Alumna Receives Outstanding Biology Teacher Award in Wisconsin

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April 9, 2021

Michelle Griffin-Wenzel (B.S. in Biology, 1997) was recognized as Wisconsin’s Outstanding Biology Teacher Award winner at the National Association of Biology Teachers annual conference on November 6-7, 2020.

Every year, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) program attempts to recognize an outstanding biology educator, in grades 7-12 only, in: each of the 50 states, Washington D.C., Canada, Puerto Rico,and overseas territories.

A major portion of the nominee’s career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science. Candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, and student-teacher relationships.

Griffin-Wenzel, known affectionately by her students as “Mrs. GW” or “GDubs,” is a 22-year veteran in the science and engineering classroom. Griffin-Wenzel earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Iowa in 1997. She also studied science education at Iowa under the guidance of the late Dr. Robert Yager, Dr. John Penick, Dr. John Craven, and Dr. Michael Clough. As an undergraduate, Griffin-Wenzel worked three semesters as a teaching assistant in the Department of Biology under the direction of Brenda (Leicht) Grewe.

After college, Griffin-Wenzel moved back to her home state of Wisconsin and started teaching at Franklin High School (FHS) in Franklin, WI where she taught Physical Science and Biology for two years. Due to her husband’s job change, Griffin-Wenzel relocated to Germantown High School in Germantown, WI where she teaches today. Her current course load includes Freshman Honors Biology, Patterns and Processes Biology, and Project Lead The Way – Environmental Sustainability. Griffin-Wenzel has also taught Advanced Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology. In 2006, Griffin-Wenzel earned a Master’s in Education and Professional Development from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. In November of 2014, she was awarded her National Board Certification and serves as a mentor for teachers completing this process. In the spring of 2018, Griffin-Wenzel was the recipient of the Excellence in Science Teaching Award from the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers (WSST).

For the past two summers, Griffin-Wenzel has participated in a workshop titled, “The Science & Ethics of Genome Editing,” at the Center of Biomolecular Modeling at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and at the Innovative Genomics Institute at the University of California- Berkeley. She was one of 24 educators from across the country who developed and tested innovative instructional materials for high school and college level biology classes. The course focused on the CRISPR based adaptive immunity system in bacteria and the many ways in which some of the proteins that function in this natural immunity system are being adapted for use in editing plant and animal genomes. In addition, the course prepared teachers to lead their students in thoughtful conversations regarding the ethical implications of this powerful new technology.

Griffin-Wenzel enjoys sharing what she has learned throughout her teaching career with other educators. She has presented over 15 times at state and national science & engineering conferences on topics such as National Board Certification, phytoremediation, and modeling difficult concepts in a high school biology classroom. She served as the Local Arrangements Coordinator and Diversity Strand Leader for the 2017 NSTA Milwaukee Regional and was co-chair of the WSST annual conference in 2017. She has held the position of interim COO for WSST and is currently the Membership and Public Relations Director. She also guest lectures for pre-service teachers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has mentored numerous teachers.

While at the University of Iowa, Griffin-Wenzel worked at the student radio station, KRUI, as a disc jockey and sports reporter. She broadcasted Iowa women’s basketball, softball and baseball from 1993-1997. Today, Griffin-Wenzel is a color analyst for high school and college sports on the internet and TV. She is married with two teenage boys and lives in the Milwaukee metro area. Her hobbies include kayaking, fishing, and playing board games with her husband and two teenage sons. She also enjoys watching her oldest son play baseball and volleyball and gardening and landscaping with her youngest son.




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