Joan Schoenfeld grew up in New York City so when she moved to Wisconsin and met people from the Hmong Community she immediately knew she wanted to help them in any way she could. She began teaching English and Citizenship classes to help the folks that she said were having a tough time adapting to the Midwest.
"My father had a job that necessitated us to go overseas several times. I lived in Turkey. I lived in Singapore when I was young and so I've always been interested in other cultures," said Schoenfeld.
Seven years ago Schoenfeld answered an ad in the newspaper seeking teachers to help Spanish speaking residents in Sparta learn English.
"I feel like I don't do very much when I see how hard they work. People milking 350 cows in the middle of winter, working 60 hours a week and then coming here to learn English. They are among the hardest working people I've ever met," said Schoenfeld.
Alfonso Sanchez nominated Joan for the award and says you can't put a price on what she does for the people coming into this country.
"When you go to the grocery store or anyplace, it's great to establish this communication in English. You feel more accepted in the community," said Sanchez.
Student Tao has been coming to class for three years. When he hears something he doesn't understand or wants to say something but doesn't know how he writes it down for Joan and she translates.
"When you don't know anything, it's very complicated to communicate with other people but now it's easier. She's a good woman. She likes to help the people. She's a good human," said Tao.
The students not only consider Joan their teacher but she's a friend and a person that they say has a generous heart.