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Sennett Teacher Earns Crystal Apple Award Honorable Mention

Sennett Teacher Earns Crystal Apple Award Honorable Mention

Within just a couple of years, Jesus Cortez went from being a determined engineer at UW-Madison to a beloved math teacher at Sennett Middle School. This week, WMTV-15 News recognized the seventh grade cross categorical educator with an honorable mention for their annual Crystal Apple Award.

Cortez describes himself as a natural born problem-solver – so much so, that he earned his undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering, spending years studying complex math principles, computer programming, and modeling software. However, when he applied to engineering jobs after graduating from UW-Madison, he found he wasn’t interested in solving problems for corporations, where impact was measured by stock value.

Instead, he pivoted to a career that could put his skill set to better use: education. After graduating with a master’s degree in special education, Cortez began his new role this fall.

“I come from a low-income neighborhood in the Bronx, so I’ve seen what education can do and the downfalls of what education can bring if it’s not invested in profitably or equitably,” Cortez said. “There are massive problems in education. I know I can’t solve them on my own, but I can at least try and help to bring some solutions to the table.”

To share his problem-solving skills with his students – and not only to find the answer on a test, but in their everyday lives – Cortez started Wellness Wednesdays. This dedicated class time lets students work through problems they’re experiencing, teaching crucial lessons including communication techniques, teamwork, cultural representation, building self esteem, academic anxiety, and more. It also builds up life skills and community, as the students come together to help one another.

“I’m figuring out how to do this job better every single day,” Cortez said. “It’s incredible to be recognized as an honorable mention for the Crystal Apple Award. I’m excited to keep working in education and supporting my students.”