Autumn Steif, Jacob Martin

FOX CITIES – The Fox Cities Chamber has announced its recipients of the 2023 Excellence in Education Shining Star awards.

Ten Fox Cities educators were honored, with the Educator of the Year being named the evening of the awards from among these ten. The awards banquet is set for March 10.

This year’s recipients are:

Excellence in Early Childhood: Carol Mallmann, Daycare Teacher, Robin’s Nest Daycare

“The number of people who are currently working and making a difference in the Fox Cities region that were partially raised by Carol as young kids is close to 100, with more on the way as they continue to move through school. They are teachers, medical professionals, business leaders, and so much more, right here in the Fox Valley.”

Excellence in Elementary Education: Elizabeth Hirschy, Kindergarten Teacher, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception School, Greenville.

“As students reflect on their educational days at St. Mary, Mrs. Hirschy is a highlight of many memories. She is definitely a fan favorite! She makes everyone feel comfortable learning at their own pace and she gets excited with them when they excel.”

Excellence in Middle School Education: Stephani VanRoy, 5th Grade Teacher, Little Chute Middle School

“It’s evident by Ms. VanRoy’s approach to her craft that she understands students are unable to excel if their physical, social, and emotional needs are not met. She seems to have the knack to know what the answer is to get each student to be their best.”

Excellence in High School Education: Rebecca Ludtke, English Teacher, Wrightstown High School

“Mrs. Ludtke has a great compassion for anyone in her life and it is evident in the way she treats not only her students, but her colleagues and anyone else she interacts with as well. Her impact goes beyond the lessons she teaches and into the students’ lives.”

Excellence in Specialty Arts: Jacob Martin, Band Director, Kaukauna High School

“Mr. Martin creates a safe place in the band room for all students. He has created an atmosphere that welcomes non-band students into this artistic space, sparks their curiosity, and has helped students find instruments and joy through the art of creating music.”

Excellence in Specialty STEM: Brian Zunker, Biomedical Science Teacher, Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton

“The minute you walk into Mr. Zunker’s classroom, you can tell exactly who is in charge of the learning – his students! That is exactly how he would have it. STEM pathways, including Biomedical Science, require students to be engaged in hands-on, collaborative work that builds skills for the careers they are striving for.”

Excellence in Special Education: Sharyn Brum, Special Education Teacher, Janet Berry Elementary School, Appleton

“Ms. Brum is a fierce advocate for inclusion and this has helped perpetuate the culture of the entire building. Teachers look for ways to include students in their classrooms because Sharyn has shaped that culture. This impact spreads far wider than just Janet Berry but has taught generations of teachers and students the importance of including others no matter what their abilities are.”

Excellence in Extracurricular Activities: Kyle Kleuskens, Wrestling Coach and Physical Education Teacher, Neenah High School

“Coach Kleuskens brings an energy to the wrestling program that is second to none. It is full of positive energy that you see all over Neenah and across the Fox Valley. Every single member of his team has 100% bought in to carrying out the academic, social, and athletic goals. This level of commitment by the athletes is unprecedented.”

Excellence in School Administration & Support Staff: Autumn Steif, Reading Specialist, New Directions Learning Community, Kaukauna

“Ms. Steif sees potential in every student. She partners with classrooms teachers and has set up a structure where she meets with teachers to talk about the success of individual students regularly. She truly sees students as individuals and focuses on their growth.”

Excellence in Higher Education: Tammy Ladwig, Ph.D., Professor of Teaching and Learning, UW-Oshkosh at Fox Cities, Menasha

“Dr. Ladwig makes the commitment to her students that she will be there to listen and support no matter the need. This commitment means that she is often the first point of contact for many who are seeking support, a caring person to listen, or guidance to meet their goals. This can be seen in the open-door policy that she has held as a professor.”

“The Fox Cities Chamber is committed to supporting and facilitating education and business partnerships that promote student success, workforce development and quality of life. We are thrilled to be able to honor Fox Cities educators through our Excellence in Education awards and recognize the key role they play in inspiring students at all levels to prepare our future workforce and the next generation of leaders in our community,” said Becky Bartoszek, President and CEO of the Fox Cities Chamber.

The honorees were selected by a distinguished volunteer panel of Fox Cities education professionals.

They will be formally recognized and will receive their awards at the Chamber’s Excellence in Education Shining Star Awards Program at the Grand Meridian on March 30.

Learn more about the event, and buy tickets at



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By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.