At the beginning of January, Viroqua School District Physical Education and Health Teacher Judy Olson was awarded the Top Notch Teacher Award.
On November 21, 2009, Judy was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic and liver cancer. On Friday, Judy lost that battle.
Judy's students and colleagues described her as upbeat, always with a smile and always looking out for her students.
Schools will be dismissed this week for a visitation and funeral for Judy.
Viroqua Schools will dismiss early Tuesday for a visitation, which will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Viroqua Middle/High School gymnasium.
-Viroqua Elementary School will close at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday -Viroqua Middle/High School will close at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday -All after school activities will be canceled Tuesday
The Viroqua School District will be closed all day Wednesday for Judy's funeral, which will be held at 11:00 a.m. at Westby Coon Prairie Lutheran Church (500 South Main Street in Westby).
Previously Updated on January 4, 2010 January Top Notch Teacher
Reported by Mike Thompson Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the years, we've featured dozens of Top Notch Teachers from around the area on NewsChannel 8. Teachers that are making a big impact on the lives of their students. This month's recipient is no different in that respect, except she's teaching her students a lesson about the value of life through first-hand experience.
It's 8th period gym class at Viroqua Middle School and the energy is pumping', but while it seems like just another typical day, something is missing. Viroqua Health and Phy Ed Teacher Judy Olson says from her home, "it just seems like every time I look at the clock, oh I should be in period 2 or block 3 and this is what we should be doing."
For the past 28 years, Judy Olson has taught Phy Ed and Health at Viroqua Schools. Ironically, right now it's her health that's keeping her away from her passion. "It's all so new and it's just hard," says Judy.
On Nov. 21st, Judy received some unexpected news. She found out she has advanced pancreatic and liver cancer. Doctors say she may have just months to live. Judy says, "I'm not done teaching, I think there are just so many things yet that I think I can do or would like to do yet."
The news hit Judy's second family at school especially hard. Teacher Sara Wedwick say, "from the moment I heard it, it's just a devastating feeling." Viroqua Senior Andrew Nordberg says, "she had such good health habits and such a great lifestyle that this was the last person I thought this would happen to."
Tim Lee is Judy's teaching partner. For nearly 20 years, they've worked side by side. "Her passion is teaching and I think that's what makes her such an exceptional educator," says Lee.
A feeling shared by many of Judy's co-workers. Teacher Peggy Krambs says, "if there's a problem with kids coming and problem-solving and doing what's best and she always did it with a smile, always was willing to do anything she could for those kids to figure out what would help them." "She's such a conscientious and hard working person, whether it be for her school job or in helping other people in her life," says Teacher Sara Wedwick.
Although Mrs. Olson isn't physically in the building anymore, the lessons she's instilled in her students are still very much around. Viroqua Senior Jenny Strangstalien says, "no matter who you are, she always gives you a chance and she always gives you her utmost respect and she does her best with everybody to make sure they're have a good day."
Viroqua Senior Jordan Larson says, "she taught you leadership and responsibility, she was very caring. If you struggled at any class, even if it wasn't hers, she was willing to help out in any way. She just taught you life lessons." Judy says, "I really want them to set goals for themselves and always improve on themselves."
Even the simplest of gestures has made a big impact on her students. Junior Tyler Deaver says, "she, in the hallways, even if she didn't have you in a class anymore is the kind of person who'd always say hi to you, she always knew your name." Senior Kiernan Steiner says, "whenever I would see her in the hallway, she'd always brighten my day, she always had a beautiful smile."
"The kids know that when a teacher truly cares about their students and what they want as far as getting the best out of them and challenging them. I think that's what makes Judy that exceptional teacher," says Teacher Tim Lee.
This is no doubt a difficult chapter in this Top Notch Teacher's book of life, but she believes her story is far from over. "I'll be back, I will be back," says Judy.
The students and staff at Viroqua have really just wrapped their arms around Mrs. Olson and her family during this difficult time. In just 15 minutes, they raised more than $4200 to help fly Judy's son home from North Carolina whenever he wants.
Many of the students and staff also wore T-shirts saying "Judy's Crew" to school and honored her at one of the basketball games recently.