Michelle Mees, fifth grad math teacher at River View Middle School and Dan Van Boxtel, a Tech-Ed teacher at Kaukauna High School are being recognized as 2024 Excellence in Education Shining Star award winners.

FOX VALLEY — The Fox Cities Chamber has announced its recipients of the 2024 Excellence in Education Shining Star Awards. Ten Fox Cities educators were honored, and an Educator of the Year will be named the evening of the awards from among these 10.

They will be formally recognized and receive their awards at the Chamber’s Excellence in Education Shining Star Awards Program at Butte des Morts Country Club on March 21, 2024. Learn more about the event, and buy tickets at https://business.foxcitieschamber.com/events/details/2024-excellence-in-education-shining-star-awards-program-18183

Here are this year’s recipients, with comments from their nominators:

  • Karen Hoffman, Business & Marketing, Kimberly High School
    “In addition to her leadership in her daily teaching career, Ms. Hoffman and her team thought outside the education box and advocated for the INCubator program to make its home at Kimberly High School. With the support of the KHS school staff and local professionals, spearheading this initiative has become a huge success and a practice other schools must learn to follow!”
  • Lisa Jelenic, 8th Grade, Seymour Middle School
    “Ms. Jelenic’s impact as a teacher has been nothing short of transformative, leaving a lasting impression on both students and families alike. Her dedication to education goes beyond the confines of the classroom, as evidenced by the numerous families who specifically request her as their child’s teacher. This speaks volumes about the trust and admiration she has garnered within our school community.”
  • Chris Jones, Science, Neenah Middle School
    “At the core of Mr. Jones’ work is his deep care, concern, and commitment for our students who experience school differently than others.  This often means that he seeks out our students who struggle to find success in school, instills an unfailing belief in each of them, and celebrates their successes.  He inspires students to achieve more for themselves than they previously envisioned possible.”
  • Sara Lawman, 2nd Grade, Chilton Area Catholic School
    “Ms. Lawman is an amazing teacher in so many ways. She communicates with the parents weekly and is always quick to reply to emails. She makes each student feel important and loved. She has amazing and fun projects planned throughout the year. My favorite so far is Christmas around the world. She uses different voices to tell stories. She makes me want to go back to school to take 2nd grade again. She is my favorite teacher and I’m a parent!”
  • Elyse Lucas, Art, Appleton North High School
    “Ms. Lucas brings her art curriculum and her art students out into the community. She has initiated many events with Appleton city art projects, Boys and Girls Club and the Fox Valley Symphony; to name a few. Her focus has always been to use art education to enhance her community and to grow and support her students. She is a role model for community engagement and a mentor to her students and faculty.”
  • Paul Maronek, 4th Grade, Freedom Elementary School
    “There have been countless times my daughter has come home talking about how much she loves school this year. Mr. Maronek has been a great mentor to her as she’s gone through some peer issues this year. He sat down with my daughter and talked to her about how she’s his student first and he’s there for her with whatever comes up. He reassured her that she can always count on him.”
  • Michelle Mees, 5th Grade Math, Riverview Middle School, Kaukauna,
    “There are teachers that tiptoe around students who struggle and then there are teachers like Ms. Mees who advocate for those kids and do everything they can do to help them be successful. 5th grade is a hard year for students as they are adjusting from elementary school to middle school with multiple teachers and new surroundings. She is an amazing teacher – a true advocate for her students.”
  • Leila Ramagopal Pertl, Music, Edison Elementary School; Lawrence University
    “Ms. Pertl approaches her students with the belief that they have unlimited potential, and she provides the instruction and encouragement for her students to create, grapple with, and perform music at a level far beyond what is normally seen at the elementary grade level. Leila has turned her elementary music classrooms into a Lab School for Lawrence music education students, enriching the lives of the young students and pre-professional music education students.”
  • Dan Van Boxtel, Technology Education, Kaukauna High School
    “Mr. Van Boxtel goes above and beyond to help his students succeed in his class. He’s an all-around wonderful person. Because of him, my daughter has chosen mechanics as her career choice.”
  • Dan Van Eperen, English/Social Studies, Little Chute Career Pathways Academy
    “Mr. Van Eperen is an impactful educator that influences not only his students, but also his community. He is involved with the Fox Cities PAC’s Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program, in which Little Chute High School participates, and he directs their musicals. By participating in this initiative, he opens the doors for his students to attend educational workshops about various aspects of the theater world. Dan’s fostering of hard work, his determination and his importance of comradery in his students makes not only a positive learning environment for his students but teaches them how to be great members of society.”


“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,” says Becky Bartoszek, President and CEO of the Fox Cities Chamber.

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

To view the full list of nominees: https://foxcitieschamber.com/2024-shining-star-nominees/

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