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Kalli Nowitzke, Teacher Education Scholarship Winner, Summer II, 2011

Dominican University, in partnership with Bisk Education, Inc., proudly recognizes Kalli Nowitzke – a sixth grade teacher at Beach Middle School in Chelsea, Michigan – as a winner of the Bisk Foundation Teacher Education Scholarship for the Summer II, 2011 session. The scholarship supports the professional development of outstanding teachers who are making a difference in the lives of their students.

Respected by students and peers, Nowitzke is known as a strong instructor, with a passion for her students and a creative approach to meeting their needs. She became a teacher in order to make a difference in the lives of others, and is now in her second year. Her career began with teaching Special Education English in a diverse classroom, where she found that developing relationships with her students on more than one level improved her understanding of them as individuals.

Nowitzke’s creative approach is clear in the way she approached a common problem: students who were disinterested in education and occupying their time with substance abuse. Nowitzke felt that community involvement would give them a feeling of self-worth. So once per month, she drove between five and fifteen students to Detroit to participate inTuesdays with Morrieauthor Mitch Albom’s “A Time to Help” community building project. Students made a difference in the lives of others and improved their own outlook on life by working with homeless kids, rebuilding public parks and sorting food and clothing for the homeless.

Nowitzke, who is enrolled in Dominican University’s online Master of Arts in Education program with a concentration in Reading, shared a story about one student, who was unable to read when she first met him. “This young man had a difficult home life, including violence and substance abuse. In addition, he had to take on a fatherly role for his younger siblings,” she said. “I asked him to stay after school for extra help with his reading and worked on his meta-cognition by focusing on building awareness of his struggles.” By the end of the school year, he was reading at a second grade level, and even wrote a poem about the death of his brother, which was published in the school’s magazine.

In her current sixth-grade classroom, Nowitzke has continued to make a difference in the lives of her students, particularly one with severe autism. Unable to read and with extremely limited vocabulary, Nowitzke met with him over the summer to help make him comfortable with the school setting. “When we met, his vocabulary consisted primarily of the word ‘yes.’ I was determined to increase his ability to communicate in the general education setting,” said Nowitzke. “Now, he is beginning to use phrases to describe his thoughts, needs and wants. He reads more than 50 words, and can identify all of the continents, as well as use a calculator and describe pictures.” The student is also interacting with his peers and participating in after-school activities.

While lauded by parents, administrators and colleagues for her ability to open doors for students, Nowitzke says her students have had a much greater impact on her. “My students have made me feel that my career is incredibly important,” she said. “I have learned that you can reach any student when the individual truly knows that you care.”

The dedicated faculty and staff of Beach Middle School have made it their mission develop the thinking, problem-solving and learning skills of each adolescent in a caring, cooperative and exploring environment. Nowitzke, who demonstrates these principles each day, is viewed by her fellow educators as “innovative in her approach to communication.” Said one colleague, “she recognizes the importance of relationships with students and families, as well as the importance of reading improvement as a key step to helping our students become successful.”

Nowitzke concluded, “The Bisk Foundation Teacher Education Scholarship will help make it possible for me to continue to impact my students and help each student progress in their reading skills.”

Together with Dominican University, Bisk Education is proud to salute Kalli Nowitzke – a true hero who is improving the lives of her students every day!