UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Rhonda Petree has been named University of Wisconsin-River Falls 2022 Distinguished Teacher of the Year. The award was established in 1965 and is the highest honor a faculty member can receive. Awardees are nominated by current seniors and recent graduates in the spring and selected by the Distinguished Teacher Award Committee each fall.
Petree is an instructor in the English Department and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program, a position she has held since 2019.
“She is my role model and I look up to her every day,” wrote one nominator about Petree. “She has truly impacted the last three years of my education here on campus, and I look forward to completing my education under her instruction.”
Doug Margolis, UWRF English professor and TESOL program colleague, said that Petree’s ability to connect with students is one of her greatest strengths.
“Teachers can tell a good story and see themselves as successful but, if they never connect with their students, they won’t be,” Margolis said. “First and foremost, you have to care – and Rhonda does that in spades.”
In addition to her success in the classroom, Margolis said that Petree is constantly communicating with students about jobs in the field, seminars and workshops, and other resources they might find beneficial.
“I am so proud of this award,” said Petree. “It is an absolute career highlight and means that a lot of what I do is right.”
Petree was hired by UWRF in 2011 to develop the English Language Transition Program to provide academic English language classes to international students who had not yet met the university’s English language proficiency requirements. During the 2018-19 academic year, she received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar award and was a visiting lecturer in Narva, Estonia.
Petree grew up in Spearfish, S.D., and Goodhue, Minn., and received her bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, she was among some of the first groups of Peace Corps volunteers in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. She received her master’s degree in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010.
In addition to being a regular presenter at professional conferences around the state and nation, Petree has also led workshops and training sessions in Singapore, Canada, Serbia, Lithuania, Slovenia, England, and Ireland.