Families who have been around RCLS for years know that the school offers extraordinary benefits both inside and outside the classroom. Some of these benefits take some years to realize. The family who enrolls a child in Kindergarten, for example, will not fully appreciate the wealth of extracurricular opportunities that students enjoy until their students reach middle school and begin to engage in those opportunities, themselves. A family in its first year in the RCLS community will not fully realize the treasure that is the "RCLS family" until the family has had the time to develop relationships within the community of parents that make up the school. And a family who brings a student from another educational context to RCLS may see the academic benefits of the school only after their student has had a semester or year of RCLS’s curriculum and care.
What is apparent nearly immediately, though, is the excellence of RCLS’s teachers. By now, it is no secret: RCLS has assembled the most talented group of educators in town. These are professionals who train not just to teach, but to minister, as well. Our school parents testify to this all the time. Our teachers maintain a safe, structured learning environment, and they inject a whole lot of creativity, enthusiasm, and care to make “structured” fun and “learning” life-long. So extraordinary is this staff and its level of professionalism that during the accreditation process last year, RCLS was nominated by its accrediting officers and agency for a “Powerful Practice” award for “strong faculty collaboration within a culture of ongoing professional development resulting in academic excellence.” This is a rare honor, an NLSA (National Lutheran Schools Association) nomination that signifies that what parents experience with RCLS’s teachers is objectively true; collectively, the RCLS faculty is a paragon of excellence in Christian education.
How, then, is one to go about nominating the “best of the best” from such a group? Each year, the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod requests nominations for outstanding educators in various categories. Recently, then, RCLS’s Outstanding Educator committee collected and identified nominations that our school would submit. The outcome of the committee's work includes the formal nominations of some of RCLS's "best" as Outstanding Educators in our education district. Nominated for Outstanding Early Childhood Teachers, Outstanding Elementary Teachers, and Outstanding School Shepherd, these educators and one pastor are the “Teachers’ Teachers” among us. They are leaders among a group of outstanding peers, and they are professionals trusted not just by students and school parents, but by their own colleagues, as well.
RCLS’s Outstanding Educator committee was led by Ms. Steph Murray and included Mrs. Christin Frey, Mrs. Melissa Tjosaas, and Ms. Bailey Bautch. The committee collected and considered the nominations of their peers. Then, based on both objective data and subjective testimony, they submitted the formal nominations as follows, marvelously articulated testimonies of the extraordinary work of these best of RCLS's best. The nominations are included here in full, with only minor changes to accommodate the blog post audience.
Please join us in congratulating these outstanding educators and one exceptional shepherd. They are a few of the many that make RCLS outstanding, indeed.
Nomination for Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher
Mrs. Carol Wickre has been a dedicated Lutheran school teacher for over 40 years. She's taught many different grade levels, but early childhood is her forte. You can often find her in her classroom late in the afternoons and weekends working on projects that go above and beyond. She takes hands-on learning to a new level. She brings engaging activities to her students with enthusiasm and knowledge. Concordia University also thinks highly of her, as she has trained numerous student teachers who teach all over the Midwest. Furthermore, she “talks the talk and walks the walk” by sharing the love of Jesus to all she meets. She is a true disciple of Christ in every aspect of her life. You can walk into her class at any time and see the joy in her and her students. You will often hear her tell her students that all things are possible with Jesus and that we can do hard things together. She is a leader at RCLS; she is sought out by her colleagues for guidance, wisdom, support, and hugs. You can count on Mrs. Wickre to give 100% both professionally and personally.
Mrs. Wickre is the epitome of an early childhood educator. She is love, compassion, and joy all wrapped up in one person. She engages students where they are at and provides lessons and activities that motivate them and challenge their learning to the next level. She loves her students, and they love her; even older students who have had her light up when they see her or even talk about her. She is not only loved by her students but also by their families.
Nomination for Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher
Mrs. Lonnie Strohschein is currently serving as a 1st-grade teacher at Rochester Central Lutheran School. She has served at RCLS for over 20 years in various capacities: lower-elementary teacher, upper-elementary teacher, middle-school teacher, and resource teacher. She also coordinates the RCLS Library and leads the K-2 department. Even when she leaves one role and moves to another, she is still sought out for advice and wisdom. She is highly respected by the faculty for her Christ-like attitude and ability to provide an excellent education for her students. This is what her colleagues have to say about her:
“Lonnie is a fabulous teacher. She is patient, kind, and loving towards her students. She is a great example of how God treats us.”
“Lonnie consistently demonstrates patience, kindness, and a commitment to excellence in her teaching. She is continually growing and learning as an educator. She shares her time and expertise in a gracious way and is a valued leader and learner on our faculty.”
“Lonnie brings the love and joy of Christ to every student and staff member at RCLS. I have witnessed this, and I have personally experienced this as a fellow faculty member. Lonnie's positive influence through her Christ-centered work at RCLS is real and exemplary. We all have benefitted from being able to work and pray with Lonnie.”
“Lonnie is so kind and patient with her students. She spends extra time planning hands-on learning for her students.”
Mrs. Strohschein goes above and beyond every day to meet the needs of her students. Every student thrives in her classroom because she differentiates her instruction to meet the diverse needs of her class. She creates fun, memorable experiences that go beyond the curriculum such as a Thanksgiving parade, “Friendship Day,” and “Camp Read-A-Lot.” She is constantly searching for new resources and professional development to help everyone around her grow as well. She is motivated by her love for Christ and her desire to share His love with everyone around her. Mrs. Strohschein is truly an outstanding educator.
Nomination for Outstanding Elementary Teacher
Mrs. Amanda Peloquin has been working as a teacher for 15 years and is currently working at our school as the K-5 art, 4th-grade beginning band, 5th-grade choir, Jubilate Bells, and 6th-8th grade choir teacher. Amanda has only been working at RCLS for one year, and we have already seen the fruits of her teaching extend from our smallest students to our 8th graders. This busy mother of three makes every effort to draw out the best in every student that walks through her doors. Her Christ-like attitude towards others doesn’t stop there; her relationships with her co-workers and students’ parents are just the same. She brings out the best in everyone around her. This is what several of Amanda’s co-workers have said about her character and her teaching:
“Amanda is amazing! She is the golden model for a responsive classroom. Every time I take my students to art or band, they cannot wait to go because they get to see Mrs. Peloquin.”
“Amanda is brave and resilient, enthusiastic, but serious. Her passion extends from her to the kids when she makes a joyful noise with the choir and handbells. Amanda shows the love of Christ by her love, enthusiasm, and care for others.”
“Amanda is warm and funny, and the kids are really drawn to her. She has been a great addition to the RCLS community.”
“The kids coming out of Amanda’s class are enough of an example of how much energy and devotion she has when it comes to education. She is someone who truly knows how to make education fun.”
It is such a joy to be around Amanda and to see her dedication to her students as well as her willingness to learn and grow in her content knowledge. She also started the RCLS Sunshine Committee, which is a committee that supports and develops camaraderie among staff. Outside of teaching, Amanda is dedicated to the community around her and has worked on many committees to begin programs in our area for youth. She is truly an inspiration and worthy of being nominated for the Outstanding Elementary Teacher Award.
Nomination for Outstanding Elementary Teacher
Ms. Kim Schauer has served as a called teacher at RCLS for the entirety of her ministry––over 20 years. Ms. Schauer is currently a middle-school Language Arts and art teacher, drama director, and middle-school department chair. In her role as 8th-grade homeroom teacher, Ms. Schauer helps nurture the 8th graders into young leaders, especially when they organize Chapel Families and choose chapel offering projects. As one of Ms. Schauer’s previous students, I [Ms. Murray] can personally attest to the level of academic rigor in her classroom and the welcoming environment that she cultivates. Not only did she encourage my love for literature, but I also felt prepared for rigorous high school classes. I knew that RCLS would always feel like home due to exceptional teachers like Kim who continually reminded me of God’s love and grace. I am once again blessed to witness her Christ-like interactions with students and often seek her advice and expertise. In her role as middle-school department chair, Ms. Schauer thoughtfully leads our weekly discussions about how to support students who are struggling. Here is what other colleagues have shared about her:
“Kim's Christian love is evident in how she interacts with students during the day and in drama activities. She demonstrates her Christian love as a leader in our middle school and in service to the school as a whole.”
“Kim has a passion for students and for teaching. She puts her heart into educating the students and she challenges them to strive for their best. Kim is motivated by her love for Christ ,and this is demonstrated through her interactions with students. When needed ,she provides them with redirection but more importantly grace. Students know that they are loved and cared for by Ms. Schauer.”
Ms. Schauer's dedication to God’s children is evident both inside and outside of the classroom. In the community, she is actively involved at Grace Lutheran Church––one of three association churches of Rochester Central Lutheran School––and works with the youth group. We are grateful for Kim’s ministry in Rochester and confidently nominate her for this award.
Nomination for Outstanding School Shepherd
Pastor Joel Haak is the Pastor of Family Life at Trinity Lutheran Church in Rochester––one of three association churches of Rochester Central Lutheran School. Here is what RCLS teachers have to say about Pastor Haak:
“He connects well with the students and shares God's word in a way that is meaningful for kids.”
“Pastor Haak has demonstrated leadership in a variety of RCLS aspects, including chapel and call committees. He always demonstrates grace and love in his interactions at RCLS.”
Pastor Haak is also a parent of three children that attend RCLS. In addition to actively participating in the life of the school as a parent, the student body sees him regularly in the rotation of pastors that serve as chapel leaders and as a pastoral presence at morning car line. His chapels bring joy and laughter with a strong Biblical message. In the past (pre-COVID), Pastor Haak also spent time each month in elementary classrooms, presenting Bible stories so that the students have an opportunity to connect with a pastor and ask questions to deepen their faith. The faculty benefits from his willingness to serve in faculty Bible Study, on call committees, and at board meetings. The RCLS community is grateful for Pastor Haak’s leadership and dedication to sharing Christ’s love with students and families. We are blessed to have him as a school shepherd.