February 28, 2024

Madison Elementary School Teacher Julie Rice is an Outstanding Educator

Madison Elementary School Teacher Julie Rice is an Outstanding Educator Featured Image

Julie Rice, a fourth-grade teacher at Leopold Elementary School in Madison, is a WEA Member Benefits and WEAC Outstanding Educator. She will be honored and recognized at the March 2 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball game against Illinois at the Kohl Center in Madison. Rice is a member of Madison Teachers Inc.

Rice is very involved in the community at her school and in Madison in general. She is involved in the Walking School Bus initiative, where she meets students in the community and walks to school with them every Tuesday morning as part of a strategy to reduce chronic absenteeism. She has planned and volunteered for the Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at Leopold Elementary and volunteers for the mobile food pantry at the school. She is a teacher mentor through the University of Wisconsin School of Education, and is part of Partners for Racial Inclusion, a mentoring program through the Dane County New Teacher Project. She volunteers for Toys for Tots and is on the Home and School committee at her son’s elementary school.

Rice believes that her connection to the community is a crucial ingredient in her professional practice.

“My favorite part about my job is making the curriculum come alive for my students,” Rice said. “Taking on the challenge of finding engaging and creative ways to make each lesson accessible to all of my students is my passion and makes the job even more rewarding!

“None of this work can be done though without building a solid relationship within my classroom community. I am dedicated to creating an atmosphere where all students can thrive and find joy in learning in my classroom. I make every effort to get to know them individually and collectively. My students know that I truly care about them and feel that they have a family within our classroom.”

Rice’s mother taught in the Madison Metropolitan School District for more than 30 years, serving not just as an inspiration and a model, but helping Rice in her earliest years in the profession. Rice is the co-founder and director of marketing for the Maria Covarrubias Educational Opportunity Fund, her mother’s memorial scholarship.

“I chose to go into teaching because of my mother,” Rice said. “She was extremely dedicated to her job as a teacher. She loved teaching and inspiring students. Before I graduated from UW-Madison I was able to complete one of my practicums in her class. She always allowed me to create lessons with her, volunteer in her classroom, and see the beauty of teaching.”

Rice grew up in Madison, and the university has always been an important part of her life—including but not limited to Badger sports.

“I am extremely proud of being a Badger,” Rice said. “My love of Badger sports and the UW in general has been lifelong – growing up in Madison, having increasing opportunities to take advantage of all the UW and its programs have to offer, including seeing my mom and siblings obtain degrees as first-generation college students and following in her footsteps of being a School of Education graduate. I am extremely proud of being able to give back to my community. Leaving Madison right after college and living in many places throughout the U.S. I never lost sight of the goal: To get back home to Madison and do the work here.”

Rice was nominated by not one, but two MTI colleagues from Leopold, Maggie Smith and Maria Warren.

On the nomination form, Smith wrote, “The students thrive in her classroom both academically and socially. Julie makes it look easy, but she puts in countless hours and effort so everything runs smoothly. I feel so lucky to have her as a colleague and collaborator.”

Warren wrote, “Julie calls students into learning with active discussion and activities that are engaging and move the learning forward. Rarely is she lecturing at students, instead, she has created a space that allows for discussion and for students to search for further understanding. It is refreshing to be in her class and when there, I feel excited about the learning and desire to join in the learning alongside the students.”

The Outstanding Educator program is sponsored by the UW Athletic Department, WEA Member Benefits and WEAC.