Viterbo University Strides Magazine Online

Viterbo College Strides Magazine Winter 99


Wisconsin Teacher of the Year is Viterbo grad

The students at Gibraltar Elementary School in Fish Creek were jumping for joy in October when they learned sixth-grade teacher Lauren Mittermann was named Wisconsin Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

They weren’t the only ones.

Closer to home, Susan Batell and the other members of the Viterbo College Master of Education program were elated and felt proud to have one of their former students receive such an honor.

Mitterman, a 1994 graduate of Viterbo College’s Master of Education program, was named Wisconsin’s Middle School Teacher of the Year for 1998-99. That, in turn, made her one of four finalists in the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year competition. From there, she received Wisconsin’s top honor.

“I believe this recognition is a reflection of the excellent graduate degree program offered by Viterbo,” Mitterman said. “In ‘Mission of Teaching’ with Tom Thibodeau and Sister Laurian, I came to appreciate what it means to be a teacher.

“A special thank you to Viterbo College for providing the inspiration, leadership and support which empowers teachers to achieve their goals.”

Mittermann  will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition, to be held in April 1999.

Batell, an instructor in Viterbo College’s graduate program, remembers Mittermann as a pleasant student who worked very hard.

“I remember Lauren as a very talented, focused student,” Batell said. “She did outstanding work in our graduate classes. I am not at all surprised that she was chosen as Wisconsin Teacher of the Year. It is a well deserved award.”

Mitterman isn’t the only alum of Viterbo’s graduate program to receive a good report card. Sue Blair ‘97, who is a K-12 physical education instructor at Orchard Place Campus School in Des Moines, was named “1997-98 Adaptive Physical Education Teacher of the Year.” Meanwhile, Chris Stevenson, ’96, an Independence, Iowa French teacher, was one of two instructors selected for “The Best of Iowa” award for her presentation at the annual Iowa Foreign Language Association Conference in Des Moines.

This dog is woman’s best friend

When Mary (Walton) Johnson ’76 had heart surgery in 1996, her doctors said it might be a good idea to get a dog for companionship and for the long healing process she faced.

Johnson, 44, who graduated from Viterbo College with a nursing degree, had read studies about how heart patients who have the companionship of a dog live longer and recuperate faster, so she embraced the idea.

“I had wanted a dog and my cardiologist said there was scientific proof that dogs helped heart patients live longer, so we got a dog,” Johnson said. “At the time, I didn’t know ‘Heart Therapy Dogs International’ existed.”

But now she does, and that’s where the real story begins.

Johnson said she had read an article about dogs that could warn heart patients about impending dangers, such as chest pains, irregular heart beats, high blood pressure and even mini strokes.

That article referred to “Heart Therapy Dogs International,” a nonprofit foundation promoting heart care founded by Sy Elliott in Laguna Hills, Calif.

Heart Therapy Dogs International’s sole purpose, according to company literature is to “register qualified canine applicants as service dogs that benefit their
heart-patient owners by walking them, loving them and training them.”

That article changed Johnson’s life. Her scheltie Cheyenne’s life was about to change as well.

“I called to inquire about it and it was just so neat,” Johnson said. “My only concern was would they be able to train Cheyenne to do the wonderful things these other dogs were doing.”

The answer was yes, and now Johnson has a fully-trained Heart Service Dog in Cheyenne. She said she can’t even count the number of times her dog has warned her about heart episodes.

“Cheyenne is just a little doll, a real angel,” Johnson said. “She warns me before I have a heart episode—light-headedness, blood pressure change, etc. She does it in all places, no matter what I’m doing or where I am.”