In his classroom at Weyauwega-Fremont High School, Pat Fee’s teaching philosophy is to serve with significance.
“That takes on many things,” he said. “They know who I am. I’m not fake. Once you build that respect, you can do so much more in the classroom. I always look to get better. When you have the opportunity to build relationships and gain respect, you have the ability to pass on knowledge.”
On Saturday, April 18, Fee’s work in the classroom was acknowledged when he received a Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Fellowship during a reception and luncheon in Oshkosh.
He is one of 101 teachers from throughout the state chosen this year to receive the award. Fellowship recipients are chosen for their ability to inspire a love of learning in their students and to motivate others, as well as for their leadership and service within and outside the classroom.
Jeremy Schroeder, Weyauwega-Fremont’s middle and high school principal, nominated Fee.
“Mr. Fee instructs his students in every class with outstanding motivation and passion which draws students in and engages them each day. His ongoing dedication and willingness to create a positive learning experience for students by providing them opportunities, using real world experiences and being a coach enhances their education,” Schroeder wrote when he nominated Fee for the award.
The application process began last fall, and for Fee, resulted in him reflecting on his teaching career.
His career includes teaching physical education, special education and social studies, and Fee believes his varied background helps him in the classroom.
“I think my experiences in all the different fields I’ve taught in has given me the opportunity to be the kind of person I am today professionally,” he said.
Fee explained his decisions to study those three different areas.
Growing up in the northwestern Wisconsin community of Birchwood, Fee enjoyed being active.
“I had a great teacher, a physical education/health teacher, that modeling of being in what you like, and I just thought it was what I’d like to do,” he said.
While Fee had many options for college within a two-hour drive from his hometown, he chose to attend the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh five hours away.
He liked the campus and facilities and played football there.
Fee graduated from there in 1997 with a physical education degree in pre-K through grade 12 and two minors.
“Everyone at that time, if they were PE, did a health minor,” he said. “I thought that wasn’t me. I always liked social studies, so I have a history minor in 6-12 and coaching for pre-K-12. And then I went back to UW-Stevens Point to add on a certification for teaching students with emotional behavior disabilities and learning disabilities.”
Fee’s first teaching job was at Assumption High School in Wisconsin Rapids, where he taught physical education and a couple sections of social studies. He coached football and baseball.
He taught there a few years before accepting the head football coach position at Nekoosa High School.
“At the time, they didn’t have any teaching positions for me. That is when I went back to Point for those certifications. I did special education there two years and coached football,” Fee said.
He and his wife Bernadette met while he was teaching in that area.
At the time, she was a flight attendant, working out of Appleton.
As the couple moved toward getting engaged, Fee began looking for teaching jobs closer to the Fox Cities.
Fee’s friendship with Mike Hansen got him to the W-F District.
They met when both taught in Nekoosa, and after Hansen began teaching at W-F High School, he let Fee know about a special education opening.
Now in his 13th year teaching in the W-F District, Fee has taught special education, physical education and now social studies.
“I think that’s brought me to this point, to be recognized by my peers in this way. All my experiences have made me a different teacher,” Fee said.
While he has had multiple opportunities to teach or coach elsewhere, Fee decided to stay here, because he likes and enjoys teaching and living in the area.
He and Bernadette have two children: 9-year-old Clayton and 7-year-old Macy and are in the process of adopting 4-year-old twins Jayson and Jayshon.
When Fee learned he was among this year’s recipient of the fellowship award, he was excited.
Six years ago, he was a finalist, so he knew what the process involved.
Attending the luncheon with him last weekend were Bernadette, his parents Pat and Mary Fee, Schroeder and District Administrator Scott Bleck.
“Mr. Fee cultivates a teaching style within his classroom which enthusiastically creates learning environments for students to excel. As a district, we are privileged and thrilled to support Mr. Fee with his recent recognition as a Kohl Fellowship recipient,” Bleck said. “Mr. Fee is a remarkable asset to our district. His commitment to create quality educational opportunities for students and our greater school community is outstanding. I have personally witnessed Mr. Fee go beyond the call and nature of his instructional assignments to help the children he serves.”
Fee said, “With so many great people out there in education, it’s an honor, and I’m at a great spot as a husband and father. It’s important for my students to see that, too.”
He hopes to not only instill into his students the knowledge of what he teaches but also the importance of having class in whatever they do and to walk with integrity.
Fee wants his students to be able to shake the hand of a U.S. senator and also help someone on the street.
“If you can do that, you’re going to open a lot of doors for yourself,” he said.