Waukesha North High School bilingual teacher named 2019 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year

Sarahi Monterrey

WAUKESHA — Sarahi Monterrey, an English learner teacher at Waukesha North High School has been named the 2019 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year!

The announcement was made during a surprise ceremony at Waukesha North on Thursday, May 10.

As part of the Teacher of the Year honor, Monterrey will receive $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.

Below is some background information on Monterrey, via a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Instruction:

“Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” said Monterrey in her application materials. As a child immigrant from El Salvador, she recognizes the pivotal role teachers play in students’ lives. “The power in making students feel welcome and safe cannot be underestimated,” she said.

Monterrey’s work on inclusion includes the visible, “Dreamers Welcome” and “This School Welcomes You” posters. Not as visible, but just as  important, are her extra efforts to ensure a curriculum that is representative of various backgrounds so students feel inspired; her work to improve family communication so parents understand they are part of their student’s success; and her outreach to ensure that English learner (EL) students have access to extracurricular activities and support to be ready for college.

When Monterrey arrived at Waukesha North, the school had a single bilingual study skills class for newcomer students. The next year, the school began offering English as a Second Language and redesigned the study skills curriculum to focus more on enrichment. Through the examination of student achievement  data, Monterrey and her colleagues identified classes where EL students were not successful. Through the co-teaching model she introduced, content and specialty teachers work together to make classes comprehensible to all students. The school now offers three levels of English as a Second Language and staff co-teach English 9, algebra I and II, geometry, Spanish IV, and chemistry. Additionally, more EL students take Advanced Placement coursework, helping them gain college readiness skills.

Her sessions on immigration policies and the impact those policies have on students helped other teachers increase their awareness of the topic. She has offered professional development sessions to staff throughout her career, focusing on serving EL students, equity, and culturally responsive practices.

Waukesha North is also growing its Dual Language Programs. The school was one of the first in the state to offer Wisconsin Seal of Biliteracy awards to recognize students who have demonstrated advanced achievement in bilingualism, biliteracy (in two or more languages), and sociocultural competence.

Girl Talk, a club she created with a mission to inspire and empower students, helps participants be decision makers, hone problem-solving skills, and volunteer in the community. A former student commended her teacher for going “well beyond what a teacher’s job is. She believed in me when I did not believe in myself.” The student said Monterrey helped her get involved in the community, taught her the importance of resiliency, guided her in her development as a scholar, helped her look for scholarships, and believes her teacher’s guidance is the reason she is in college.

Monterrey volunteers at the Waukesha Food Pantry, the Hope Center, and the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee. She is also involved in the Waukesha Hispanic Collaborative Network, which works to improve members’ access to services. Some of those services have included a health fair and a financial planning workshop.

Prior to working at Waukesha North, Monterrey worked at Waukesha South and Whitewater high schools. She started her career as a Spanish and English learner teacher for grades seven through 12 at Whitewater middle and high schools. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.”

Sarahi Monterrey

Wisconsin’s Teachers of the Year — elementary school, middle or junior high school, high school, and special services — are selected from the applications of the public school Herb Kohl Fellowship recipients.

Teachers become Kohl Fellowship recipients through a nomination and selection process that looks for educators with a superior ability to inspire a love of learning in their students, ability to motivate others as well as leadership and service within and outside the classroom.