Koepke receives Special Educator Award
By Angie Landsverk
She is across-categorical special education teacher in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District.
“I am honored to be recognized,” Koepke said. “I have taught children with special needs at Weyauwega Elementary School for the past 15 years.
The recognition is from Waupaca County Arc, an organization which seeks to promote a quality of life for those who are developmentally disabled and intellectually challenged through educational, vocational and social programs.
Each May, the organization recognizes groups and individuals.
The award is being presented to Koepke during a May 3 program, at Waupaca County Industries in Manawa.
Koepke was selected for the award from among the nominations received from the five school districts in Waupaca County.
Kandi Martin, director of pupil services/curriculum in the W-F School District, nominated her.
“Sue and I have worked together on many initiatives and education plans for students. Over the course of my education career, I have had the opportunity to work with many teachers and specialists, and I can say with absolute certainty that Ms. Koepke’s leadership capabilities, genuine concern for students and abilities to work as a team member are unsurpassed,” Martin wrote in her letter nominating Koepke for the recognition.
Koepke said she wanted to be a teacher since she was 5 years old.
“I felt I was born to teach,” she said.
While attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, she decided to teach children with special needs.
“It was one of the best decisions that I have ever made,” she said.
Her teaching philosophy is learning is fun, and Koepke believes her sense of humor and calm manner have been her greatest strengths.
Before taking a break from her career to raise a family, she worked in the Fort Atkinson and Naperville, Illinois, school districts.
Martin said Koepke has been a pioneer in developing and increasing the quality of the programs in which she is involved.
“Sue has been an innovator with placing students in the least restrictive environment and has served as a leader on our overall autism effectiveness in the district,” Martin said.
Martin said Koepke has genuine care and concern for her students and models what caring for students inside and outside of the school looks like.
“She provides programs like her ‘Fun in the Sun’ picnic for students each year, so they have rich educational opportunities in the school and community settings. She has a magical charm and love for all of these students, and they respond to her in ways that allow them to find success for the first time in their educational careers. She has an ease about her nature that draws people to her, and she is able to create that trust she needs to do her job effectively,” Martin wrote.
She said Koepke juggles her assigned responsibilities and the unwritten duties which also fall upon her.
Koepke participates in annual autism trainings, mentored 10 or more practicum students, annually trains her paraprofessional staff and facilitates special education staff meetings.
She has worked with the county to tutor a student, set up coordinated services teams, been the drama adviser, worked at the science fair, assisted with literacy night and has done individual tutoring.
“Sue exhibits tremendous leadership as a teacher and is inspiring as a human being. She inspires success in her students and kindness in fellow staff members,” Martin said. “She is a tremendous asset to our district, giving her all each and every day.”
Koepke said receiving the award is validation for the district’s entire special education staff.
“It truly takes a village. I am blessed to be a part of an amazing team. The parents of our students are also vital team members,” she said. “The award is a lovely gift at the end of my career.”