School: J.R. Gerritts Middle School
School District: Kimberly Area School District
City, State: Kimberly, Wisconsin
About the Nominee: Tim Handrich has served as the school counselor at J.R. Gerritts for 37 years. In many ways, he is the living embodiment of his school's positive, supportive, student-centered, high quality learning environment. Although he's accomplished many things in the past, he still brings his “A game,” each and every day. To start, Mr. Handrich is a highly effective counselor who works with students throughout every moment of the day. In many ways, that is the foundation of what he does - positively impacting his school and community, one student at a time. Many times, the students he works with have parents whom he worked with when they were students. Students and parents know and trust Mr. Handrich; they reach out to him for support on big and small issues alike.
Mr. Handrich also creates broader learning experiences, such as facilitating individualized conferences for 8th grade students that are designed to prepare them for high school and beyond. His school receives overwhelmingly positive feedback because of these conferences. Mr. Handrich also facilities 8-10 different types of student support groups, often running several groups per day. After examining student data, he created a Living With Hope group that teaches coping, healthy living and productive thinking skills to students. This group has been highly effective in helping students minimize or eliminate the impact of depression in their lives.
He also facilitates the Safe School Ambassadors student program, which trains students to recognize and intervene when they see a student being excluded or mistreated. He is the driving force behind the school's career-focused mini-course activities, as well as annual college and technical college visits for his students. Additionally, Mr. Handrich's counseling skills impact students in surrounding districts through his leading role in the Oasis trauma support network. This group enables area districts to share resources with each other in times of need.
Mr. Handrich's influence extends far beyond the school day. He is the driving force behind ROCKS, a drug and alcohol free student group. He can also be seen leading student events such as overnight lock-ins, weekly bike rides, before school breakfast clubs and trips to the Zoo Boo, minor league baseball and hockey games. It’s not uncommon to see Mr. Handrich lead one group event at the end of the school day and meet up with a second group activity later that same evening. In the past, he has served as the high school boys' varsity baseball coach, winning state titles and runner-up trophies as a head coach and assistant. He is the co-author of two books, which are resources for counselors and parents of tweens, respectively. Beyond his school role, Mr. Handrich is the father of three positive, successful adult children. He is also active in his church and Kiwanis, for whom he immaculately maintains the landscaping at a local roundabout. Additionally, he has hiked more than half of the Appalachian Trail, typically spending a week each summer in that pursuit.
Mr. Handrich is the voice of his school's daily announcements, ending each day with words that are perhaps his greatest legacy at JRG: “Be Kind.” One could go on for hours extolling Mr. Handrich's impact and still not have enough space. His colleagues trust him, rely on him and know that their school and community are both better because of him. After 37 years, he still consistently lives and models strong character traits while remaining humble and seeing the humor in life’s many twists and turns. Mr. Handrich is a true LifeChanger in his community!