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UW Oshkosh educators Kathy Elertson (left to right), Crystal Mueller and Dan Schmidt were honored during a kickoff event at the start of the academic year. 


The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh faculty and staff is full of smart, talented and inspiring educators. Three of them—Kathy Elertson, Crystal Mueller and Dan Schmidt—were recognized at the start of the fall semester with Edward M. Penson Distinguished Teaching Awards.

The honor recognizes faculty members who have made significant contributions to their colleges and the University. Winners are selected by a committee of the Provost and Vice Chancellor and the college deans.

Elertson is an assistant dean and post licensure program director in the College of Nursing. Mueller teaches in the English department and is director of the Writing Center on the Oshkosh campus. And Schmidt is a professor and former kinesiology department chair.

As we head toward the Dec. 16 finish line for the fall semester, the three award-winning educators explain what keeps them inspired on a day-to-day basis and what advice they have for students as academic crunch time approaches.

Kathy Elertson

Elertson has been a nursing educator for more than 20 years and joined UW Oshkosh in fall 2014. This semester she’s teaching undergraduate pediatric courses in the traditional and accelerated BSN programs and doctoral courses linked to the DNP scholarly project.

What inspires her day in and day out: “I truly enjoy the ‘lightbulb’ moment when students understand a complex process and it all begins to make sense,” she said. “As an educator, this is the highlight of my day because I was able to effectively break down the information in a way the student could absorb it and then apply it in the practice setting.”

Her advice for the rest of the semester: “Remember to take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, take a break and enjoy the overall college experience. Take time over the holidays to recharge and re-engage with the people and things important to you.”

Crystal Mueller

Mueller is in her 17th year at UWO and 30th year as an educator. She has designed and taught a variety of English courses, from writing and Quest literature for first- and second-year students to research methods and writing studies for graduate students. Now she’s teaching two writing courses along with training and mentoring a staff of 27 writing coaches in the Writing Center.

What inspires her day: “The work I do every day is like a gift students will open one day after I don’t see them anymore,” she said. “They do learn now, but the learning that inspires me most is what unfolds long after. I know this happens because I am constantly reminded of and inspired by the powerful teaching I experienced as a student.”

Her advice: “Remember to be kind to yourself first. You will be more open to success and learning if you are in a place of self-care.”

Dan Schmidt

Schmidt is a professor who has taught a variety of kinesiology courses in his 25 years at UWO. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and has long been an advocate for increasing physical activity levels among students, faculty and staff. This fall he’s teaching five different kinesiology courses.

What inspires him: “Seeing the growth in our students,” he said. “These are some amazing young people and I have the privilege of working and learning alongside them and being a part of their life journeys. I am moved and inspired daily by their dedication, determination and grit.”

His advice: “Hang tough and persevere but don’t ignore your own self-care. Plan for your study or work time along with when you will sleep, exercise and spend time with friends. Communicate with your instructors and professors. We are rooting for you and want you to succeed, but your success will always be determined by the work you choose to put in as a student.”

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