Annual awards honor two of Craig’s best

Stefanie Hanson and Stephanie Gates named Teacher and Staff Member of the Year.

Janesville’s Teacher of the Year, Stefanie Hanson, and Staff Member of the Year, Stephanie Gates, pose with their awards. They were honored at a dinner at the Janesville Country Club on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Stephanie Provo, Reporter

On Tuesday, December 6, the School District of Janesville held its annual Teacher, Staff and Administrators of the Year awards at the Janesville Country Club. 

This event celebrated nineteen people whose dedication to their work has benefitted countless students, families and the community as a whole. 

Craig’s own staff members Stefanie Hanson and Stephanie Gates were honored by the district at the award ceremony.

Science teacher, student council advisor and assistant gymnastics coach Stefanie Hanson was named Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Hanson has been a teacher for almost twenty years.

She currently teaches Earth Science and AP Biology. In previous years, she’s taught at-risk students, as well as standard, honors and Advanced Placement courses.

Stefanie attended UW-Lacrosse where she played soccer and earned her bachelor’s degree. After graduating, she began her teaching career at Craig.

Three years later, she had to leave the district due to her husband being in the military and having to travel often. She went on to teach for another three years in Tennessee and five years in Tomah, Wis.

While her husband was deployed, Stefanie studied at Austin Peay State University where she earned a master’s degree in special education.

In 2014, Stefanie Hanson returned to Craig and is proud to have been back for nine years.

In addition, she is currently a student at UW-Madison for administration.

Mrs. Hanson has coached gymnastics and been the advisor for student council for thirteen years and counting. 

She contributes hard work to make sure the Homecoming dance, dress-up days, and events run smoothly during Homecoming week. 

Not to mention, she has coordinated prom for the past eight years; delegating responsibilities among students and decorating the cafeteria for the dance. 

She organizes blood drives and encourages students to participate, as well. 

Stefanie Hanson says that her approach to teaching is more about preparing students for their lives after graduation than teaching the curriculum. She believes, “If they graduate and can keep a job or are able to succeed in the trades or college, then we did our job!”

Above all, Mrs. Hanson’s favorite part of teaching is making connections with students. 

Senior Chloe Moser had Mrs. Hanson as her Earth Science teacher last year. She says, “Mrs. Hanson is a really supportive teacher. You can tell that she genuinely cares about her students’ well being both inside and outside of the classroom. She is always willing to help you out if you’re falling behind.”

Senior Charli DeGarmo has known Mrs. Hanson for years, adding, “Mrs. Hanson is one of the most selfless people I know. I have never doubted that if I came to her with a problem, whether it be academic, athletic, or personal, she would drop everything to do what she can to help. Mrs. Hanson strives to set all of her students and athletes up for success.” 

Charli continues, “You can always count on her to be standing in your in your corner cheering you on

through life. I am blessed to have her as a teacher, coach, and role model.”

Mrs. Hanson is honored to receive the Teacher of the Year award and be recognized for her dedication to her career.

“There are amazing teachers throughout our school who all deserve this. I know our school would honor all of them if they could, so I feel extremely fortunate that I was chosen among all these exceptional role models,” she adds. 

Youth advocate and advisor for Sisters Inspiring Sisters (SIS) Stephanie Gates was awarded Staff of the Year at the district event. 

Stephanie Gates has been working as a youth advocate for eight years, traveling between Craig, Parker, the TLC program and Rock River Charter. 

In addition, she serves on the school district’s “Excellence for All” and Student Stakeholders committees. 

When asked why she decided to work with high school students, Mrs. Gates explained that when she was in high school deciding what to major in at college, she aspired to work with youth or inmates in the criminal justice system. However, upon graduating from University of Central Arkansas, she pursued a career in management. 

Later, she was offered a position as a youth advocate for the School District of Janesville. “I knew it was my opportunity to work with youth. I thought I was going to only be here for a year, but now it’s been eight years and I love it,” she said. 

Her favorite part of her job is meeting different students every day and learning how they all intersect and interact with each other.

There is no such thing as an average day for Mrs. Gates. 

She leaves school with a plan for the next day, but it’s impossible to anticipate the daily crises she is called to help with. 

She explained, “You can’t plan when a student is going to need a ride to school and you can’t plan when a teacher or another staff member will ask you to leave the school you’re at and come to their school. You just have to be flexible. Cold weather, rainy weather, nice weather- it doesn’t matter. But it’s what I do and it keeps my day interesting.”

Outside of school, Stephanie Gates dedicates her free time to tutoring and helping students apply for jobs, colleges and financial aid. 

She also assists with many extracurricular activities and events across the district.

For instance, she helped coordinate the Martin Luther King Jr. commemorations last year at both Craig and Parker. 

She is responsible for showcasing students’ artwork around Craig that highlights different cultural experiences, too.

Additionally, she was recently able to secure an $8,000 Women’s Fund grant for SIS, which will offer students many opportunities that will help them achieve academic success and access to mental health resources that were otherwise out of reach for them (see p. 16 for more on this story).

One of the individuals who nominated her said, “I enjoy working with Stephanie because she always sees the good in people and has a way of making you believe in yourself and your ability to accomplish great things.”

Stephanie Gates is grateful to receive this award and is proud to be recognized for her hard work and achievements throughout the district. 

“It gave me an opportunity to share light on what the youth advocate position does and highlight the students I serve and the needs they have,” she added. 

Stephanie Gates does not typically enjoy being in the spotlight, but she truly appreciates being awarded Staff of the Year.