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When the student becomes the teacher

It felt a little strange to Rachael Holden-Kaufman to return to Superior High School as a teacher just a few years after hauling her books down the hall as a student. "I was only 24, and a lot of my former teachers were still here," the literatur...

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Rachael Holden-Kaufman

It felt a little strange to Rachael Holden-Kaufman to return to Superior High School as a teacher just a few years after hauling her books down the hall as a student.

"I was only 24, and a lot of my former teachers were still here," the literature teacher said. "It was a little different coming back and being colleagues, but it's beneficial because it's a quick way to learn about the kids, their needs and the community."

In addition to teaching, Holden-Kaufman coaches Superior High School's forensics and Model UN teams and advises its' Gay-Straight Alliance.

"It's an amazing place to work," she said. "I'm surrounded by highly qualified teachers and supportive administration."

Holden-Kaufman, who started her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and transferred to the University of Minnesota-Duluth to be near the man she eventually married, felt strongly about eventually earning a UW-Madison degree.

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That's why she returned to UW-Madison to broaden her skills further by completing a master's in educational psychology at UW-Madison in 2009. Then Holden-Kaufman completed a rigorous program in 2012 to gain professional certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

"Anybody can shovel content, but it takes finesse to really get through to someone and have them learn," she said. "It's the most important part of being a teacher: being able to manage a classroom, learning to trust them, and getting them to trust you. That's what my master's gave me."

Holden-Kaufman's father had three degrees from UW-Madison, and her mom grew up in Madison. After she was born, a plush Bucky Badger from her maternal grandparents - both UW employees - found its way into her hospital bassinette.

Now things have come full circle, from infant Badger to UW-Madison degree earner to mentor: last year, one of Holden-Kaufman's former students served as an intern teacher at Superior High School under her supervision, and she went on to get a full-time job as a teacher in the neighboring Maple school district.

A billboard in the area in September celebrated the accomplishments of Rachael Holden-Kaufman as part of UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Association's Project 72.

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