August Top Notch Teacher: Longfellow Middle School’s Julia Vradenburg

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — This past year of education has been difficult for students and teachers alike. Julia Vradenburg, a sixth grade teacher at Longfellow Middle School, hopes kids forge connections in school that keep them coming back for more.

Vradenburg always had a heart for education. At an early age, her grandma told her she should be a teacher.

“I loved all my teachers. I loved school growing up. I loved my teachers, and school,” Vradenburg said.

Now, as a teacher, she hopes to do the same for her students. But she and her students navigated online and hybrid classes this past year, it was harder for Vradenburg to forge connections.

“It’s hard to sometimes form relationships that way because it’s not natural, and I mean everyone that’s been on a zoom call knows: It can be awkward,” Vradenburg said.

After spending the first half of the school year online, returning to the classroom was beneficial for her and the kids.

“It’s so great having the kids come in every day,” Vradenburg said. “They are doing such a great job of wearing their masks and staying apart and really trying their best because they want to be here, too.”

Vradenburg primarily teaches English and social studies. Her favorite part of teaching is instilling a love of reading in her students. However, she knows those lessons aren’t the only reason kids come to school.

“A lot of kids, unfortunately, they aren’t coming to my class to learn about this awesome lesson that I have planned about Latin America. They’re coming because they want to see their friends, they want to see their teachers. They want that relationship piece.”

She hopes that those relationships will be what gets kids to stay for the lessons.

“They just bring a smile to my face every day,” she said.

Vradenburg has taught at Longfellow for five years.