Making Connections: Local Teacher Wins Award for Diversity Education

Putnam Heights teacher Tyra Perine believes adding inclusivity and subtracting hate makes for a better educational experience for all

Sawyer Hoff, photos by Andrea Paulseth

AWARD WINNING EDUCATOR. Special education teacher at Putnam Heights Elementary School was recently awarded the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s 2021 Lewandowski Award for Humanitarian Activities.
AWARD WINNING EDUCATOR. Special education teacher at Putnam Heights Elementary School was recently awarded the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s 2021 Lewandowski Award for Humanitarian Activities.

In the past year, teachers have been through the wringer when it comes to educating local kiddos. Amidst masking mandates, global fear and uncertainty, and challenging working conditions in the academic realms, teachers trooped forward – and some went above and beyond to teach kids about important topics.

One local teacher is the perfect example of educators who go the extra mile to make a difference.

Tyra Perine, a special education teacher at Putnam Heights Elementary School in Eau Claire, was recently presented the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s 2021 Lewandowski Award for Humanitarian Activities for her work in pushing for more equity and diversity resources in the district.

“I meet kids where they are by scaffolding and supporting their academic and social needs with the ultimate goal of independence,” Perine said. “I embrace student’s backgrounds and celebrate diversity in the classroom. I teach my students how to be good citizens of the world and how to embrace the differences in everyone.”

“I teach my students how to be good citizens of the world and how to embrace the differences in everyone.” –Tyra Perine, Putnam Heights Elementary teacher

Perine participated and recruited others for the “Leaders for Just Schools” program developed by the National Education Association. Through this program, Perine facilitated book studies and participated in trainings that created school-based equity teams around the district.

Perine says her passion for equity comes from her upbringing in Milwaukee, where her mother pushed for her to continue her education. Perine became the first in her family to go to college.

“I continue to imprint the importance of education in my four children,” Perine said, “carrying a little bit of the teachings of my mom with me as a mother.”

Perine has been teaching for 25 years – eight of which were spent teaching in the inner city of Milwaukee. She moved to Eau Claire in 2004, where she now resides with her husband and four children. She is passionate about equity work and celebrating her student’s diverse backgrounds.

Perine’s work in the district continues to make an impact on her students and colleagues who are also passionate about social justice and equity education. By facilitating these discussions, she said, we can continue to push toward a greater understanding and inclusion of everyone in our community.

“Mrs. Perine would never want to take credit for the amazing things being done in her district because this work simply cannot be done alone,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, also an Eau Claire teacher. “But it’s clear that Tyra is a powerful force in moving this work forward. She not only continues to advance her knowledge around equity and social justice but always brings other people along with her, showing her leadership in developing more allies in our work.”

Chippewa Valley Kids & Families is sponsored by:

Mayo Clinic Health System
1221 Whipple St.
Eau Claire, WI 54703

Chippewa Valley Kids & Families is sponsored by:

Mayo Clinic Health System
1221 Whipple St.
Eau Claire, WI 54703