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May 3, 2019

Part 2 of 2: Teacher of the Year! What it’s like to win!

Interview with Teacher of the Year Award Winner: Jill Runde

*Part 2 of 2: A blog series on past Teacher of the Year Winners. Did you miss part one? Click here!*

Jill Runde – 2017 Teacher of the Year, Wisconsin

What do Lunchables, Suave, and a Teacher of the Year award have in common?

Jill Runde, that’s what.

With a successful career as a corporate marketer for Oscar Mayer and Helene Curtis on the line, Jill embraced her calling to help kids. Enjoy this interview outlining Jill’s journey from corporate marketer to Teacher of the Year in 2017.

What did it feel like to win Teacher of the Year?!

Receiving this award was overwhelming as it was presented to me at a surprise assembly at my school where the State Superintendent, [Wisconsin] Tony Evers, presented the award in front of my family, students, and staff.  I was tearful and humbled! And as many of the TOY recipients feel, not deserving as there are so many amazing educators!

What do you teach, where do you teach, and how long have you taught?

I am a school counselor at Indian Mound Middle School in McFarland, Wisconsin. I’ve been a school counselor for 17 years.

Tell me a bit about your choice to become a teacher. In other words, did you feel called to the profession–if so, how, and if not, how did you become a teacher?

I have a unique story. My undergrad degree is in marketing and I started my career in corporate marketing at Helene Curtis [Suave, Finesse, Degree brands] in Chicago.  After the birth of our son, we moved to Madison and I worked for Kraft Oscar Mayer in brand marketing on the Lunchables, Hotdog, and Claussen brands. I had always thought about teaching, though, and in my heart, I had a deep desire to help kids.  After the birth of our third child, I decided to leave the corporate world, follow my heart, and go back to school for my Master’s in Counseling Education. I have never regretted it for a moment. It has fed my soul and has been a wonderful fit with my family.

For you, what is the best part about counseling and what is challenging?

The best part of being a counselor is helping kids and being there for them at some of the most difficult points in their adolescence, especially our students suffering from trauma. With the increase in anxiety and depression in our youth, coupled with the pressures of social media, the most challenging part is having enough time in the day to reach all of our students who are suffering.

How has being the Teacher of the Year changed you, your teaching, your life?

Being awarded Teacher of the Year hasn’t changed me or my counseling, but there does come an expectation that has been more difficult and stressful. It seems when people find out I received the award, they think everything I say or do has to be at a higher level, which can be added pressure. But overall, receiving the award has been an amazing gift and I am forever grateful!

What would you tell your younger self about teaching and/or life?

I tend to work long hours. I love my job, but I would tell my younger self to spend more time with my kids.  They are adults now and I realize I missed out on spending precious time with the most important kids in my life.

What can we (humans) do to support teachers and students?

Our teaching staff is incredibly professional and talented and are dealing with higher pressures from parents and students who struggle with more mental health issues– let’s trust them and let them lead the discussions on what is needed in our schools.  

To support students, we need to eliminate the pressures they feel. Whether it comes from parents, social media, or just our current culture, students today feel they have to do it all, be involved in everything and be perfect. It was apparent with the recent scandals of celebrities paying to get their children into Ivy League schools. I’m not sure how to make a difference in the pressure they feel, but I think less screen time and more friend and family facetime would be a start.  Also, I think if parents helped their children learn how to say “no” and stepped in when their kids are overbooked and over committed this could make a difference, as well. 

Also, implicit bias in schools and the achievement gap of our minority students in the school system.  This research and these discussions are important and long overdue. I would also like to challenge our legislators and communities about what they are doing, services they are providing to help our lower socioeconomic families.  We need to find ways to support young families and parents. Having a wrap-around full system discussion is critical in seeing the change we are looking for in achievement.

Jill, thank you for leaving your career in marketing to help kids! The world is a better place because of the work you do for children and families. We applaud you, congratulations!

To learn how to apply, nominate, or become a Teacher of the Year candidate, please click here.


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