Students at Longfellow LDI piled into the library for what they thought was just a small assembly but then, State Superintendent Tony Evers made an an appearance to give an unexpected announcement
To her complete surprise, Longfellow educator and adviser Dr. Maggie McHugh accepted a prestigious honor, being named 2019's Middle School Teacher of the Year in front of her students, family and colleagues, and honor she will hold over the next year.
McHugh held back tears as she thanked her students.
"Just to be here with all of my students, I think that was what really got me emotional initially," McHugh said.
McHugh spent the past five years as an adviser for 6th grade students and a teacher for all three grades. Though the award was a surprise to her, those who know her said it's a long time coming.
"[In] 7th grade, she asked me to go to a conference with her and a few other students," McHugh's former student Elyse Ramseier said. "She knew that I could do it and I could exceed the standard."
Superintendent Evers said she represents the quality of teachers in the La Crosse area, having began his career in Tomah many years prior.
"[She has] energy, passion for kids," Evers said. "[She] clearly has a concern about social justice and making sure that kids that struggle no longer struggle."
McHugh said teaching is about being an inspiration for young minds, but first that inspiration has to come from within.
"I need to keep pushing myself to embody this award," McHugh said. "If I'm better than I am the previous day, then I know my students will continue to honor that and push to be better versions of themselves."
McHugh is a fourth generation educator. Teaching goes back in her family to her great grandmother teaching reading and writing out of her own home.