Each year the Madison NBC affiliate holds a contest to recognize the best teachers in the area. Missy and I nominated Halle’s 3rd grade teacher, Jodi Klare, for this award in April because of how much love and caring she showed to Halle (and indeed all of us) following the death of Halle’s father in a February snowmobile accident. Jodi is an excellent teacher and we love her.
We did our best to help her win the award by writing a heartfelt letter along with our nomination entry. Jodi did not win the award, but was given an Honorable Mention on the news last night and will be invited, along with Park Elementary Principal Karen Jones, to an awards and recognition dinner later this month. Jodi is a wonderful teacher and a sweet, caring and all around terrific person. She will always be our Crystal Apple Award winner, as well as part of our family.
Here is an edited version of the nomination letter we submitted:
To whom it may concern,
We are writing this letter to nominate Jodi Klare at Park Elementary School in Cross Plains for the Crystal Apple award. I (Todd) have known Jodi for a couple of years and always thought she was one of the finest teachers I have ever met. We have 3 daughters that attend Park Elementary, 9 year old Delaney who had Mrs. Klare 2 years ago, my step-daughter Halle who is currently in Mrs. Klare’s 3rd grade class and 6 year old Haley who we sincerely hope will also be in her class in 2 years.
Our family’s interaction with Jodi this year is what has prompted us to nominate her for this award. We can think of nobody possibly more deserving of this award than Jodi. The past year has been full of highs and lows for our family, and Jodi has made a huge impact in our lives through the good and bad. Before we get to the specifics of why we think Jodi is most deserving of this award, please allow us to provide just a little family background.
As stated above, Halle is my 9 year old step-daughter. I hate the word “step-anything” so I refer to her as my daughter in the same way that Delaney and Haley are my daughters. Her mother Melissa (Missy) and I were married in July 2007. Missy and Halle previously lived in Mazomanie where Halle attended Mazomanie Elementary, so after the wedding they moved into my home in Cross Plains. Halle had to change schools and started attending Park Elementary this school year, and fortunately for us, was placed in Jodi’s 3rd grade class.
Changing schools is difficult for any child, and Halle was no different. On the first day of school Jodi introduced Halle to the class and during recess made sure that Halle was paired up with other kids to play with. This, combined with her new sisters also being at Park Elementary, helped to make this transition as easy as possible, though it was very difficult for Halle.
Halle is a terrific student and is very smart and mature for her age. We received regular updates from Jodi about how Halle was adjusting to her new school, new friends, new family, and just about everything else that was new or different in her life. Jodi shared with us the stories that Halle would tell and write about in her journal, her artwork that often included the new family, and other interesting and amusing things Halle did with Jodi. She also shared all of this with Halle’s biological father, Michael Gullickson, by making parent-teacher conferences regarding Halle’s progress available to Mike as well. Halle loves Jodi, and the reverse is also true, as we found out through a tragedy that would take place during the winter.
Halle loved her father deeply. He had not been a significant part of her life for the first 5 years, but the last 3 he really shined. He grew up, took a strong and sincere interest in his daughter, loved and cherished her. And she loved him, as did everyone that met him, including me. As possibly the one person that should never have liked him, I did, a lot, he was a good man. Not without faults, but a good and decent man.
One of Halle’s favorite things to do was to ride snowmobiles with her dad. He had a modest home with a large yard in Ridgeway and when the snow started flying in December he started teaching her to ride a small snowmobile he had bought for her. He taught her about safety, bought her a proper helmet, and made sure she could handle the snowmobile. She rode with him on his sled a lot until she got the hang of it. They never went on the trails, just kept it in the yard, but she loved it. And he loved watching her, and taking pictures of his “Little Princess” riding. The pride oozed out of him. In early February, Missy went to pick Halle up at her dads and Halle gave her a ride on the snowmobile. Mike laughed and took pictures the whole time, he loved it.
Mike was killed in a head-on snowmobile accident in Blue Mounds on February 20th, 2008. Now the little girl that loved her dad and snowmobiles so much had to be told that her father was killed in a snowmobile accident. This was the hardest thing that Missy and I had ever done in our lives. Once an image like that gets into a child’s head, it does not want to leave. She has good and bad days, but every night at bed time has to relive that horrible news.
But back to Jodi Klare, and why we feel there is absolutely no doubt why she is the hands down winner of the Crystal Apple Award. We always knew Jodi was a wonderful teacher, but following the death of Halle’s dad, she proved it, going WAY beyond the scope of her job and deeply touching Halle, and us.
Immediately upon being notified of the news, the sweet and caring gears in Jodi’s mind must have gone to work. The first surprise came 2 days later. Jodi and the school counselor had made a delicious (and that does not do it justice) chicken and pesto dinner and hand-delivered it to our home. Our lives were in a chaotic state, and this relatively simple act of kindness proved to us that good and decent people very much exist in this world, at least in Cross Plains, Wisconsin.
A couple days later was Mike’s funeral in Blue Mounds. We knew this would be an extraordinarily difficult day for everyone, mostly Halle. The church was overfl
owing, much more than capacity, a true testament to all of the people who loved Mike. Members of various motorcycle gangs/clubs were there, family, extended family, friends, businessmen, criminals and clergy. And there was Jodi, with the school counselor by her side. Halle’s eyes lit up when she saw Jodi, and a very sad little girl gave her the biggest smile. The loved that flowed in both directions was unmistakable. Her mere presence made this day so much better for Halle, and everyone else.
Halle missed almost 2 weeks of school following her father’s death. It was made even harder because on March 9th, she turned 9, and her father had made big plans for her golden birthday, including a trip to Appleton to the American Doll company. During this time, Jodi kept Halle as much up to date as she could. She regularly checked in with us, and brought homework to our home so that Halle would not fall behind. Halle is a very good student and appreciated this; she actually enjoyed doing her work.
Before Halle returned to school, Jodi asked us what the class should be told about Halle’s absence, and how much they should be told. We all agreed that the truth was the best, and Jodi told the rest of the class about the accident and that Halle’s father had been killed. Her class welcomed her back and everyone was very kind and understanding, no doubt a testament to how Jodi instructed the class about the circumstances.
Even though Halle had been able to keep up with her homework thanks to Jodi, she was still a little behind on the things that were taught in class while she was out. Following a parent-teacher conference with Missy and me, Jodi offered to let Halle stay after school for private lessons, and let Halle do it on her schedule, as her emotional state allowed. Since Jodi also lives in Cross Plains (and surely even if she didn’t), she offered to give Halle a ride home after school. Since I work at home, this was not needed, but was just another reason why she is such a tremendous teacher.
Halle took her up on this offer, and stayed late after school for several days. Jodi and Halle also worked together during recess to get her caught up. We can only assume that this means Jodi gave up some valuable recovery time from a bunch of crazy 3rd graders in the teachers’ lounge! But she did, and we love her for it. Within a week or so, on a day I was to pick up Halle late from school, Jodi called me to tell me they were all caught up and Halle was doing great. She would ride the bus home.
The PTA of Park Elementary also raised $750 in US Savings Bonds that were given to Halle. They will be used for her college education, and we have no doubt that Jodi was instrumental in getting this ball rolling. Everyone at Park Elementary is terrific, and we are blessed to live in this town where our children get this level of love and care.
I wrote a letter to the school principal, Mrs. Jones, praising Jodi for her love and caring, not to mention her teaching skills. We were not surprised in the slightest when Mrs. Jones wrote me back in total agreement. It seems we are not the first parents that have such high regards for Jodi.
Jodi is the physical embodiment of what a great and wonderful teacher should be. She is the kind of teacher that any parent and any child would dream of having. We wish we could cast 1,000,000 votes for her in your contest. This quality of person is very hard to find, and when that person is your daughter’s teacher, what more could you ask for? We know what we will ask for. When our youngest daughter get’s to 3rd grade you can bet we will beg and plead with the powers that be that she be enrolled in Jodi Klare’s class!
Please don’t let this quality of teacher escape without recognition. We cannot provide enough accolades to convey exactly what Jodi has done for our family, and have certainly left out many smaller things she does every day. I was never fortunate enough to have had a teacher like this in my life, and I doubt many children do, but the kids of Cross Plains have a true friend and are very lucky that teachers like Jodi Klare do still exist in this world. She is truly worthy of your award, and we can think of none other more deserving.