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Madison Metropolitan School District

MMSD Staff, Students Earn Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Awards

MMSD Staff, Students Earn Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Awards

Congratulations to the 2024 Herb Kohl Educational Foundation award recipients, including four honorees from the Madison Metropolitan School District. West High School teacher Mai Her, Transition Education Program Teacher Leader Jani Koester, and two seniors, Anvika Annyapu and Anna Uriostegui, were selected.

Teacher Fellowship Award

Teacher Fellowship awards of $6,000 are presented to 100 teachers who were nominated for their leadership and service in and outside the classroom, their ability to inspire a love of learning and to motivate their students.

Paulina Bravo Valenzuela teaches history in Dual Language Immersion (DLI) and Pathways programs at La Follette High School. When she began working at La Follette in 2021, she shared how connecting with her Chilean roots encourages her as a DLI teacher.

"I envision community engagement and providing opportunities for our students to own their learning," Bravo Valenzuela shared in 2021. "At the same time, I would like to contribute to educate our society in the benefits of multiculturalism and to embrace interculturality as a pedagogical approach to dismantle racial disparities."

Inspiring students is incredibly important to Mai Her, an English teacher at West High since 2010; she described it as a joy to see students tell their own stories as they connect with literature and express themselves through writing. Receiving this award feels "unreal," Her said.

"It absolutely humbles me. As teachers, we do not operate in a vacuum. Everything that I do is not possible without the help of those around me," Her said. "As I take risks in and outside of the classroom, it feels great to have the support of many. Our English department, our admin team, our community and parents, and especially our amazing student body – they all inspire me everyday." 

Jani Koester supports the Transition Education Program (TEP) at MMSD, which aims to reduce barriers to school enrollment and achievement so that children from families who are experiencing homelessness have a full and equal opportunity to succeed in school. 

Koester provides crucial support to students facing homelessness year round; and during November – during Homelessness Awareness Month – she helps lead MMSD's donation drive for hygienic items and new/gently used warm clothing for students.

Student Excellence and Student Initiative Scholars

Student Excellence and Initiative Scholarships of $10,000 were awarded to 187 graduating high school students. 

Anvika Annyapu, a senior at Vel Phillips Memorial High School, was nominated for her demonstration of academic excellence and initiative. West High School senior Anna Uriostegui was nominated for her participation in multiple activities and community leadership.