Deb Cline (Submitted photo)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

A first-grade teacher from Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School, Ashland, has achieved a rare honor.

Deb Cline has won a 2017 Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship for excellence and innovation in education.

Given to a short list of Wisconsin educators each year, the award provides funding “to support teachers in the pursuit of their unrealized goals for their classrooms or professional development.”

Cline was honored by the recognition, and she felt doubly blessed when the Herb Kohl Foundation announced in early April they would be doubling the award amount. In past years, teachers and their schools received matching $3,000 grants; 2017 recipients and their schools will win $6,000 grants.

Born and raised in Ashland, Cline has more than 30 years of experience in Catholic education. After graduating from Northland College with an elementary education/music degree in 1982, she started teaching at St. Louis, Washburn, in a combined first/second-grade classroom in 1986.

“I chose to teach in a Catholic school, because I wanted to be able to increase my faith by seeing God through a child’s eyes,” she said, “and it’s worked! It has given me an opportunity to share my faith and gifts of music and art in ways that bring me great joy.”

Cline taught at St. Louis until the school closed in 2011. In 2012, she was hired to teach first grade at Our Lady of the Lake. Betty Swiston, OLL principal, nominated Cline for the award.

Cline and her husband, Ron, a middle-school science teacher, have two grown sons, Patrick and Timothy, and one grandson, Max. The Clines are active members of Our Lady of the Lake Parish.

This is Cline’s second teaching award; she was also recognized by the Diocese of Superior in 2006, when former diocesan superintendent Phyllis Schlagel presented her with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award.

Three decades into her teaching career, Cline still takes great pleasure in the everyday task of educating children.

“What inspires me most about teaching are those little moments where a child says, ‘Oh, I get it now!’ or ‘Hey, Mrs. Cline, this is such a good book. You should read it, too!’ or ‘I love the S.T.E.M. challenge today,’” she said.

“I love listening to their spontaneous prayers every day,” Cline continued. “I enjoy hearing them hum a hymn when walking back to class after Holy Mass. My favorite part of the day, to be honest, is early morning when my classroom is quiet. I take a moment to thank God for the day He has planned for us.”

Winning the fellowship “was a big surprise to me,” Cline said. She wants to use the funding to attend a workshop on teaching writing to young students; she hopes to spend the classroom grant money on transportation for field trips to local sites.

“I also would like to introduce our students to local artists from our area and to be able to provide them with opportunities to work in the mediums of these artists,” she added. “Our community is peppered with a variety of people who have devoted their lives to the arts: watercolorists, fabric artists, visual artists, theatre arts, etc. I would love children to have the hands-on opportunities in the art field because art uses all the senses and great learning happens when we have these experiences.”