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UW-Stevens Point spring graduate embraces his history

For the Metro Wire

As a student at Stevens Point Area Senior High School, Lucas Jagodzinski became interested in history in the classroom of Paul Cibaric, who inspired him with out-of-the-box teaching and creative engagement with students.

“I realized I wanted to do that,” said Jagodzinski, a Stevens Point native. “I wanted to inspire others to love history like [sic] I do.”

Today, Jagodzinski is Cibaric’s colleague at the high school he once attended, serving as a student teacher as he prepares to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Saturday, May 18, with a major in history for teaching.

“I hope to teach high school history and mentor students,” he said. “I would also enjoy working in a museum. I’ve always liked history. It’s like storytelling. I’m fascinated with looking at different events and knowing that not everyone always has the same perspective.”

Teaching alongside his former teachers has been a growing experience, Jagodzinski said. “I felt like a student at first, but at the same time it felt great to be back, and that made it easier.” Knowing his surroundings, some of the students and his cooperating teacher, Michael Shefchik, helped him focus on teaching much faster.

His hometown also inspired several of Jagodzinski’s research projects. As president of the UW-Stevens Point History Club, Jagodzinski directed a 25-minute documentary on the logging, railroad and higher education history of Stevens Point, using film, photography, and narration. Find “Stevens Point 1830-1910: A Train Without Tracks,” on YouTube.

“Back in the 1800s, Stevens Point was a bit like a frontier town with an outlaw culture and a Wild West feel,” he said.

In 2017, as part of independent study, Jagodzinski assisted with planning and installing “Over There: Portage County and the Great War,” a World War I exhibit displayed Heritage Park in Plover and the Portage County Public Library. According to Sarah Scripps, an assistant professor of history who worked with Jagodzinski, the project recently received the Public Programs Award from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

This summer he will work as an intern with the Portage County Historical Society, managing three student interns as they work together to restore the Temple Beth Israel museum at 1475 Water St., Stevens Point, and present its history to the community. It is the third oldest synagogue building in the state and the oldest with a sanctuary intact.

Jagodzinski credits his professors for encouraging his research projects and helping him make professional connections while in college. “The faculty at UW-Stevens Point are [sic] so willing and able to connect with you on a personal level and help you any way they can,” he said.

“Lucas’ enthusiasm and passion for local history will make him a tremendous teacher,” said Professor Lee Willis, History Department chair. “He will help his students connect to the world around them by helping them understand the historical roots of their own community.”

“I want to keep growing as an educator and someday become a principal, administrator or a professor,” Jagodzinski said. “I want to keep challenging myself to learn more.”