People Schools

Questioning the Locals: Amy Traynor

chatting with an honored educator about project-based learning – and much more

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

After two decades at DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire – including being chosen as 2013 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year –  two years ago Amy Traynor became lead teacher at Anthony Acres School, a project- and place-based charter school in the Mondovi School District that will eventually serve sixth- through 12th-graders.

What’s your name?

Amy Traynor.

Neighborhood you live in, city:

Westside, Eau Claire.

How long have you lived in the Chippewa Valley:

I moved to Eau Claire in 1999, so about 22 years.

What’s a typical day like at Anthony Acres?

There really isn’t a typical day. We are a project based learning school with a student-driven curriculum. We always start our day with an Advisory time in which we do community building activities but other than that most of our day is driven by student projects and the weather. We are an education outdoor school so we are outside a lot – projects, lunch, wellness, advisory.

Do you have a typical student?

No, not really. Our students are very similar to those in any public school. However, I think most of our students’ chose Anthony Acres because of their interest in our education outdoors or STEAM focus.

Do you have a local hero or heroes?

My husband, Jeremy, is a science teacher at DeLong. He has expanded the walls of his classroom and his love for science for over 300 students over the last 10 years by taking students to Costa Rica and Iceland over the summer. It’s an amazing life changing experience for Eau Claire students. And (former Eau Claire School Board President) Chris Hambuch-Boyle – she has this passion for education. She’s just on fire for kids and teachers, and she’s now working on policy and advocacy. She is such a go-getter and has always been a mentor and someone I have always looked up to.

What place in town considers you a “regular”?

Lately I’m a regular walking on West Folsom Street with my husband and two dogs.

What’s the most positive local development since you moved here?

I think the Phoenix Park area is probably my favorite transformation, with RCU and Jamf, the bridges and the rivers it is so pretty. I remember when I moved here, people told me to avoid that area so I rarely drove through there. Now it is one of my favorite places to go, especially for Thursday night Music in the Park.

What frustrates you about the Chippewa Valley?

Restaurants not able to survive on the west side of Eau Claire.

What is one of the best cultural experiences you’ve ever had in the Valley?

The International Fall Festival was always something I enjoyed taking my kids to and participating in.

If you had an unlimited budget, what’s one piece of public art you would create locally?

There’s this sculpture out in front of one of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip that has many canoes together like a sphere. It’s really unique and seems like it should be in a city like Eau Claire.

If COVID-19 suddenly vanished, where is the first local place you would go?

We are big fans of the westside Cancun. I miss going to breweries and wineries, especially the Brewing Projekt and Lazy Monk.

What is your favorite piece of local trivia?

One of the things I really find interesting is that Half Moon Lake was originally connected to the Chippewa river. The remnants of the sawmills can still be found in the area and rumor has it that Eau Claire had one of the largest sawmills in the world in the mid 1800s.

Death bed, one meal from a local restaurant, what would it be?

Anything from Mona Lisa’s – especially their desserts! I’m a dessert person.

What book, TV show, or movie would you recommend to the members of the City Council?

I read a book when first came to Eau Claire, The Latehomecomer (by Kao Kalia Yang). It’s a great book that everyone should read. It is a beautifully written story about the Hmong experience and their culture.