Just two months ago, Silver Lake Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher Mike Bretl and his wife, Lauren, welcomed newborn twins into their lives. While reveling in the happiness of their new family, Bretl faced an unexpected and frightening medical emergency, and his colleagues are rallying to his side.
Silver Lake Associate Principal Jason Werchowski explained that Bretl suffered an eruption of a blood vessel in his brain last week.
According to Bretl, he was at school that morning and about 7:30 a.m., he noticed his arm felt like it was asleep. By 8 a.m., he had no movement in the arm at all.
A teacher drove him to an emergency room. After testing discovered he had a brain bleed, Bretl was transferred to the intensive care unit at Waukesha Memorial Hospital.
“He had been in intensive care for three days and was finally discharged on Saturday. He is out of work for up to six weeks,” Werchowski explained.
The school has started a GoFundMe campaign www.gofundme.com/the-bretls-and-babies-2uk28h44 to assist the family with food, medical bills and baby necessities.
“The community response has been fantastic,” Werchowski said.
The fund has a $10,000 goal, and while donations were initially coming it a rapid pace, they have begun to slow, the administrator said.
“We need a helping hand to spread the word even more,” he said.
Teachers have organized a meal program in which they prepare meals and have them delivered to the family. The 32-year-old teacher said doctors expect him to make a complete recovery. Bretl is currently on strict bed rest and under doctor’s orders that prevent him from any activity, including holding the babies, while he heals.
“We just really want to thank everybody for their thoughts and prayers and words and support," he said. "It’s been awesome to see how people care.
“Someday, hopefully, we can turn around and do something like this for someone else. We are blessed.”
Bretl was hired by the school district in August of 2011 as a tech ed teacher for grades 5-8 and became involved in other school activities. He is the school’s wrestling coach and runs the trap club for the school’s 7th and 8th-grade students.
Respect and admiration
He quickly earned the respect and admiration of his peers.
“What stands out about Bretl is he is a person who always steps in to help out other teachers," Werchowski said. "If a teacher does not have a sub, Bretl is the first to step in and cover the class.
"Teachers know that if they have a student who isn’t feeling engaged they can always send the student to Bretl’s classroom, and he will find a way to instill a feeling of connectedness with the student. He is truly a team player who is thoughtful and passionate about our student’s well-being.”
SLI Principal Ellyn Helberg agreed.
“Mike is a teacher that gets children excited about learning as his learning experiences are hands-on and active. His training in Project Lead the Way – how to teach pre-engineering skills to young adolescents, definitely shows in the classroom experiences,” she said.
SLI 5th grade teacher Michelle Sindic said she knew her colleague was special from the first time she saw him with a doughnut and Monster energy drink.
“Mike Bretl is a kind, patient, knowledgeable teacher," Suindic said. "He cares about what he teaches, but also about the students that he interacts with on a daily basis.
"Even the students who he doesn’t have any more in class, he still continues to connect with and foster a relationship with throughout their entire middle school career. Additionally, he is more than happy to assist and collaborate with students and staff on technology projects and/or issues that may arise.
"His laid back and approachable personality make it very easy for students and staff to connect with him.”
Oconomowoc High School tech ed teacher Mark Jappinen has high regard for Bretl’s teaching.
“Mike is a great tech ed teacher. When I ask the freshmen students how they liked SLI tech ed they consistently say 'Bretl is awesome.' I have seen their skill level increase quite a bit since Mike started at SLI.
“Mike is also a good friend and colleague to work with. He truly cares about his students.”
OHS Tech Ed teacher Bob Blersch referred to Bretl as an "excellent" tech ed teacher. As the wrestling coach at Nature Hill Intermediate School, Blersch also observed Bretl's efforts on behalf of his wrestlers.
“Mike expects his wrestlers to be disciplined and well behaved at matches and tournaments. He teaches them many skills necessary for a good foundation in the sport.”
Blersch also mentioned Bretl's passion for the outdoors and especially bow hunting.
Bretl said, “My goal is to be healthy by deer hunting season.”