Ripon College helps recognize state teachers, including A.J. Zayia ’15

Ripon College and the Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education recently honored outstanding educators in the state.

Anthony “A.J.” Zayia graduated from Ripon College in 2015. He majored in exercise science and minored in health. He is a physical education teacher at Northland Pines Middle and High School in Eagle River.

Michael Schmitt is a physical education teacher at Waupun Junior/Senior High School.

Zayia received the Early Career Educator Award, presented to educators within the first three years of their careers. It is based on their positive effect on schools or communities, their innovation in designing learning experiences and their advocacy for students.

Daniel Marien, principal of Northland Pines Middle and High School, said: “I 100% believe A.J. is deserving of this award. He has been a wonderful addition to our PE Department. He has already created a good voice among the entire high school staff. He has added a tremendous amount to our adaptive PE classes not only in the high school but also in Eagle River Elementary School. A.J. has been involved in some curriculum upgrades within our PE Department as well. AJ has also taken on the role of Head Football Coach for our school and in two years in this position we have recognized a huge increase in our participation rate in football while we are experiencing declining enrollment.

“Lastly A.J. has gotten heavily involved in our ASPIRE program which is for at-risk students in grades 7-10. AJ is the main teacher of our 9th grade ASPIRE class and has been heavily involved in the planning of these classes. AJ has built very solid relationships with all of his students whether in his PE classes, his ASPIRE class or on the football field. We are very happy he is here at Northland Pines!”

Schmitt received the Pre-Service Educator Mentor Award, presented to educators who have demonstrated a sustained pattern of mentoring pre-service educators for at least five years. They are selected based on abilities like modeling professional responsibility and effective classroom management.

Schmitt has served as a mentor for numerous clinical students and student teachers from Ripon College, and the Educational Studies Department nominated Schmitt based on this service. Past student teachers have reported that Schmitt has excellent content knowledge, models appropriate teaching strategies, challenges his student teachers while providing the support that they need to grow as educators, and helps students feel welcomed and a part of the school staff.

One student teacher commented that his experience as Schmitt’s student teacher was the best he had had.

This is the sixth year that WACTE has sponsored the Early Career and Pre-Service Educator Mentor Awards. More than 150 people attended the awards tea where teachers from across the state were honored for their professional excellence.

Ripon College is a member of WACTE, a professional organization composed of the Wisconsin institutions that prepare individuals for teacher licensure. WACTE educator preparation programs offer diversity in size, focus, and delivery, but all are designed to prepare quality teachers for Wisconsin’s schools. WACTE is an affiliate of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).

(Photo: A.J. Zayia, left; Jean Rigden, director of teacher education at Ripon College; Michael Schmitt)

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