MILWAUKEE -- Dr. Martin Luther King Day is Monday, January 16th -- but a local school began the celebration already. Students and staff honored a teacher for her efforts to keep the civil rights leader's message alive.
As the students at Riley Elementary School learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an advocate for his views was called in to the library -- but little did Mrs. Gerke Komes know this gathering was for her.
Ronald McDonald shared the good news of gratitude...
"You were selected by the Dr. Martin Luther King celebration committee as the `Teacher of the Year.'"
This is the fourth year a teacher has been honored by the committee.
"They're the ones in the classroom who get these kids motivated and we really rely on them in the effort. They're the ones who are sort of the unsung heroes, but they're doing very important work," said Paul Mathews, President and CEO for Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts will host the 33rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration -- the second longest running celebration in our country. This year, 4,000 students submitted writing, speech, and art work for the contest.
"Now that's really remarkable after 33 years they still want to remember Dr. King, that wouldn't happen without the teachers," said Mathews.
And Mrs. Gerke Komes is one of the teachers guiding those students with their entries.
"She is the ultimate professional and we're really truly and lucky to have her here at Riley school because she put forth such a great effort," said Harry Russo, Riley Elementary Principal.
As an ESL teacher, Mrs. Gerke Komes says the message of Dr. King is still relevant today.
"The kids in school now were not alive when Dr. King was working and we need to keep his idea and his wonderful messages alive, because he is one of the greatest leaders our country has ever had," said Komes.
And up next for the "Teacher of the Year," she will be at the 33rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration this Sunday at the Marcus Center.