Teacher of the Year: Social worker found inspiration at UW-Green Bay

top-story-social-workAndrea Pasqualucci, a school social worker at Valley View Elementary School in Ashwaubenon, was selected this fall as Wisconsin’s Special Services Teacher of the Year for working behind the scenes to improve student learning.

A 1990 graduate of UW-Green Bay’s bachelor’s degree program in Social Work, she credits her early educational training as having a big impact on her career.

“The time I spent there was so valuable,” Pasqualucci says of her campus experience. “The professors, the small classes and learning environment, the leadership opportunities… the fact that I kept up with faculty (mentors) like Betty Baer, Ann Kok and Rolfe White over the years really speaks to the interest they take in their students and alumni, personally and professionally.”

Pasqualucci has special memories of those UW-Green Bay professors:

Betty Baer — “She was tough and encouraging at the same time. But you totally knew when she was on your side. Just a tremendously accomplished social worker and educator.”
Anne Kok — “Anne was just fun to be around. She was inspiring in a special kind of way… positive and optimistic and fully confident that we could make a difference in people’s lives.”
Rolfe White — “He retired quite a few years ago, but has always maintained his commitment to helping those in need. He’s on the executive board of the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition and is a true positive force in our community.”

As a UW-Green Bay student in the late 1980s, Pasqualucci completed her required field placement at Family Services in Green Bay, working with juvenile-age clients. It was during those days, she says, and in her master’s degree work in human services at UW-Madison (she earned her degree there in 1993), that she more fully formed her core principles as a social worker.

Those principles are basic, but things Pasqualucci says she always strives to employ: build personal relationships with people; value and respect everyone, regardless of their status or influence; know the value of hard work; and be rigorous in applying best practices and the highest level of professionalism.

In the years following college, Pasqualucci lived in Chicago and Seattle before eventually moving back to Wisconsin with her husband, Hans Bachmeier, also a UW-Green Bay grad (1991), who today is a vice president with Miller Electric in Appleton. She began her career as a social worker in the Crystal Lake School District in Crystal Lake, Ill., and worked for the North Chicago School District. She joined the staff of the Ashwaubenon School District in 2008.

Pasqulucci’s current certification as a school social worker comes via the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The certification requires continuing education, something she has accomplished by returning to UW-Green Bay for selected master’s degree courses in Education.

She learned of her selection as Wisconsin’s Special Services Teacher of the Year for the 2014-15 at a surprise all-school assembly at Valley View in September. State Superintendent Tony Evers made the announcement.

As part of the Teacher of the Year honors, Pasqualucci receives $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. The state DPI and Kohl Foundation partner to make the awards, which are given in four categories: elementary, middle/junior high, high school, and special services. Evers additionally recognized Pasqualucci during his State of Education address Sept. 25 in Madison.

Her nominators described her as “a tireless advocate for students” and someone with a “passion for working with people in need.” They praised Pasqualucci for developing a number of programs and partnerships to help students in the Ashwaubenon School District who are homeless or from low-income families.

“We have a segment of the population, who because of what’s going on at home, struggle to realize their gifts even though they have great potential,” she comments. “Many families I encounter are consumed with meeting the basic needs of their children and have little energy or financial resources left to expose their children to the multiple stimulating experiences other children encounter every day. Over time, these differences accumulate and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ grows.”

Pasqualucci was instrumental in developing and managing student-led food drives; an e-mail based donation system that matches donors with families needing clothing or household items; and in-service sessions for school staff on equity and anti-bullying issues. She also reaches out to parents to build trust so they are more involved in their children’s education.

Work by Pasqualucci and others like her, nationwide, is supported in part by 1987 federal legislation, the McKinney-Vento Act, which awards grants to programs aimed at boosting academic achievement among certain at-risk children.

At any given time, Pasqualucci says, she’s working with about 50 students and their families to provide guidance and link then to resources that can range from from size 4T pants, to beds, dressers, and household items, laundromat vouchers and school supply backpacks.

In the community, she is part of the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition and chaired the county’s National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week activities. She is a member of her church’s Social Concerns Commission, bringing her first-hand knowledge of social issues to help the commission affect change and meet the needs of parishioners and community members.