Cheryl Swiatko PTA Teacher of the Year
Gifford Elementary School teacher and University of Wisconsin-Parkside graduate Cheryl Swiatko has a motto that perfectly conveys her enthusiasm for the work she does.
"I have a saying in my room: 'First Grade Rocks!' My parents know that, my kids know that," Swiatko said. "We do it in sign language. We start our day saying that, we end our day saying that.
"Kids come back from years of being away and always say 'Are you still doing First Grade Rocks?' and they'll do it in sign language for me because that's my motto, that's my slogan."
The unabashed joy she brings to her teaching, even after 33 years in front of a classroom, contributed to Swiatko being selected as the Wisconsin Parent Teacher Association 2012 Teacher of the Year. She will accept the award Saturday, April 28, during a ceremony in Lake Geneva.
Swiatko is a favorite of Gifford parents because every child is important to her.
"No kid is going to fail in my class," she emphatically stated. "I think learning should be an adventure that never stops. So, I will push and prod and work with a child until they get what I'm teaching. I give them a solid foundation and I want them to know that learning is fun."
Establishing a solid learning foundation was one of advantages Swiatko said she received from her UW-Parkside education. "Fantastic," is how she described her experience at UW-Parkside. "They prepared us for the real world. We were student teaching in fall of 1978 and before we were done we knew we had jobs already. So Parkside gave us a great foundation."
Swiatko and her fellow Gifford teachers are no strangers to awards. Swiatko received a national DisneyHand Teacher Award nomination in 1993 and she was the Gifford PTA Teacher of the Year the same month she received the Racine Education Association Recognition Award in May 2004.
She was listed in the 2005-2006 "Who's Who among American Teachers" 10th edition and she earned RAMAC's Excellence in Education Teacher of the Year Award in May 2006.
Gifford teachers have won four of the last seven Wisconsin PTA Teacher of the Year Awards. But Swiatko doesn't consider this to be "her award." It's something she shares with other Gifford first-grade teachers.
"We work in teams. So, when I accept this award Saturday night, I'm going to accept on behalf of our first-grade team," she said. "We work together as a team and we all want children to succeed. It's not just me alone. I have a lot of collaboration with my co-workers."