Every week in 2015, OnMilwaukee.com and local design company Too Much Metal join forces to introduce the latest member of the Milwaukee All-Stars – a team of unfamiliar winners living in the city who consistently and diligently make it shine. Each week, a new member will join the team – based on your recommendations – and at the end of the year all will come together in a Rally of the Raddest Milwaukeeans. We're not sure what that means quite yet, so for now, meet …
Zach Wiegman is a middle school science teacher at St. Marcus, a Christian school that participates in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and where 85-90 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunches. Next year, he will teach about 180 students on a daily basis.
"Teaching middle school is very rewarding. It is not a monetary reward, but rather one of meaning," says Wiegman, who graduated from Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., with a degree in elementary education.
Wiegman’s parents were also educators. They worked at several schools in numerous Wisconsin locations throughout their careers. The family moved around a lot, which may have given Wiegman his love of travel.
"My parents are humble and loving people. I am grateful to have them as Christian role models," says Wiegman.
Wiegman was born in Milwaukee and returned to Brew City as an adult with his wife, artist Stephanie Barenz-Wiegman. The couple met in 2011 while teaching English in Hangzhou, China at different universities. They were engaged on St. Patrick's Day in the Shanghai Marriage Market. Afterwards they celebrated with Champagne in Dixie cups and french fries at a McDonalds.
Nine months later, the couple married at Sheboygan’s Blue Harbor on Lake Michigan.
"I have always appreciated art, but am more involved with the local art scene since marrying Steph. We love supporting our local art friends," he says. "I look forward to one day having kids and showing them how awesome a city Milwaukee is."
OnMilwaukee.com / Too Much Metal: How long have you been doing what you do?
Zach Wiegman: I have been teaching since I graduated from college in 2007, but have been working at St. Marcus as a middle school science teacher since 2012.
OMC / TMM: What time of year / season is your favorite in Milwaukee and why?
ZW: I love the first big rainfall in spring that suddenly turns the grass bright green and gives you hope that the brutal winter is coming to an end.
OMC / TMM: What’s your favorite / least favorite smell in Milwaukee?
ZW: I used to live in Bay View, so it has to be the ripe smell coming over the Hoan Bridge. I joke that the Allen-Bradley clock tower always asks the Hoan Bridge if that was him.
OMC / TMM: What’s your hope for Milwaukee?
ZW: My hope is that everyone realizes that you have the ability to make a positive impact on someone else and on Milwaukee. My hope is that every child growing up in Milwaukee has someone in their life who helps them find their own voice and place, while loving them unconditionally. I have a strong passion for mentoring and desire to see even more children matched with high-quality mentors. There are amazing programs already started in Milwaukee and I look forward to working with them in the future to rewrite the "fatherless story" in Milwaukee.
OMC / TMM: When / how did you fall in love with Milwaukee?
ZW: As a teenager, I had brothers and sisters who were going to UW-Milwaukee. Every time I came to visit Kirsten and Andy, I was fascinated by how cool Milwaukee is. I knew it was a place where I wanted to put my roots down. I knew it was the place that I wanted to call home because it had so many of my loves: the Brewers, the Bucks, summer festivals, Lakefront Brewery New Grist, an incredible music scene, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
OMC / TMM: Why do you do what you do?
ZW: As a teacher, I am blown away by all the gifts and talents that the kids of Milwaukee have. They amaze me every day. Teaching is not just about academics, but also about teaching character. For me, the classroom is a place where you can teach kids to go out into their communities and present themselves in a positive way. I tell my students every day, "I care about your grades and academics, but I care more about you making a difference as a brother or sister, son or daughter, friend, citizen and neighbor."
OMC / TMM: One guilty pleasure?
ZW: I love taking pictures of Milwaukee and of my travels, then editing them on Instagram (zdubphotography). Photography has always been a way for me to relax and to see the beauty in everything around me.
OMC / TMM: Name a Milwaukeean you would like to high five.
ZW: Bob Uecker! That guy is such a legend when it comes to the Milwaukee Brewers. On a side note, high fives are always free and don’t be shy to high five me when you see me around "Small"waukee.
Do you know a Milwaukee All-Star? OnMilwaukee.com and Too Much Metal are looking for true-hearted folks living in the city of Milwaukee who love what they do – and do it with zest and style. Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with recommendations.