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Two Wisconsin Teachers Write Book about Wisconsin Athlete

Elizabeth Jorgensen teaches English at Arrowhead Union High School in Hartland, Wisconsin. She aims to share texts with her students that encourage thinking and action. “I love when a student realizes reading can be fun,” she says.

Elizabeth’s mom, Nancy Jorgensen is a retired choir teacher. “When students have interest in what they’re studying, they have a purpose, and they make meaningful connections to their own lives,” she says.

Elizabeth and Nancy have educated Wisconsin students for a combined half century. During this time, they’ve watched class sizes balloon and technology advance. But they say one thing hasn’t changed: students are still interested in finding themselves within a curriculum, learning new things, and participating in relevant experiences.

They hope their latest book will provide another way for students to do just that.

Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete is a middle grade/young adult biography of their sister and daughter, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist.

Elizabeth says, “We hope students see themselves in Gwen’s story of trying something, failing, learning, trying again, failing some more, working with a team, and finally achieving a goal.”

Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete is written in two timelines.

“One timeline follows the days leading up to the Rio triathlon. The other timeline flashes back to Gwen growing up. Her elementary, middle school, high school and college years,” Nancy says. “The book is suspenseful, even though readers know the ending—and the text is interactive as readers are asked to set their own goals.”

Nancy and Elizabeth are offering no-fee author talks to Wisconsin school groups, sports teams, and classrooms.

“As educators, we know students need to be active in their learning, so our talks are tailored to each individual group. Students have time to write, ask questions, collaborate, and set goals,” Elizabeth says. “We want students to leave our presentation having learned something, but also having had some fun.”

Previous talks have included information about the writing process, publishing a book, and Gwen’s career as a professional athlete. 

Although the book is aimed at student readers, Liza Wiemer, the award-winning author of The Assignment, says, “Anyone of any age will finish the book deeply inspired to pursue their goals—big or small—with passion and heart.”

A free educator guide for teachers, coaches or parents, can be found on their publisher’s website. All lesson plans and activities in the educator guide are tied to Common Core Standards.

Teachers interested in author talks should contact Nancy via email ( Talks are offered both virtually and in person.

Gwen says, “I hope my story inspires young athletes to chase their dreams and goals, but most importantly, to enjoy the process.”

Signed copies of Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete are available at Books & Company in Oconomowoc.  

Additional information is available on the authors’ websites: and


Eagle's Nest Project Airplane Sweepstakes

Falcon Aviation, the STEM aviation program of Westosha Central High School in Wisconsin is raffling off an airplane.

Win a 2018 Van's RV-12 ULS!

You could win this beautiful 2018 Van’s RV-12 ELSA N915EN or other great prizes including an Axis 500 4×4 UTV or a pair of Vvolt Alpha E Bikes.

This sweepstakes will support the ENP WI foundation by providing the necessary funds to operate the Central High School STEM Aviation Program including aviation scholarships, building of our aircraft, and other flight experiences for students.

The sweepstakes runs from Jan 3rd, 2023 until Sept 8th, 2023 or when 5000 tickets are sold.  See contest rules for complete details.

Taking 9th to 12th grade students, aged 14 to 18, Falcon Aviation is centered around building and, in some cases, flying a Van’s RV-12 light aircraft. “We started in 2014,” Senft said. “The first plane took us one year, one month and one day to complete, the second took 18 months because I changed the curriculum, and the third 2.5 years, after Covid shut us down for a while.”

Now a fourth is in build and Senft is candid about the challenges he and the program face. “I love it, but it has been extremely tough because most of the time it’s just me working with the students. The major struggle is funding. Each airplane costs about $100,000 and since we rely 100% on donations, lack of funding could eventually shut us down.”

While the students focus on constructing their latest RV-12iS variant, a major fundraising effort is therefore ongoing through an imaginative sweepstakes. A $100 ticket gives entrants the possibility of winning the program’s second RV-12, or $65,000, while second and third place prizes are also up for grabs.

Just 5,000 tickets are available until September 2023, from 

Information courtesy of Runway Girl Network



D.C. Everest Fishing Team Named 2022 Wisconsin Interscholastic Fishing Association Team of The Year

On February 18, the D.C. Everest Fishing Team was named the 2022 Wisconsin Interscholastic Fishing Association Team of the Year out of a field of more than 120 WIFA high school teams around the state. WIFA is committed to the education, conservation and management of natural resources and building an understanding of aquatic ecosystems and sciences. WIFA’s primary goals are to get students involved in the outdoors and to become future ambassadors of the sport of fishing through spirited competition.



D.C. Everest Band to Celebrate “Turning the Corner” with 2023 Rose Parade Performance

The annual Rose Parade is viewed by millions of people around the world and has become an iconic part of New Year’s Day celebrations. This year, the D.C. Everest Senior High Marching Band and seven other area high school programs will take part in this historic event and perform together as the Wisconsin Northwoods Marching Band. The nearly 400-member Northwoods band will be the second largest marching band to ever perform for the Rose Parade, second only to Allen High School Marching Band from Texas in 2016, which had 716 members. Students will march along the 5.5-mile parade route in front of nearly 1 million attendees from around the world.

Amy Wainscott, the 2023 Pasadena Tournament of Roses President, announced the theme this year is “Turning the Corner.” Explained Wainscott, “Turning a corner means rising above – alone, or with family, friends and community. This year, as we turn the corner together, we share in the hope, beauty and joy of what 2023 will bring.” Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who made a remarkable recovery from traumatic injuries, will serve as the 2023 Grand Marshal. Joe Finnegan, DCE Senior High Band Instructor notes the student-musicians are ready to celebrate turning the corner as well. “The last couple of years, student-musicians across the country have dealt with the challenges presented by COVID — sometimes having to rely on digital platforms to practice and perform together. Our students have persevered and risen to the challenge — honing their skills so they can proudly represent the State of Wisconsin on January 2.” 

One of the ways in which students will showcase their state is through a unique musical composition crafted by Joe Finnegan and legendary (now retired) Mike Leckrone, director of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band.  The musical piece, "Beautiful Wisconsin," celebrates our nation and Wisconsin, and is a combination of "On Wisconsin" and "America the Beautiful." Leckrone composed the woodwind and brass portions of the piece while Finnegan composed the percussion portion.  

The Wisconsin Northwoods Marching Band is composed of student-musicians from Antigo, Lakeland D.C. Everest, Merrill, Mosinee, Northland Pines, Three Lakes and Wausau East.  The President of the Rose Parade, Amy Wainscott, is a graduate of Northland Pines High School and played a critical role in the formation of the Northwoods Marching Band. The Wisconsin musicians will join 20 other marching bands in the 134th Rose Parade. 

      All Gifu Honor Green Band (Gifu, Japan)

     Banda de Música La Primavera (Santiago, Veraguas, Panamá)

     Brookwood Bronco Marching Band (Snellville, Ga.)

     Buhos Marching Band (Veracruz, Mexico)

     Foothills Falcon Band (Tucson, Ariz.)

     Fresno State Bulldog Marching Band (Fresno, Calif.)

     LAUSD All District High School Honor Band (Los Angeles, Calif.)

     Pasadena City College Herald Trumpets (Pasadena, Calif.)

     Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band (Pasadena, Calif.)

     The Pella Marching Dutch (Pella, Iowa)

     Rockford High School Marching Band (Rockford, Mich.)

     Rose Bowl Game Participating Team (Pac-12 University)

     Rose Bowl Game Participating Team (Big Ten University)

     Rosemount High School Marching Band (Rosemount, Minn.)

     The Salvation Army Tournament of Roses Band (Long Beach, Calif.)

     Spartan “Legion” Marching Band (Norfolk, Virginia)

     Taipei First Girls High School Marching Band, Honor Guard and Color Guard (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)

     Triuggio Marching Band Triuggio (Monza and Brianza, Italy)

     United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band (Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego and Camp Pendleton, Calif.)

     Vista Ridge High School Ranger Marching Band (Cedar Park, Texas)

     Wisconsin Northwoods Marching Band (Minocqua, Wis.)

Students have been practicing and performing since February 2021 to prepare for the 2023 Roses Parade. The past two summers, they have completed whirlwind tours of northern Wisconsin — performing in five parades on July 4th in 2021, and six parades on July 4th in 2022. They also have been working diligently to raise funds for the trip, which costs about $2,500 per student. 

If you would like to learn more about this unique opportunity, the band's fundraising efforts, and the behind-the-scenes preparation for the January 2, 2023 performance, please contact DCE Band Instructor Joe Finnegan.


More Than a Marching Band: How Music Educator Adam Bassak Instills a Love of Music, Performance

Tuesday, November 1, 2022 

The Baldwin-Woodville Marching Band poses outside of the Wisconsin State Capitol ahead of the 2022 State of Education Address.

The State of Education Address by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction always includes a performance by a school music ensemble, this year by the high school marching band from the small northern communities of Baldwin and Woodville. The band wowed all in attendance with their fall show, “Kaleidoscope.” The students were obviously keyed up and well-rehearsed, bringing their wonderful performance to the capitol rotunda.

What people may not realize, however, is the intricate planning and preparation needed to execute such an important performance. First of all, the ensemble is not allowed to perform or warm-up in the capitol prior to the performance. When you consider that the rotunda, with all of its hard and complex surfaces, creates an echo lasting at least five seconds, you understand the unique challenge. How does an ensemble perform so well under these circumstances? It begins with the skills and experience of one teacher - Adam Bassak.

After the band’s amazing performance, I asked Mr. Bassak if I could call him during his 3-hour bus ride home and ask him a few questions. My goal was to “pull the curtain back” on the amazing teaching that is taking place each day in Wisconsin schools while celebrating a teacher who continues to go above and beyond for his students. The paragraphs that follow contain some of the things Mr. Bassak and I discussed that afternoon. 

Chris: Tell us about your background, and how you came to Baldwin-Woodville.

Adam: I grew up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire for my undergraduate degree in music education. During that time I was on staff with the marching band at Chippewa Falls High School. My first job was with the Royall School District teaching 5-12 grade band. After three years, I applied for a teaching job at Baldwin-Woodville High School, and I’m in my 17th year there. During that time, I earned my Masters in Educational Leadership degree through Silver Lake University, as well as taking continuing education credits at different universities. My teaching responsibilities include instructing the Symphonic Band, Marching Band, Pep Band, Winter Drumline, Winter Winds, and chamber groups at Baldwin-Woodville, as well as a Technical Theater class.

Our marching band has finished in the top three bands at state each year, including seven state championships. Our Winter Drumline competes in the Minnesota Percussion Association Circuit and is a two-time Scholastic Regional A Champion, as well as a three-time WGI Percussion World Championship participant. In partnership with Forward Performing Arts and the Madison Scouts, I helped create and direct the first WGI (Winter Guard International) Winds group in Wisconsin. The group was an Independent A Champion and finished fourth at WGI Wind World Championships. 

Chris: Why did you decide to go into teaching?

Adam: When I was a freshman, I thought about quitting band. Middle school saxophone just wasn’t that interesting to me. My mom got me into some private lessons and then asked me to stick it out for one more year so I could have Mr. Greenhalgh. I came home after the first or second day of band camp my sophomore year and my mom said, “How are things going in band?” I said, “Oh, good. I think I want to be a band director!” I was hooked. 

Chris: Doug Greenhalgh was the music educator who perished in a 2005 bus accident, along with his wife (Therese), granddaughter (Morgan), the bus driver (Paul Rasmus), and student teacher (Brandon Atherton) following the state marching band competition in 2005.

Adam: Yes. It was a horrific event.

Chris: What did Doug Greenhalgh mean to you? 

Adam: After the bus accident, I would drive back and forth from my job at Royall to Chippewa Falls to help out. I have a picture hanging at the top of my stairs that the Chippewa Falls School District gave to me. The picture has a quote that Doug said to his band that night at the state championships. He said, “Kids, no matter what else happens tonight, I want you to always remember this moment. You will have this moment for the rest of your lives.” I look at this picture and quote every day before I go to school to remind myself why I teach. My goal is to create those moments with kids every day.

Chris: What does this performance at the State of Education Address mean to you and your students?

Adam: It is a great opportunity to contribute to an important event in education. It was great for the students to experience everything from Dr. Underly’s address, to the poet, to the speech by one of the Wisconsin Teachers of the Year. And just the opportunity to perform in a venue like the capitol. You just don’t get many opportunities to perform in a space with that amount of resonance, and from a musicality standpoint in a space where you sound like that as a group. Plus the history of it all. You are at the state capitol representing your own community and music across the state while performing for so many influential people. It was a great experience for the kids. 

Chris: What was the challenge to playing in the rotunda?

Adam: We put mat underneath the percussion to help soak up the sound a bit and had the students play percussionists with different implements. In that space, however, it is still hard for the students to really hear each other from one side to the other. I was standing on one side of the ensemble conducting so that the kids in the back could see the pulse, but even I couldn’t hear the trumpets on the other side of the ensemble. With the delay and echo you really had to watch the drum major to make it work. The color guard also had to figure out transitions and how to perform in a limited space on a different level from us. I truly don’t know how they did it, they are a fantastic group of performers.

Chris: What would you say to music educators who are new to their positions this year?

Adam: No matter how a rehearsal or performance goes, always remember what you are creating with kids. You will have days where you may have a bad rehearsal or something will not work out as you expected it to. In the end, it is the process that you get to go through with kids, and spending that time with them in the hope that you instill a lifelong appreciation of music.

Chris: What is the best part of your job?

Adam: I perform and play music on a daily basis with great kids. I get to do what I love and to teach it. To me, watching a student or group grow over time is probably the most rewarding thing, but knowing that they did it as an ensemble and are proud of their accomplishments completes everything. Music is so powerful on every level.

Chris: Is there anyone that you would like to thank or lift up?

Adam: I wouldn’t be a band director if not for my mentor and band director, Doug Greenhalgh. His understanding, passion, personality are evident in everything I do as a music educator. My parents, who were both very supportive. In fact, my mom was at every performance of mine both as a teacher and a student before she passed away. Of course, I want to thank my family, staff members, parents, and the amazing network of teachers and administrators around me who support me, teach me new things, and make me a better person.

This item was submitted by Chris Gleason, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Arts and Creativity Consultant.


Tomahawk teachers kiss a cow following a bet made with students

TOMAHAWK, Wis. (WJFW) - Tomahawk students raised two-thousand dollars for the Never Forgotten Honor Flight. Students were rewarded for their fundraising efforts. I spoke with students and faculty a pep rally. Of course they wanted to help veterans, but there's more to it. They had a high "steaks" bet - if you will - with their teachers.

“I don’t think I was prepared for that in my training, but the kids are pretty excited about it," said principal Guy Steckbauer. 

For good reason, the kids made sure the faculty followed through on their bet.

“The kids came up with the idea of kiss the cow as an exciting new thing to do and we had told the kids you’d have to make $1500 for it to happen, and they far surpassed that by doing $2000," said Meghan Barker who teaches 5th grade.

The money collected was enough to send 4 veterans on a Never Forgotten Honor Flight.

“We weren’t just doing it for the cow, we were doing it for them to get enough money for them to raise to go to Washington D.C.," said one 5th grade student.

Students worked as a team, competing by grade, to reach their goal.

"I handed out one of the honor flights tickets and the smile on his face made me happy for the next week," said another 5th grade student.

These students at Tomahawk elementary wanted to recognize those who made the sacrifice.

“The veterans deserve this because they fought for our country and they fought for everything that they wanted and we wanted to help them take the flight," said one student.

When Lady Liberty strolled in, the chants started.

“This is absolutely just their reward as a whole school to see something concrete come out of their good efforts," said Barker.

The 5th grade class won the Nickel war, so it was their teachers giving a peck.

“We were jumping off tables when we heard that we won. And then Mr. Michelson got called for the most class and I said Mr. Michelson, pucker up, and he went hmm," said one student.

The moo-ment that they were waiting for.

“It was wet, that’s for sure," said Barker.

The students we’re udderly a-moo-sed and the teachers didn’t want to be cow-herds.

“It’s just very strange to think about kissing a farm animal, so I closed my eyes and did it," said Steckbauer.

The faculty believes that their students really understood the reason they were doing this, and they did need a cow-culator to count up all of those nickels they collected.