” she said. “That face-to-face interaction for me was probably the most challenging to overcome.”

This isn’t the first time Wentland has won awards. She’s also won the Wisconsin Health Educator of the Year in October of 2012 and was the Wisconsin Health, Physical Education and Adaptive Physical Advocacy award winner in October of 2019.

Then most recently in March of 2020, Wentland was the Wisconsin Herb Kohl Award winner in March of 2020.

None of this would have been possible without the wonderful support Wentland has received over the years from everyone.

“I’m super grateful for the community support, parent support for 20 years and the administration and school board and colleagues because to win an award is one thing,” she said.

Just like a sports team, it takes everyone involved to win a championship, much like this award for Wentland.

“It takes a village and I’m blessed to work in a community that has supported me for the past 20 years,” she said. “Winning is one thing, but the group of people that is surrounding you is what allows you to do that.”

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]


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