April’s Jefferson Award winner is Gerald Bonsack, a Brice Prairie native who moved to La Crosse to work as an engineer.
Gerald says that his passion though was always teaching and now in his retirement he’s doing what he loves.
The kids call him Jerry because for the last five years, five days a week, he’s been volunteering at 7 Rivers Alliance teaching them everything he knows and loves about math and science and encouraging them to think outside the box. Sophomore Sean Backus is one of those people.
“I can ask him a simple question and he’ll text me the next day and say I have all the parts and everything so you want to be ready,” said Backus.
Sean and Jerry, as the students call him, embarked on a three week project together learning about LEDs before designing a light.
“When I first met him he didn’t want to learn. He didn’t want to do math. We had some serious discussions on life and over the summer things came together,” said Bonsack.
Jerry is reluctant to take any of the credit for how excited the students are when he is teaching but he does think his free range style of teaching has something to do with it.
“I just throw the feed out there and let them graze. A lot of times I’ll just say have you searched for this, have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? Next thing you know they’re going down three different paths,” said Bonsack.
Keachen Abing is a teacher at 7 Rivers Alliance. She says the change in his students when Jerry is around is hard to miss.
“Jerry brings out the excitement and the energy in kids. He fits our mold so perfectly because he gets our kids so excited about doing cool unique projects. He insights them and inspires them never giving them the answer but just encouraging them to find the answer on their own. He’s the consummate teacher but as a volunteer we couldn’t ask for more. He’s amazing,” said Abing.