UWM-Trained Teachers Take Top Honors

Katerina Jones, a second grade teacher at Samuel Clemens School in Milwaukee. was one of two UWM alumni recently honored by the Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee. (Photo by Troye Fox)

Marko Radmanovic, assistant principal at Vieau School, looks astounded when asked if he’s ever considered leaving teaching or Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

“The idea has never crossed my mind. It’s such an exciting environment. Every day is interesting, with new successes and challenges. I love the diversity of MPS, the students, the parents and the wonderful colleagues who inspire me and who are so dedicated.”

Marko Radmanovic

Katerina Jones, a second grade teacher at Samuel Clemens School in Milwaukee, says she simply ignores those who criticize teachers or public schools. “I know I’m doing good work here, and I know all my colleagues come here every day and do good work so I don’t let it bother me.”

Radmanovic and Jones, both University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Education (SOE) alumni, received Advanced Career awards at the Oct. 17 Celebration of Teachers and Teaching event, sponsored by the Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee (EDGM). Alumnus Craig Machut of Rufus King International High School received an honorable mention.

Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee is a collaboration involving the deans of nine area higher education institutions, including UWM. Proceeds of the October awards event benefit a fund to promote professional development for teachers and to advance the reputation of teaching.

“This event gives us the opportunity to spotlight the work that teachers do,” says Barbara Daley, interim SOE dean. “It is a way of honoring all teachers for the energy and enthusiasm and skills they bring to their work.”

Daley added: “Melba Marquez-Greene, the mother of one of the children who died at Sandy Hook School, wrote in ‘Education Week’ that the only letter of the 15,000 she received that she keeps at her bedside is one from her own high school English teacher: ‘Real heroes don’t wear capes. They work in America’s schools.’”

An indirect path to the profession

Radmanovic got into teaching in a roundabout way. He’d earned his undergraduate degrees in criminology and history from Marquette University and was working in the safety department in Milwaukee Public Schools. He became interested in the challenges special education students face and began volunteering on his lunch hours to work with students with behavioral and emotional issues. He then entered a special education post-baccalaureate partnership program between MPS and UWM, which allowed him to work as a special education teacher while earning his certification in the field. Later, he earned his regular education and history certifications through a post-baccalaureate program through the Milwaukee Teacher Education Center, founded by the late Martin Haberman, a UWM distinguished professor of education.

He has taught in MPS since 1990. “I liked to focus on a student’s strengths, as a way to help them reach their potential.” The parent of a student who made “huge gains” in math skills wrote in a nomination letter: “Children have an innate sense of when someone truly believes in them, and (our child) knew that Mr. R. did.”

Radmanovic was nominated for the award in March 2013 by his former principal at A.E. Burdick School, Robert Schleck, who also encouraged him to build on his leadership skills and move up to the assistant principal position.

Partnerships, programs key to developing educators
Jones, a second-grade teacher at Samuel Clemens Elementary School in MPS, has 10 years teaching experience. She was part of the 2002-03 cohort of UWM’s former Metropolitan Multicultural Teacher Education Pre-service Program, which prepared paraprofessionals to become certified teachers. “Ms. Jones demonstrates an uncommon commitment to providing quality instruction based on each student’s developmental level and learning style,” Clemens principal Jacqueline Richardson wrote in her nomination letter.

Both teachers credit their SOE experiences with helping them become excellent teachers.

Radmanovic says the former Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership (MMP), led by SOE’s DeAnn Huinker, really helped him developed his mathematics teaching skills. “I can’t say enough about the classes I took with Kevin McLeod. They were so impactful, and really helped me grow stronger as a teacher.” As an assistant principal, those are skills he’s now sharing with teachers at Vieau. [McLeod, an MMP member, is an associate professor of mathematics.]

Radmanovic also took part in UWM’s Emerging Leaders program. “Without that program, I don’t think I’d have been recommended and accepted for the assistant principal position.”

Both Radmanovic and Jones talk about the importance of helping students begin to see the relationships among the materials they’re encountering. Students need to not only see those relationships, but the relevance to their own lives, these teachers agree. Every success builds confidence for the next steps in learning.

That, says Jones, is a key reason she is a teacher. “I really love those ‘ah-ha’ moments, and I’m getting to see quite a few of them.”

Other honorees at the Oct. 17 event include educators from Milwaukee College Prep, Walker Elementary School, Carmen High School of Science & Technology, Rufus King International-Middle Years Campus, Young Leaders Academy, St. Adalbert School, and Seeds of Health-Windlake Elementary.