Growing education leaders

Trent Rasmussen was a seventh grade social studies teacher in the DeForest Area School District when he returned to earn his Educational Leadership Certificate (5051 licensure) and Director of Instruction (5010 licensure) from UWL’s Professional Studies in Education program. Post graduation he is stepping into a leadership role, joining CESA 11 where he will help build quality instruction across 39 school districts in Wisconsin.

Trent Rasmussen was a seventh grade social studies teacher in the DeForest Area School District when he returned to earn his Educational Leadership Certificate (5051 licensure) and Director of Instruction (5010 licensure) from UWL’s Professional Studies in Education program. Post graduation he is stepping into a leadership role, joining CESA 11 where he will help build quality instruction across 39 school districts in Wisconsin.

After Education Leadership program, May grad to support quality instruction across 39 Wisconsin school districts

Trent Rasmussen remembers walking into a sixth grade classroom to student teach for the first time. The students’ energy and excitement were palpable.

“There is a lot of potential there,” he says. “It’s a challenge — in a good way.”

Rasmussen went on to teach full-time after graduation, including working at an alternative high school in DeForest, Wisconsin. Over time he discovered that teaching is not just about the energy and education happening inside one class. Rather, successful teaching comes from a strong community — one where all the school players can be at their best, including students, staff and families.

Rasmussen wanted to help create the right systems for a school community to grow, resulting in successful outcomes for students.

“Becoming a servant leader to help students was something that motivated me to continue to grow and learn,” he explains.

After completing UWL’s Professional Studies in Education program, Rasmussen is now beginning that servant leadership. He earned his Educational Leadership Certificate (5051 licensure) and Director of Instruction (5010 licensure) in May. Soon after he landed a new position as an educational consultant in curriculum, instruction an assessment with Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) 11.

“This will be a great opportunity to have a broad reach across the region to support quality instructional practices,” he says. “I am looking forward to this new challenge working closely with school leaders and teachers who are supporting student learning most directly.”

It was clear Rasmussen had strong potential as an educational leader in graduate school. He was the speaker at his graduate hooding ceremony and received the Graduate Student Academic Achievement Award, a scholarship awarded to only three other UWL graduate students. Program directors and graduate faculty nominate students for the award. Winners must demonstrate evidence of scholarly accomplishment beyond the completion of degree course work.

In a nomination letter, Ann Yehle and Bill Gillespie, facilitators of PSE programs, called Rasmussen “a committed, dedicated educator whose most important goal is to ensure every child has access to the best education we offer.”

When Rasmussen was considering graduate programs, UWL’s stood out because of Yehle and Gillespie’s focus on servant leadership. He is glad he chose UWL.

“They [Yehle and Gillespie] have a strong base of research to make sure they are using best practices, facilitating collaboration and giving constructive feedback to help us grow as learners and leaders,” he says. “I invested a lot of time and energy to get the most out of the program. Now I feel like I’m ready to be an administrator. To have that recognized by program was a huge honor.”

Rasmussen says the program is useful even to those who aren’t pursuing an administrative path. It has helped him grow his teaching practice and gain a stronger leadership perspective.

“To have that leadership perspective in any role as an educator will benefit the students and school district you are working in,” he notes. “It is a really valuable, relevant and useful program. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to advance their teaching practice.”

Because of the online format of classes, Rasmussen was able to collaborate with other graduate students throughout the state who came from urban and rural areas and brought different experiences to understand the materials and discuss the issues. “I realized that not every school is the same and something that works for one school is not necessarily going to work in another,” he says.

The program also helped him develop important skills to take on more leadership and administrative duties, such as being able to understand and apply research-based best practices.

At a time when Wisconsin and the nation are experiencing a teacher shortage, Rasmussen encourages others to consider the benefits of the profession. In addition to the growth one can pursue in educational leadership, Rasmussen reflects on the rewarding aspect of making a difference in the lives of students. He says that is hard to describe unless one has stood in front of a classroom.

“You can see in students’ faces when they are excited about learning something new or you affirmed who they are or what they just did,” he says. “Who knows what those things will mean to them later on — that’s what is really exciting.”

Four UWL grad students receive awards

Four Graduate Student Academic Achievement Awards were awarded in May. The academic accomplishment includes a $500 scholarship.

Trent Rasmussen – Professional Studies in Education
Anna Hamer – School Psychology
William Kiser – Biology
Michael Rusin – Recreation Management