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By Amber Hayden
BOYCEVILLE — Tiffany Creek Elementary teacher Debra Bell was humbled and honored when she found out recently that she had been awarded one of the six, CESA 11 Teacher Fellows Awards from the Herb Kohl Foundation in the amount of $6,000.
“I am proud to be a part of the staff at Tiffany Creek,” Bell said. “We are TCE family and we work together to raise each other up.”
The Herb Kohl Foundation Fellowship rewards teachers who have demonstrated superior ability to inspire love of learning in their students, have motivated others, and have provided meritorious service both inside and outside the classroom.
Twenty eight teacher Fellowship recipients along with 18 Excellence Scholarship recipients, 27 Initiative Scholarship recipients and four principal Leadership Award recipients were honored during a luncheon held March 31 at the Chippewa Falls Middle School.
Bell was nominated by former colleague, Dianne Dummer, who had first nominated Bell back in 1995 and then again in 2019.
But when Bell looked back at her first application and compared it to her current one, she was amazed at how much her life has changed.
Dummer nominated Bell once again because of the work she does at the local, region and state level to lead and support teachers’ voices.
“I know a lot more now than I knew back then,” Bell stated.
Once you are nominated there is an extensive application you have to fill out, and the questions are a professional reflection of your teaching, she said.
“This time I really worked to make my application a true reflection of my teaching experience including stories of my past teaching experiences,” she explained.
On top of Dummer nominating Bell, she also had a former student, whose daughter is now in her third grade class, write a letter of recommendation for the Herb Kohl award.
Bell believes her students learn more than reading, math and core subjects; they learn routine and positive learning habits as well as how to support each other more.
Bell plans on spending a portion of the money on a room she has dreamed about for twenty years. It is the “Mindful Moment Room” where students are able to stop in and take a breath when they are feeling stressed and just need to breathe.
“I want this room to be a warm, inviting, calm room that students can go to for a few minutes and read a book, talk to an adult, color a picture, or do some yoga,” explained Bell.
There will be positive words in the room along with pictures of calming water and scenery, all of which the paint, supplies furniture and books will be purchased using the $6,000.
“If I have money left, I will work with the school next year to decide what we will spend the rest of the money on,” Bell said.
The best part of the award, according to Bell, is it’s another positive way to show people that Boyceville is a great place to raise your children and send them to the school.
Tiffany Creek Elementary was also nominated as a National Blue Ribbon School, and will find out in September if they won the award.
“What a great combination and time to celebrate 34 years of teaching,” Bell said. “I have been in the classroom all my life. I am happy we are being recognized for our hard work.”
Now Bell, along with 99 other teachers, will wait until May to see if they were picked as one of four Teachers of the Year.
There are four teachers chosen for the honor which includes: one for elementary, one for middle/high school, one for private schools and one for specials.
“My philosophy in life is if it is meant to be it will happen,” Bell commented. “If not, that’s okay but I did my best and that’s what matters.”
Bell is happy where she is and in what she is doing, and has quite a few stories to tell from each group of students she has taught.
Bell and other nominees from this area were celebrated at a banquet that was held on March 31 in Chippewa Falls.
Tiffany Creek Elementary will also receive $6,000 as part of the Herb Kohl Educational Fellowship.
“Education is the key to the future of Wisconsin and our nation. I am very proud of the accomplishments of these students and teachers and look forward to the great contributions they will make in the future.” ~Herb Kohl