The University of Wisconsin-Parkside is celebrating a graduate honored by parents as Wisconsin’s best teacher. The university is also preparing to launch summer along the Root River and to honor Italy during a May 18 celebration.

Cheryl Swiatko: PTA’s Best

Gifford Elementary School teacher Cheryl Swiatko has a motto that conveys her enthusiasm for her life’s work.

“I have a saying in my room: ‘First Grade Rocks!’ My parents know that, my kids know that,” Swiatko said. “We do it in sign language. We start our day saying that, we end our day saying that … that’s my motto.”

The joy she brings to her teaching made Swiatko the Wisconsin Parent Teacher Association’s 2012 Teacher of the Year. She accepted the award on April 28 in Lake Geneva.

Swiatko is a parent favorite because every child is important to her.

“No kid is going to fail in my class,” she said. “I think learning should be an adventure that never stops. So, I will push and prod and work with a child until they get what I’m teaching. I give them a solid foundation and I want them to know that learning is fun.”

Swiatko’s own solid teaching foundation was built at UW-Parkside.

“They prepared us for the real world. We were student teaching in the fall of 1978 and before we were done we knew we had jobs already. So Parkside gave us a great foundation,” she said.

No stranger to awards, Swiatko doesn’t consider this honor to be hers alone.

“We work in teams. So, when I accept this award … I’m going to accept on behalf of our first-grade team,” she said.

Racine REC opens

On Saturday, May 19, the second Root River Community Paddle helps kick-off summer hours at UW-Parkside’s Root River Environmental Education Community Center (REC). Located at 1301 Sixth St., REC joined with River Bend Nature Center and the Racine Yacht Club to will help supply free canoes and kayaks to paddlers navigating the river from Island Park to the Racine Yacht Club. A spaghetti dinner and live music follow at the yacht club.

“We are delighted to be a partner in hosting this event,” said Mark Gesner, the university’s director of community development. “It’s a great opportunity for our faculty, staff, and students to explore the Root River, connect with the Racine community, and enjoy the REC as it opens for the season.”

The event is co-sponsored by Root-Pike WIN and the Root River Council.

The REC was created through a partnership between the Racine Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services and UW-Parkside with support from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Grant program and UW-Extension, among others. Its mission is to increase appreciation of the Root River, Lake Michigan and their environs through recreation and education.

The REC is open May 20 to Labor Day. Canoe, kayak and bike rentals are available Thursdays and Fridays 4-7 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sundays 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Visit www.uwp.edu keyword REC hours for more information.

Celebrazione Italiana

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside celebrates the region’s Italian heritage and culture during the Celebrazione Italiana on Friday, May 18 at the campus. Held to benefit the university’s Italian Student Exchange Program, this year’s festivities begin with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. in the University Ballroom of the Student Center.

During the evening, the university honors the Calabresi in America Organization along with two bastions of Italian heritage in southeastern Wisconsin’s: the Italian American Club of Kenosha and Mount Pleasant’s Roma Lodge.

For tickets for this festive evening, call Connie Degneau at (262) 595-2443 or access degneau@uwp.edu by email.

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