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Wisconsin Teacher of the Year Provides Students Opportunities to Prove Themselves
Date: May 03, 2017 08:40AM

Wisconsin Teacher of the Year Provides Students Opportunities to Prove Themselves

Guided by the philosophy of treating all people with respect and compassion, Jonathon Philipp believes, “My students haven’t always been good citizens, but they still have the potential to impact their communities in a positive way, and education can be a gateway to that potential. Not only do incarcerated individuals need opportunities to prove themselves to their communities, but they often need to prove something to themselves first. Education allows them to improve and grow, whether they are trying to learn to read or preparing to enter college.”

In recognition of his enthusiasm, dedication and tireless work to provide his students with opportunities to transform their lives, the CEA-Wisconsin Executive Board is proud to name Jonathon Philipp as the 2017 Wisconsin Correctional Teacher of the Year.

Jon has spent his entire six year teaching career as an employee of Criminal Justice Treatment Services at the Outagamie County Justice Center. He is a graduate of UW-Oshkosh with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio-TV-Film with a minor in Creative Writing. He obtained his Post Baccalaureate Teacher Certification from UW-Milwaukee and holds a DPI License in Early Adolescence through Adolescence English Education.

Jonathon Philipp believes that when working in a county jail setting, it is essential that a teacher is flexible with his time and can adapt to each student. He does his best to make sure nobody is excluded from opportunities to learn while incarcerated in Outagamie County. Jon asserts, “It is very difficult for someone who has a desire to learn to make it through Outagamie County Justice Center without getting into class.” In 2016 there was an average of about 47 students in GED/HSED classes each month, with about half of them working towards a GED/HSED and the other half refreshing basic skills. In addition, he averaged about 10 females and 7 males a month in the two Creative Writing classes he offered.

Criminal Justice Treatment Services Director Bernie Vetrone is proud of the Outagamie County Justice Center‘s education program and credits Jon as being instrumental to its success. “Jon’s commitment and passion for giving inmates the tools they need to break the cycle of criminality is one of the reasons Outagamie County is a national leader in criminal justice alternative interventions. I’m very pleased Jon is receiving the recognition he greatly deserves.”

One of the ways Jon gets so many people involved in education is to offer flexible scheduling that follows the individual through his/her time in jail. Jon teaches a Monday-Friday class in GED/HSED Preparation for students in Lock-up. On Monday and Wednesday, he has class for students refreshing basic skills, working on employability skills or improving their typing skills. On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Jon has class for students refreshing basic skills, working on employability skills, improving their typing skills and also provides extra time for students of the Fox Valley Technical College teacher who has classes on Monday and Wednesday. Jon also teaches Creative Writing for males and females and an ESL class as needed.

Jon is able to adjust his GED/HSED class for Huber/GPS inmates to find the best time for students who are working outside of the jail. When a student goes to work in the jail’s kitchen, Jon meets with them individually to continue their work on GED testing.

Due to the close working relationship Jon has with the in-house GED test site administrator, Deena Larsen, if someone enrolls in school needing a GED/HSED, that inmate is able to test quickly and repeatedly to successfully complete the test. The test examiner tests weekly and more if necessary. In 2016, 36 OCJ inmates took the GED or HSED test, and 25 obtained their GED or HSED certificate. Inmates were able to take 120 tests, including Health and Citizenship, with 91% of them achieving passing scores.

Education at Outagamie County Justice Center is a team effort. To maximize programming for all inmates and reduce wait times for class involvement, Jon collaborates with Fox Valley Technical College teacher Kara Woodford. To provide high school programming for qualifying young people, including minors housed as adults and on occasion to provide GED testing for students working on GED02, he coordinates with the Appleton School District and Kim Melchert. To give the very low-level readers additional assistance, he works with Anne Schauman at the Alternative Center for Education to provide a reading specialist.

When a student is leaving jail, Jon works with Jessica Fleek and Charis Hoff at the Prosperity Center to provide a pathway for released students to transition into local technical colleges to complete their GED or enroll in vocational programming,

While working with students to transform their lives, Jon believes, “School should be fun. I try to keep my classes upbeat and light because many of my students have had a negative experience in school. I hope my class instills confidence and excitement in them, which leads to better attendance and attitude toward other students. When I am able to have a community of learners, student outcomes are improved.”

Jon feels that teaching in corrections goes beyond providing students with the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. He sees teachable moments everywhere and stresses that a teacher must be flexible enough to seize those opportunities. “Because they deal with past scars, current stresses, and fear for their future, sometimes I have to change directions and have an open discussion about an issue that has been on their collective mind, which often leads to some of my favorite classes as a teacher.”

Jon is the fifth county jail instructor to be named Wisconsin Correctional Teacher of the Year. He joins Anita Wilcox, Blackhawk Technical College/Rock County Jail (1998); Sharon Abel, Lakeshore Technical College/Sheboygan County Detention Center (2006); Marianna Ruprecht, Northcentral Technical College/Marathon County Jail (2011); and Willa MacKenzie, Western Technical College/La Crosse County Jail (2013).

The CEA-Wisconsin Executive Board is pleased to recognize Jonathon Philipp as the 2017 Wisconsin Correctional Teacher of the Year. He will receive a plaque attesting to his achievement and a $250 stipend. Jon will be furnished expenses to represent Wisconsin at the CEA Leadership Forum and Region III & IV CEA Conference to be held on April 9-11, 2017 at the Cleveland Airport Marriott in Cleveland, Ohio. If he is selected as the Region III Teacher of the Year, Jon will be furnished expenses to attend the 72nd Annual CEA International Conference and Training Event to be held in San Antonio, Texas on July 30 - August 2, 2017.

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