Portage High, teacher and student receive $22,000 in Kohl awards

March 28, 2018

Portage High School teacher Jan Imhoff, student Danielle Griffey and the school itself will receive $22,000, collectively, from the Herb Kohl Foundation.

Imhoff is one of 100 teachers in the state to earn a Kohl fellowship in 2018 for leadership demonstrated inside and outside of the classroom. All recognized teachers will receive $6,000 for themselves and another $6,000 for their school. Imhoff is Portage High School’s business and information technology teacher and Future Business Leaders of America adviser, currently in her 23rd year at the school.

Griffey is one of 191 students in Wisconsin to receive a $10,000 college scholarship from the foundation. The senior at PHS earned the Initiative Scholarship, provided to students who have shown strong promise for succeeding in college and beyond but have not yet received academic-based scholarships, the foundation said in a news release.

The foundation will recognize Imhoff, Griffey and other winners from the region during an April 15 luncheon at Fond du Lac High School.

“I am beyond humbled, proud, and honored to be selected for this award,” Imhoff said in an email. “I never would have had the opportunity to win this award without the awesome support of my family, administration, co-workers, my many business teacher friends, and the abundance of students that I have had over the past 23 years.”

Said Griffey: “It’s a huge deal. To get this is not only an honor but really beneficial, as it will help with (college) debt.”

Griffey plans to study criminal justice and psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She wants to be a criminal psychologist after college.

‘Tremendous work’

At Portage High School, Imhoff teaches classes like Microsoft Office academy, business graphics, sports and entertainment for business, business management, employability skills, and advanced Microsoft Office Academy, a dual-credit course offered by the school and Madison College.

In her Microsoft Office Academy course, students can gain industry certification from Microsoft Corp. and recognition of their skills from future employers, Imhoff said. Last year, her students earned a total of 39 such certifications.

“Jan is a leader in our building and around the state as a business and information technology educator,” Principal Robin Kvalo said in an email. Kvalo nominates teachers like Imhoff for Kohl fellowships annually.

“She is a huge student advocate and builder of student leadership skills through her tremendous work with FBLA.”

Since 2000, more than 220 Portage students have competed at FBLA’s national level in various business-related competitive events and 30 students placed in the top 10, including nine national champions, Imhoff said. In 2009, she was named the outstanding FBLA adviser in Wisconsin, and in 2016 her name was added to the National FBLA Adviser Wall of Fame.

“My educational philosophy begins with my belief that we are all lifelong learners,” Imhoff wrote in her application for the Kohl fellowship. “As a business teacher, the lessons and skills that I teach on a daily basis are at the core of what students will need throughout their entire lives.”

Kvalo said the high school staff will discuss how to allocate the $6,000 awarded to the school.

Resilient student

Griffey said she takes pride in working hard in school and extracurricular activities, which include German Club, cheerleading and community service.

She regularly speaks to high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving. Her older sister, Brittney Griffey, and Kristin Eggert died as passengers in a drunken driving accident in 2011, at the ages of 17 and 16. Brittney Griffey, who had received her General Equivalency Diploma and was attending Madison College, left behind a daughter.

Danielle Griffey has spoken to driver’s education students in Portage for the past two years, and this year she started presenting to health class students too. “I wanted to bring it bigger and further and make it a more meaningful thing,” she said of expanding these efforts, which will include speaking to students during the week of prom, which is May 5.

“I really stay focused on academics and keep my grades up,” Griffey said of her education. “I take classes I know will take me where I want to go in life.”

Said Kvalo: “Danielle Griffey is a driven young lady who has overcome many adversities in her life yet has found success along the way. This is what the Initiative Scholarship is all about.

“I’ve known her since she was in kindergarten at Rusch (Elementary) and am so proud of all she has done in school and outside of school to build towards her success beyond high school. She is resilient.”