Veterans of Foreign Wars honors Zehren for continued support
Jan Zehren, SIS physical education teacher and head of SIS Student Council, received the title “Middle School Teacher of the Year” for the state of Wisconsin from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Organization this winter.
The VFW organization is composed of veterans who have been stationed in a foreign country.
Zehren was nominated for the award by Kevin Gemignani, SIS principal, Dr. Kirk Juffer, Lake Bluff principal, and Michael Braun, the former commander of Shorewood’s American Legion Post 331.
Zehren was honored with this award for her exemplary work in promoting citizenship throughout the Shorewood School District.
“For 18 years we have had Veteran’s Day assemblies, starting at Lake Bluff in 1997 … It has continued every year and it has expanded to the Intermediate School and to Atwater,” Zehren said. “The amount of history learned from these keynote speakers has been amazing.”
Zehren has coordinated the assemblies, and there are always students involved. Band, orchestra and choir students have the opportunity to perform and students also have had opportunities to speak.
Gemignani spoke very highly of the yearly assembly.
“The behavior at that assembly is far above that of other assemblies … How the kids act, how they carry themselves, how much respect they show for the guests as well as the featured speaker,” Gemignani said.
There are also service projects associated with Veteran’s Day. One organization that the service projects recently targeted is the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
“Over the past six years we have raised over $22,000 and have sent 44 veterans on an Honor Flight,” Zehren said.
Cora Heinen, freshman and 2013-2014 SIS Student Council vice president, participated in the Honor Flight fundraising.
“[Zehren] did a lot to get people to donate to send veterans to Washington D.C. to see their memorial, which is a really special experience,” Heinen said.
Gemignani saw very positive results in terms of the assembly’s impact on students.
“I think the impact goes beyond just appreciating our nation’s military history,” said Gemignani. “I think kids understand there’s a lot of different ways they can be a positive contributor to their community, and this is one really good thoughtful example of how you can do that.”
Heinen also saw good things in the student body.
“It made people more apt to help in the community,” Heinen said.
As part of the award, Zehren received three monetary awards: one from the local post, one from Wisconsin Ladies Auxiliary and one from District 4.
“I’m going to take that money and purchase American flags and stands for Atwater and SIS,” Zehren said.
Only Lake Bluff has a flag and stand so it must be transported between schools for each assembly.
Because Zehren won the “Middle School Teacher of the Year” award on the state level, her nomination has now moved on to the national level, where she is competing against 52 other candidates.
While the award is for Zehren, she cannot see herself with it if not for students, staff and other supporters.
“I believe in my heart … this is a Shorewood School District recognition,” Zehren said.
by Maya Schneider and Lydia Anshus