In recognition of inspirational teaching nationwide, La Crosse Polytechnic School teacher Dr. Maggie McHugh has been named the National University Teacher Award Midwest Regional winner, the La Crosse School District announced Wednesday.
Dr. McHugh prides herself on teaching students how—not, what—to learn. Her educational philosophy is helping students shape personalized educational experiences, where they learn from mistakes, persevere through iteration and reflect upon growth.
With McHugh’s guidance, each student designs a challenging interdisciplinary project, centered on a driving question that is personally interesting to them. The process requires students to learn every subject imaginable.
For example, one of her students is designing a luxury cruise line that cleans pollution from the ocean. The student has to study the oceans and currents, apply engineering skills, investigate national and international laws, create scale models and communicate effectively.
“This award focuses on social-emotional learning in the classroom – the skills and capabilities for students to regulate their emotions and work collaboratively with one another,” McHugh said. “These are the skills that are needed for life.
“To me, being honored as a teacher, who focuses on that, really gets to the core of who we are as educators. We’re here for students to learn and grow, not just in their academic content but more importantly as young adults who are getting ready to change the world.”
With the award, McHugh also receives $10,000, as well as a full scholarship to earn a Master’s degree at National University in Social Emotional Learning, the first program of its kind in the U.S.
“Teaching is the essential profession, the profession that makes all others possible,” National University System Chancellor Dr. Michael Cunningham said. “Teachers are the single greatest influence on student learning in school and play a significant role in helping students grow socially and emotionally as well as academically.
“The National University Teacher Award is a way for us to celebrate the contributions of inspiring teachers who give so much to their schools and communities and help children to reach their greatest potential.”
The award recognizes teachers who demonstrate high levels of inspirational teaching practices by engaging students, building student confidence, creating an inclusive environment, motivating students to succeed, and giving students a voice.
Each teacher recipient is now eligible to be named the winner of the National University Teacher Award, which includes $50,000.
The regional awardees were selected by a committee of educators and faculty based on an application process that included professional information and videos provided by each teacher.