Alum named Minnesota career and technical education teacher of the year

Weiler says UW-Stout prepared her to enter the classroom ‘on day one’
Pam Powers | December 1, 2020

Sonja Weiler remembers graduating from University of Wisconsin-Stout and being ready to start her teaching career.

“I felt I was prepared to walk into a classroom on day one,” said Weiler, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing education in 1999. “The faculty prepared you to be ready.”

Weiler, of Elk River, Minn., returned to UW-Stout earning her master’s degree in career and technical education in 2013.

Earlier this month the Minnesota Association for Career and Technical Education named Weiler, marketing education instructor at Elk River High School, Teacher of the Year.

MnACTE is the state professional association for career and technical education and an affiliate of ACTE, the largest national association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers.

Sonja Weiler
Sonja Weiler photo / Courtesy Bella Solle Photography

Nominated by the Marketing Education Educators and MnACTE, Weiler was selected to represent Minnesota. The award recognizes the finest teachers at the middle/secondary school level who have demonstrated innovation in the classroom, commitment to their students and dedication to the improvement of CTE in their institutions and communities, according to a news release from MnACTE.

The award was presented to Weiler virtually on Nov. 2 in conjunction with the state CTE Works Conference Nov. 3-4.

Weiler, a native of Anoka, Minn.,  said she was thankful and humbled to receive the award.

Carol Mooney, a professor emeritus and former program director in the Master of Science career and technical education program, taught Weiler as an undergraduate and graduate student.

“Working with students like Sonja is just about the best experience a professor could have,” Mooney said. “Sonja was and is self-directed, engaged and involved in her classes and student organizations.  Sonja was and is very pragmatic. 

“She’s fun, positive, upbeat and committed to providing students tools to guide them in their career exploration and development. She’s the type of graduate that makes UW-Stout Stout Proud,” Mooney said, adding that the award  “is a big deal for her and UW-Stout.”

Weiler, who has taught marketing education at Elk River High School for 22 years and also advised the DECA organization, decided to become a teacher because she wanted to positively affect youth.

 “You’re helping to guide students in future career decisions,” she said, noting with COVID-19 teachers have a greater impact on students’ lives as they help students understand that eventually the pandemic will pass and they must think about their futures. “We’re needed now more than ever. We need to be there for young people to guide them.”

Weiler believes in innovation and entrepreneurship in her teaching.

A project she just completed is the creation of the “Swagon,” a mobile store pulled by a vehicle to sporting and community events. This allows the Elk River High School DECA Depot to reach more customers with their spirit gear, particularly now when schools are closed due to the pandemic.

Her spouse, Rob, is a 2000 UW-Stout graduate in what is now known as hotel, restaurant and tourism management. They have one son, Drew, 15.

The future of CTE is bright, Weiler said. Workplaces need the skills taught in CTE classrooms.

UW-Stout prepares CTE teachers for K-12 school districts through its undergraduate education degrees in family and consumer sciencesmarketing and business education and technology education. UW-Stout also offers a bachelor’s degree in career, technical education and training, preparing students to teach in post-high school settings such as community colleges, public and private technical colleges and industrial training programs.

The university’s Master of Science in career and technical education is for educators and industry professionals interested in gaining technical skills and advancing their careers. The Doctorate of Education in career and technical education prepares leaders who contribute to the vision, direction and administration of secondary or postsecondary educational programs.