About Us

John Bul Dau (center) stands with members of
A Walk in Their Shoes at Wausau East High School

A Walk in Their Shoes is a collaborative effort by north central Wisconsin educators who hope to put a very personal face on the current events that fill the airwaves, print media, and the Internet. By providing access to powerful speakers who have first-hand experience with contemporary history we hope to provide middle school students across central Wisconsin with lessons that impact students’ lives, helping them see the world with different eyes, the opportunity to look at life from a global perspective, and the chance to see that one person can truly make a difference.


For the past four years, A Walk in Their Shoes has brought authors with important messages to
students and community members of central Wisconsin. Our first presenter was ImmaculĂ©e Illibagiza, author of Left to Tell, and Rwandan genocide survivor. In spring 2009, A Walk in Their Shoes welcomed John Bul Dau, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, author of God Grew Tired of Us. Each of these speakers have delivered incredible presentations of the power of the human spirit and the importance of involvement as part of the global community.Presentations are held in the Auditorium at Wausau East High School. Two student presentations of 1 hour, 15 minutes are held. The presentation consists of 50 to 60 minutes of presentation and 15 to 25 minutes of Questions and Answers. Questions are all crafted by students as part of their classroom study prior to their attendance at the student presentations. One is scheduled for the morning and one for early afternoon. This accommodates approximately 1,700 middle school students (public and parochial) from across the county. A luncheon with key organizers and supporters is held at the school between the student presentations.

Additionally, on the evening prior to the student presentations, A Walk in Their Shoes offers a
presentation to community members to hear from an hour-long presentation by the author,
followed by a book sale and book signing. A small donor meet and greet reception is held prior
to the evening presentation. A Walk in Their Shoes programming is supported by local grant
and donor funding.


A Walk in Their Shoes is the idea of a single teacher that grew and took on a life of its own. As
late as the 1980 U.S. Census, Marathon County, Wisconsin, was part of the “whitest”
congressional districts in the United States. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s, central Wisconsin
began to see immigration of Southeast Asian refugees. Today, the Wausau School District—the
largest district in the county—boasts students who speak over 35 different home languages.

It is critical that our young people learn to work and live in a global society. As educators, we
also feel that it is important that young people understand the impact of other cultures and
that history takes place everyday across our planet. Our hope is that A Walk in Their Shoes
can continue to bring authors with compelling stories of humanity and transformation to
students and community members in Marathon County so we may:

•Better equip the children of central Wisconsin to live and thrive in a global society.

•Empower young people to make a difference in the world in which they live through
sharing relevant stories of people caught up in the tide of history and the impact that a
single individual can make on the world.

•Provide context and relevance for classroom instruction of social and cultural studies.

Each year, for the past four years, A Walk in Their Shoes presentations have touched the lives
of 1,800 students from over 10 school districts in Marathon County as well as 1,500
community members. Because this presentation is focused at the seventh grade level
specifically, over 3,600 students have been able to participate in the classroom studies and
presentation brought to the community by A Walk in Their Shoes.


Steering Committee:

Colin Hanson
Edgar School District
Edgar Elementary | Fifth Grade
Email: colin {at} edgar.k12.wi.us

Mary Ellen Marnholtz
Writer and Communications Consultant
Email: mel4590 {at} gmail {dot} com

Ann Christianson Viegut
Wausau School District
John Muir Middle School | Seventh Grade Geography
Email: aviegut {at} wausauschools {dot} org

Mang Thao
Wausau School District
Horace Mann Middle School | Seventh Grade Social Studies
Email: mthao {at} wausauschools {dot} org

Lori Grundy
Wausau School District
Horace Mann Middle School | Seventh Grade English/Language Arts
Email: lgrundy {at} wausauschools {dot} org

Tricia Breu-Forbes
Wausau School District
John Muir Middle School | Seventh Grade ELA/Geography
Email: tforbes {at} wausauschools {dot} org


Former Members:

Corey Jeffers and Leslie Jeffers
Oshkosh Area School District