Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Legacy of Dr. Ehrhardt

Guest Blogger:  Julie DeCook

Photo of Julie DeCookAt the retirement event for Drs. Schulte, Kelley, Ehrhardt, and Chris Wesling last Thursday, Mr. Garner spoke of one of Dr. Ehrhardt’s favorite questions: “What’s your legacy?” So as Dr. E enters the last two weeks before he retires, it is only appropriate that we share his legacy. Describing the true legacy of this man is not easy . . . because it is so rich. 

Dr. Ehrhardt has professionally raised many of us. He is a second father who has taught us, corrected us, challenged us, forgiven us, protected us, defended us, and loved us unconditionally over the course of many years--some of us over decades. He has made it a habit to push us out of our comfort zones, to never let us off easy, and to get us to stretch just a little bit more. At the same time, he has provided a space of safety by taking the reins when situations have escalated beyond our realms and by having our backs. Dr. E has shown us grace when we have messed up and been our biggest fan when we have achieved.

Photo of Dr. Kim Ehrhardt holding a string instrument from Finland
Dr. Kim Ehrhardt
The educators Dr. E has impacted in this way are many. At our recent Leadership Development Institute, as we did our “around the room” final remarks, nearly everyone in the room spoke of Kim’s positive impact on their development as a leader. Nearly everyone acknowledged that they wouldn’t be where they are today without him. When Dr. Schulte asked anyone who had ever been mentored by him to stand, about three-fourths of the administrative team stood. The educators on the administrative team are just a sliver of the many he has mentored, coached, and developed over his career.

Dr. Ehrhardt has taught us about the moral imperative to do whatever it takes to ensure every child learns. He has taught us that we have to pay attention to the social, emotional, and physical needs of children in addition to their cognitive and academic needs. He has taught us to pay attention to the students who need more challenge, the students who are struggling, and everyone in between. He has taught us that we cannot keep doing the same thing if we want different results. He has cultivated within us the hunger to always learn and always grow.

Dr. E means too much to us to come anywhere close to accurately capturing with words. None of us is really sure how we will get along without him, and we are in denial about him really retiring. However, Dr. E has already given us everything we need, and we will all pay tribute to Kim for the rest of our careers. We will carry his words in our minds, his love in our hearts, and his passion in our spirits. We will try to pass on to others what he has given us. To see Dr. Ehrhardt’s impact and legacy, watch what we do for kids.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Class of 2017 Ready to Launch Into the Future

A guest editorial from
State Superintendent Tony Evers

Wisconsin’s 2017 graduates are ready to launch into the future. They have completed requirements for English, mathematics, science, social studies, health, and physical education. But, their PK-12 education is more than core academics. Our students also take art, music, world language, and career and technical education classes to prepare for the next steps in life.

Beyond academic classes, students have a range of athletic and extracurricular opportunities that support the social and emotional learning employers tell us they prize. Things like punctuality, empathy, and persistence. The ability to communicate, lead effectively, and set and meet goals. These “soft skills” are often part of an informal curriculum, modeled by our teachers and taught through day-to-day classroom interactions. These lessons also might be passed along through a coach insisting free throws must be second nature, a music teacher rehearsing until the blend of voices or instruments is just right, a mentor urging students to try another option to solve a design problem, or a student group working together to bring about change in the school or community. These too are important lessons that contribute to school and life success.

Learning these skills starts at home and is reinforced in our 4 and 5 year-old kindergarten classrooms all the way through elementary and middle school and into high school. Really though, social and emotional learning never stops. It is part of being a responsible adult: a commitment to lifelong learning and personal improvement.

Our 56,000 plus public school graduates have plans and dreams beyond high school. Most will go on to more education at technical college or university programs. Some will join the military, start work, or finish apprenticeship training they started in high school. Whatever their path, our graduates will use the knowledge and skills they learned in school every step of the way.

And that’s my message to the Class of 2017. Whether you’ve already crossed the stage or will march to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” in the coming days, a high school diploma isn’t the end. It’s a step toward the future. Never stop learning.