Two State Teachers Recognized as “Outstanding Educators” at Lawrence University Commencement

Marilyn Catlin, a family consumer education teacher at Appleton East High School and Joseph Vitrano, who teaches Latin and English at Wauwatosa East High School, will receive Lawrence University’s Outstanding Teaching in Wisconsin Award Sunday, June 12 during the college’s 156th commencement. Both will be presented a certificate, a citation and a monetary award.

Established in 1985, the teaching award recognizes Wisconsin secondary school teachers for education excellence. Recipients are nominated by Lawrence seniors and are selected on their abilities to communicate effectively, create a sense of excitement in the classroom, motivate their students to pursue academic excellence while showing a genuine concern for them in, as well as outside, the classroom.

Catlin, whose grandfather-in-law coached football at Lawrence for 14 years between 1909 and 1927, began her teaching career in 1973 in Winona, Minn. Since moving to Appleton, she has taught at six schools during three different stints since first joining the district in 1976. She has been a member of the East High School faculty since 1990. In addition to teaching consumer education classes, she has served as the school-age parent coordinator at East for the past 13 years.

She is a member of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Parenting Alliance and serves on the district’s School-Age Parent Advisory Board.

Lawrence senior Kassandra Kuehl praised Catlin’s energy, devotion and “optimism not otherwise present in the lives of her students” in nominating her for the award.

“As the teacher for the Student-Age Parent Program, she is often the single resource available to the teen parents of Appleton East on subjects ranging from how to network so that the teens can graduate to the benefits of breast-feeding and how to prevent child abuse,” Kuehl said in her nomination. “Mrs. Catlin focuses her attention on the few students whose very survival depends on her attention.”

A native of Arlington Heights, Ill., Catlin earned her bachelor’s degree in home economics at St. Olaf College and her master’s degree in food science and nutrition at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Vitrano has spent his entire 35-year career in the Wauwatosa School District as a Latin and English teacher. He is a former president of the Wisconsin Latin Teachers Association and has served as Wauwatosa East’s athletic director since 1989. He coached the school’s cross country from 1971-95 and was inducted into the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003.

Julia Ruff, a 2001 graduate of Wauwatosa East, said Vitrano had a “legendary reputation” at the school, attracting students to his Latin classes from across the breadth of the student body. When Ruff couldn’t fit a Latin class into her schedule, Vitrano arranged to tutor her several days a week before the start of classes so that she could continue her studies.

“He is a very dedicated teacher who put in the extra effort to ensure that his best and worst students were given the opportunity to succeed,” Ruff said in nominating Vitrano for the award. “He made a dead language and ancient culture come alive to a broad range of students, an incredible feat of teaching prowess.”

Vitrano, who grew up in the Bay View area of Milwaukee, earned his bachelor’s degree in Latin and secondary education at Marquette University and his master’s degree in comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.