Ripon High School Spanish teacher will receive Ripon College’s Distinguished Educator Award

Marta Ruiz Yedinak, a Spanish teacher at Ripon High School, will be presented with Ripon College’s Distinguished Educator Award at the 2023 Commencement ceremony May 14.

Each year, the College celebrates an outstanding elementary, middle or high school teacher or a school administrator who has greatly impacted students and is admired by fellow teachers for strong scholarship and leadership while maintaining exemplary student engagement. Nominations are made by the graduating Ripon College seniors. This year’s honoree was nominated by her former student Peter Stanfield of Ripon, a graduating Ripon College senior majoring in chemistry-biology.

Stanfield says in his nomination, “Yedinak sets the standard for what an educator should be. She is a trailblazer in her field, and she cares deeply for her work, her students and her community. She is the most impactful teacher I have ever had. I deeply admire her passion, and I hope that I love my future job as much as Yedinak loves hers.”

Yedinak was born and raised in Mexico where she attended college and obtained a degree in communication sciences. She taught Spanish and history at high schools in Mexico before meeting and marrying her husband, Keith, and moving to Wisconsin. In 2004, she was certified as a teacher in Wisconsin, obtained her master’s degree in arts in education from Viterbo University in 2009 and National Board Certification in 2011. She taught in Waupun for 10 years before coming to the Ripon Area School District in the 2014-2015 school year.

“It has been a wonderful experience to teach my primary language to my students,” Yedinak says. “I take very seriously the great honor and responsibility that it implies to also share my culture with them and the community in general. I believe that I am an ambassador of my culture, and it is one of my goals to guide students into conceiving their own convictions and beliefs based on information, so that they can grow to be kind and responsible citizens of the world.”

In addition, she hosts a podcast which is used by educators across the country, chaperones field trips to Costa Rica, Spain and Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minnesota, and has hosted exchange students several times.

Yedinak says she loves teaching because it is so dynamic. “It never seems to be routine. I always have different kids, and every year there are different challenges. Even if I have to cover the same content, I will always try to find more novel and fun ways to teach it next time.

Her interaction with students is especially meaningful. “I enjoy the satisfaction of being able to help kids, have real conversations with them in Spanish, seeing how far they can get, and it is an honor to be part of their lives,” she says. “When I hear them speaking in Spanish, I think that what I feel might be the closest feeling to parents hearing their kids talking for the first time,” says Yedinak. “I like being around them.”

She said receiving Ripon’s Distinguished Educator Award will be special, particularly because a former student was involved. “It’s very humbling to see that I did make some sort of impact, that he felt the love, support and care that I wanted him and all of my students to feel. Knowing that I was reaching him as much as I was hoping to makes me really, really happy.”

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