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UW–Madison’s Long-Lasting Lesson of Personal Connection

Monica Gatzow learned to teach under UW mentor Lou Brown.

Monica Gatzow

The value and richness of building personal relationships — something that Monica Gatzow ’86 learned while working with Professor Lou Brown in the UW–Madison School of Education — pay dividends every day in her classroom at Florence High School.

On Gatzow’s journey to getting a bachelor’s degree in special education and rehabilitation psychology from the UW in 1986, she studied how Brown built relationships with his students — something that he expected his students to do as well when he sent them into Madison schools to work one on one with students.

“I’ve learned that little accomplishments do matter. I take a lot of satisfaction in helping my students achieve their goals.”

“I use that every day with students and with service agencies in the community, where you sometimes have to be creative because resources can be limited,” says Gatzow, who taught in Milwaukee, Grafton, and Port Washington before returning to her alma mater in 1994. “Relationship-building was a common thread woven through my whole experience at UW–Madison and in my career.”

Gatzow works with students who have learning, intellectual, or emotional disabilities. “I’ve learned that little accomplishments do matter,” she says of her pupils. I take a lot of satisfaction in helping my students achieve their goals.” Gatzow’s two daughters, Michaela and Mariah, also graduated from UW–Madison.

Several years ago, Gatzow and a colleague received a grant from the Fund for Teachers to study the Holocaust and Jewish culture. The two visited Jewish communities such as Crown Heights in New York, as well as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Gatzow continues to use the experiences from those visits in her teaching today, and each year, she reads Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird at least once.

“I have a passion for making sure that students know the consequences of intolerance,” she says. “Every time I read it with my students, I take something more away from it.”

Thank you, Florence County, for teachers who are fostering lasting relationships and improving education in rural Wisconsin.

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