March Top Notch Teacher: Tara Schuttenhelm of North Woods International School

Schuttenhelm carries 21 years in a profession she dreamed of living, pandemic stands alone
March Tnt 2021

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – It can be scary learning something new. We introduce you to a North Woods International School teacher who embraces what’s tricky.

Sometimes the best way to learn is by doing. First grade is where children take a big step. Tara Schuttenhelm spent the last 21 years teaching children how to navigate a society built on reading and numbers.

“I think first grade is such a huge year for reading,” Schuttenhelm said. “I think I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.”

Twenty of those years surrounded by these walls inside North Woods International School. Schuttenhelm is still just as much of a student as she is a teacher.

“I love learning just as much as the kids do,” Schuttenhelm said.

This year, obviously stands alone for Schuttenhelm.

“This is the first year in 21 years that I’ve had desks in my room,” she said.

She wrote her teaching style to the tune of teamwork.

“We work together and collaborate. It’s really tricky this time to do this year,” Schuttenhelm said.

Schuttenhelm drew a new game plan as she entered an unfamiliar territory in education.

“It’s not my expertise at all,” Schuttenhelm said.

Distance for health safety meant teaching from a camera lens. The school building opened again, but teamwork can’t function like the well-oiled machine before the pandemic.

“We use phrases like, ‘This is tricky but I’ll try.’ ‘I can do hard things.’” Schuttenhelm said.

This new composition did not stop knowledge from singing throughout this room.

“We do a lot of movement activities,” she said.

Another teacher stops in to help students read a second language.

“We do some of our morning meetings in Spanish,” Schuttenhelm said.

Placing their best foot forward in spite of what changed or what’s yet to come.

“It may change the next week,” Schuttenhelm said.

One thing stands strong, untouched by education’s makeover. Schuttenhelm’s desire to sculpt young minds into future leaders of their communities.

“It’s these twelve students that bring me every day,” Schuttenhelm said. “Number one I just hope that they know how much I care about them.”

Schuttenhelm said students’ parents and her colleagues helped her learn the technology needed to teach online.