Leaders in Educational Excellence
Posted on: Dec 1, 2021
Each year teachers from around the region honor a select handful of their outstanding peers to receive Leadership in Educational Excellence Awards.
Four staff members from Delano Public Schools earned the award and were among those honored with a ceremony at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud on Wednesday, Oct. 13. They were DES Dean of Students Paul Ludwig, sixth-grade math and life skills teacher Andrew Waldbillig, DHS math teacher Emilie Kalvig, and Delano Teacher of the Year Monica Kunkel.
In addition, Delano Superintendent Matt Schoen addressed the gathering as the Superintendent of Record for the evening.
“Tonight we honor the incredible courage that it takes to be an excellent educator in these most unusual and trying times,” Schoen told the assembly. “The honorees this year deserve special recognition, as they have achieved excellence in their field at a time when educational challenges have never been greater.”
Read on for more information about each of Delano’s winners.
Ludwig has had a varied 25-year career in education, including 23 years serving students in his native Delano. His first 11 years in the field came as an elementary classroom teacher. He then moved into a technology support role before assuming the dean of students position last school year.
Multiple staff members at DES nominated Ludwig for the LEEA honor.
“His approach, demeanor and patience with the kids have been outstanding,” said one nomination. “Paul comes to school every day with a positive attitude, goes above and beyond and has been a great support and go-to person for the staff.”
“He has been there to help teachers, special ed. teachers and paras through some of the toughest situations,” said a second nomination. “He always is approachable and remains calm in situations where that can be hard to do. He is always looking out for the best interest of the students and staff.”
Ludwig, who knew he wanted to work in elementary education since he was a freshman in high school, said he has appreciated the journey so far.
“I have enjoyed the variety of roles and responsibilities,” he said. “I went into this line of work because my passion has always been working with and helping kids, and I consider myself lucky to be able to do something that I truly enjoy.”
The fact that the award comes through nominations from fellow staff members makes it particularly meaningful.
“Knowing that you are helping make a difference for both our students and staff is what it is all about for me,” he said. “Last year was a very challenging year with lots of changes. I was happy to be recognized in a year that had so many challenges.”
While each position has had its own advantages, Ludwig said his current role as dean allows him to work with the entire DES population, including staff members, students, and students’ families.
“It is something that I really enjoy and look forward to each day,” said Ludwig. “I have really enjoyed getting to work with our parents and families at DES. We have an amazing, supportive community, and I feel like we are very supported at DES.”
Waldbillig is in his 11th year of teaching, and his fourth year in Delano. During that time he has been active in athletics and activities, as well as the classroom.
“I became a teacher and coach because I really enjoy building relationships with people,” he said. “Creating positive interactions with students, athletes and staff so ALL feel welcome and comfortable is my number one priority. Ensuring my students understand prime factorization, or that my players know where they need to be for help-side defense is important, but building and maintaining relationships with them is why I do what I do.”
An anonymous nomination from a fellow staff member outlined some of the ways that Waldbillig’s contributions have led to a stronger school community.
“Drew is a hard-working individual who is always willing to help where needed,” the nomination said. “He did a great job providing school announcements during our distance learning time earlier this year. He has led our end of the year variety / talent show, and is currently working on getting a student council up and running for DIS. I think Drew is very deserving of the LEEA Award!”
Waldbillig said that while he appreciates the recognition, the whole staff has shown extra dedication over the past year-plus.
“Many teachers here at DIS and in Delano deserve this award, especially after what everyone has been and still continues to go through since March of 2020,” he said. “Staff members are going above and beyond to ensure student success both in and out of the classroom. I am honored to be recognized by a coworker because I work with so many others who could win this award each year!”
Working with the rest of the sixth-grade teaching team and his fellow coaches have been among Waldbillig’s favorite job experiences, and he said that starting the DIS Student Council along with Social Worker Nicole Gohman has been “very rewarding.”
“We continue to learn and grow together each year as educators – and we have a lot of fun doing it!” he said in regard to his teaching friends. “But my absolute favorite parts are the students and athletes I’ve had the privilege to learn with.”
Now in her ninth year of teaching in Delano, and 12th overall, Kalvig said she aims to impart skills that can benefit students as they go out into the world.
“I enjoy helping others learn,” she said. “It is fun to see students’ confidence grow in and out of the classroom. My goal is not to make every student love math (if they do that would be great), but to get them to appreciate it and understand just how much they can accomplish with it.”
The anonymous nomination for Kalvig said she is a valuable member of the high school team who makes good use of effective teaching tools and methods.
“As a math teacher, she takes the time each morning to establish relationships with students in her classroom,” the nomination said. “She starts the lesson with review and practice of content-specific vocabulary. She uses Explicit Teacher to introduce new concepts and uses the gradual release model to ensure that each student has an understanding of the concept being taught.”
Kalvig said she appreciated the award, and that she most enjoys the personal connections she is able to make as a teacher.
“It is always nice to be appreciated and noticed by your peers and administration,” she said. “I like being able to connect with students and help them grow academically and as a human in general. We help to make ‘good people’ at Delano, and I think that is just as important as making sure they understand the math in my classroom.”
Kunkel is in her 14th year at Delano. She has served as the media center specialist at the high school, and is currently on special assignment overseeing curriculum, assessment and literacy.
She earned an LEEA award in 2019, and was the district’s Teacher of the Year for 2020-21. See more about Kunkel at https://bit.ly/Kunkel21.