Social studies teacher Elizabeth Hansen’s Herb Kohl fellowship is boosting the offerings in Portage High School classrooms for 2019-20, including virtual field trips.
Hansen, in her 11th year teaching in Portage, is among 100 Wisconsin teachers who this month received the 2019 Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship that issues $6,000 to recipients and their schools.
“There are so many deserving teachers of this award and I am just so humbled to be recognized by the foundation,” said Hansen, a 2001 Portage High School graduate.
Hansen said she plans to divvy up the school’s award among the various departments in Portage High School that sometimes don’t have the extra money for special offerings like virtual field trips.
Virtual field trips typically cost $100 per classroom and have in the past taken her students to places like the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, where they viewed exhibits and interacted with museum workers.
“I just think it’s so important to provide students with opportunities they might not have otherwise,” Hansen said of the field trips.
Principal Robin Kvalo — who was named the Herb Kohl Education Foundation’s Principal of the Year in 2016 — nominated Hansen for the fellowship, which considers a teacher’s leadership, ability to inspire students and service inside and outside of the classroom.
“I think she’s the whole package,” Kvalo said of Hansen. “She’s so well-rounded — an outstanding teacher who’s always looking for ways to meet the needs of students and providing out-of-box opportunities for them.”
Kvalo pointed out that Hansen was one of the first teachers in the Portage Community School District to offer virtual field trips and that, about six years ago, Hansen started offering an honors U.S. history class for incoming freshmen.
“She’s always pushing her kids to reach that higher bar,” Kvalo said of the honors course that offers high-achieving students “more rigorous and challenging” content.
Hansen also was nominated for the fellowship for being the key contact person for the Portage Community School District’s Backpack Program, which provides non-perishable food items for elementary students to take home on weekends and long breaks during the school year.
About 140 students benefit from the program on a weekly basis, the school district estimated.
Portage High School’s business and information technology teacher, Jan Imhoff, received the Herb Kohl teacher fellowship last year. Her $6,000 for the school is being used for professional development for teachers, she said. Teachers receive $150 per year from the district to attend workshops and conferences, but sometimes the amount doesn’t cover registration fees and hotel costs, leading teachers to sometimes pay their own way to attend them, Imhoff said.
Imhoff, in her 24th year teaching at the school, singled out Hansen’s willingness to go “above and beyond” for all students.
“Not only does she spearhead the Backpack Program, but she also is a co-coordinator for prom and homecoming,” Imhoff said. “Everything she does is about providing more opportunities for students, and I think she’s very deserving of this award.”