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Scholarships help Wauwatosa teachers head back to school

May 13, 2014

Sixty-five years ago the Suburban Woman's Club of Wauwatosa started awarding teachers scholarships for continuing education, and the tradition is still going thanks to members who have left money to the fund in their wills, and others who have organized fundraisers over the years.

"We work very hard every year to make the money for the scholarships," said Joan Riggin, the club's scholarship chairwoman. "One member received a scholarship when she was a teacher and really needed it, and when she retired she returned and she helps with the fundraising."

Four teachers received $800 scholarships this year:

· Jennifer Engel, English and social studies teacher at Longfellow Middle School

· Jessica Gall, social studies teacher at Wauwatosa West High School

· Carrie Streiff-Stuessy, reading specialist at Washington Elementary School

· Michael Parulski, social studies teacher at Plank Road School

Parulski has been taking classes for two years at Concordia University in an effort to earn a master's in education administration.

He said he's not sure whether he would like to move into an administrative position when he graduates, but the classes have helped him find creative approaches to teaching at Plank Road, where the students are in shelter-care and court-ordered to attend school.

"I'm working with a lot of students who maybe haven't gone to school in awhile, and maybe haven't had success," Parulski said. "By getting my master's, it gives me more ability to make relationships and meet the students' needs. Just because the kids maybe have made bad choices or are poor, doesn't mean I can't get better at what I do. If we don't help them improve their academic skills, they're not going to have a very positive future, and that impacts all of us."

Parulski said many of the kids at Plank Road are only at the school for a short period of transition time in their lives, but he sees the opportunity for them to make great strides.

"I think a lot of the kids haven't been held to high standards, but when they come here, you're able to build a relationship and maybe push them to do more than they have in the past," Parulski said. "I think most people would think it was a lost cause, but when you see a kid raise his learning ability by four or five grade levels, it's a whole different kid."

NOW Newspapers' calls seeking comment from Streiff-Stuessy, Engel and Gall were not returned prior to press deadline.

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