Graduates receive teacher of the year awards

On Oct. 11, two UW-Eau Claire graduates attended a ceremony where they were honored as teachers of the year for their work in early childhood special education.

“It must be the Blugold spirit,” Kristin Geier, one of the award recipients, said.

Geier works with Laura Trachsel as special education teachers at Forrest Street Elementary School in Black River Falls, where they work with special needs children ages three to five.

Geier has been teaching for a total of 24 years, and 13 of those have been spent in Black River Falls. Trachsel has been a teacher for three years, all of them at BlackRiver Falls.

Before graduating, Trachsel student-taught in the classroom with Geier, and applied for a position that became available while student teaching there. When she was hired for the job, they had the opportunity to work together again.

“Our passion for what we teach and the people that we work with plays a huge part into it,” Trachsel said. “We’re always advocates for our kids and all children with special needs. We’re team players.”

Melanie Simones, who has been teaching for eight years, has spent the last three years teaching 4K alongside Geier and Trachsel at Forrest Street.

Simones co-teaches with Geier in the 4K classroom in the mornings and did the same last year in the afternoons with Trachsel.

“Working with certain students can be kind of frustrating or very challenging, and they never really seem to let that get to them,” Simones said. “They’re always coming up with new ideas and trying new things.”

In addition to working with their own children as well as co-teaching in 4K classrooms, Trachsel and Geier are both very active in the school and district of Black River Falls, Geier said. Geier is coach of the new teacher-mentor committee.

“Together we developed community playgroups, which is a place for children … and families in the communities if they have concerns about development of their children,” Geier said. “It also provides children with the opportunity to just come together and play.”

Geier and Trachsel work really close with the children and also strive to form relationships with their parents, which is extremely important at such a young age because the children are so
dependent, Trachsel said.

“I think probably the most important part is to get to know the child, their strengths, their weaknesses and then building goals upon those to work on,” Geier said.

Simones said she hears about people winning awards, but she never actually knows them. Now that she does, she said she thinks they definitely deserved it.

and Traschel both said that it was a surprise to even be nominated, let alone win such an award.

“It’s humbling but it really is quite an honor to be given an award for just doing what you do,” Geier said. “We were presented with an award for just doing what we do to make our children
be successful.”