Alumni Spotlight

We are proud to recognize our alumni!   Please send candidate nominations to  The nominee should submit a current photo and complete the following questionnaire via email or mail to: PEASD♦Atttn PublicRelations♦ P.O. Box 901♦ Palmyra, WI 53156.    

Joseph Schreiber

Joseph Schreiber
Class of 2001

What journey did you take after high school?  Please include all college, military, and trade experiences.

As a high school senior, I was accepted into the Medical Scholars Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison – a combined undergraduate and medical school program that was created to retain high-achieving high school students in the state for their medical education.  As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I earned dual degrees in French and biology while graduating with highest distinction – the top 5% of the graduating class.  Prior to starting medical school, I spent a year completing a research fellowship at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France while also taking classes at the University of Paris.  I then received my medical degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I was elected a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.  I completed my general surgery internship at Cornell University/New-York Presbyterian Hospital, and then completed an orthopaedic surgery residency at the #1 ranked Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.  After residency, I received additional hand surgery education at Oxford University and the Pulvertaft Hand Centre in England.  Finally, I completed my training with a hand and upper limb surgery fellowship at Stanford University.  I have travelled extensively lecturing on orthopaedic and hand surgery, with over 20 peer-reviewed publications and 50 presentations at various national and international surgery meetings.  I currently work in private practice, at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic in Raleigh, NC where I specialize in surgery of the hand, wrist and elbow.

What and where is your current profession/occupation?

Hand surgeon in Raleigh, NC

How did your experience at Palmyra-Eagle impact your future?

I have very fond memories of my educational experiences at the district.  From early on, I remember teachers such as Mrs. Cobb, Mr. Hassler, and Mr. Cole at Eagle Elementary fostering a love for learning in myself through creativity in the classroom, testing and pushing my abilities, and rewarding a job well done.  I felt both challenged and intrigued, and being at a smaller school felt like a family more than an institution.  Everyone knowing everyone else can sometimes be a very good thing. 

Palmyra-Eagle High School presented new and valuable challenges in the classroom and outside.  Teachers and coaches alike provided me with endless learning opportunities at school and life lessons that were learned outside of school.   Mr. Wilde taught me patience, planning, and dealing with adversity on the golf course while Mr. Parker instructed on working as a team, leadership, and accountability on the football field.  All of these lessons have helped me get to where I currently am and remind me how impressionable kids can be.

So many teachers (Ms. Coe, Mr. Cobb) pushed me to achieve in their classrooms and really encouraged me to be ambitious in my career goals.  I truly feel that my teachers cared about my education, my progress, and tried to harness their students’ potential.  I received so much from my education at the Palmyra-Eagle school district – skill development, problem-solving skills, lessons of responsibility, and instilling self-confidence.  I honestly believe that anything is possible for present and future students from the district.  They should shoot for the stars, and I would encourage all teachers and administrators to further culture optimism and cultivate the potential that exists.  

Jennifer Panczenka

Jennifer Panczenka
Class of 1997

What journey did you take after high school?  Please include all college, military, and trade experiences?
I majored in Film Production and minored in French at the University of Minnesota.  I worked at Hyatt Hotels throughout my college studies where I earned free hotel nights every year which allowed me to begin exploring the world (France, UK, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland).  My Hyatt experience also put me next to many music artists and actors as I was coordinating their itineraries, room blocks, and VIP requests.  This began my fascination with the music world and allowed for many free concerts where I was able to photograph and interview the artists.  

Straight out of college, I got a job in Marketing at KSTP-TV/ABC.  I loved the television environment and worked there for many years coordinating commercial schedules, PR events, local castings and marketing campaigns.  I naturally was still leaning into the music world and began connecting local Twin Cities artists with commercial producers and news segment producers at ABC for commercial background music and morning news band interviews.  I eventually moved over to WCCO-TV/CBS and brought my music connections to that newsroom.  I was also interviewing and photographing a lot of national artists on the side and writing for an east coast music publication called Planet Verge.  I decided to pursue a career in music and, on a whim, sold all of my belongings and moved to Los Angeles in 2008.
I scored my first gig in LA working for the head music agent at one of the largest talent agencies in the country, CAA.  I was one of two talent assistants - yes, two - there was so much work that my boss needed two assistants and, even then, we couldn't get it all done.  I catered to American Idol artists Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, and Jordan Sparks.  Additional talent included: Gavin DeGraw, Annie Lenox, and David Beckham.  We even dabbled in some things with Michael Jackson.  It was exciting but intense - 14 hour days, no lunch breaks and every weekend!  I decided that the talent agency side perhaps wasn't for me and moved over to artist management.  My first management gig brought me to 3AM/Red Light Management where I coordinated everything for The Crystal Method, Henry Rollins, Dresden & Johnston, Paul Van Dyk, Static Revenger, Jason Lytle/Grandaddy, DJ Rap, and Robyn Hitchcock.  It was an EDM/DJ focused client list and the artists were all really great to work with!  I was lucky enough to not only have two of my artists perform at the Coachella Music Festival, but I was also able to join The Crystal Method at the Grammy Awards during their nomination in 2009!  I was eventually offered a job with Nicole Scherzinger just as the X Factor was starting season 1 in the US.  It was such an adventure but the schedule threw me back to my CAA days and I got burnt out very quickly.  Just as I was debating giving music a break, I was offered a job at a photo/film studio in Hollywood called Quixote Studios (formally Smashbox Studios).

Quixote Studios offered a friendly, family vibe and normal working hours!  It was such a welcomed change.  I was Marketing, PR, and Events Producer for a couple of years (and loved it) but I hadn't checked off one thing I was dying to do in music - and that was a full bus tour.  In 2013, I was offered to work for EDM artist Morgan Page as his Marketing/PR Manager.  He was preparing for the first ever 3D EDM tour across the country (using 3D technology from Michael Jackson's Vegas show).  It was a 50+ city bus tour, I was the only woman on that bus with a crew of 12 others.  We had many sold out shows and long nights but it was the best adventure!

What and where is your current profession/occupation?
Quixote Studios (photo/film studio in Hollywood) welcomed me back after the Morgan Page tour was complete.  The studio assisted my journey to Bora Bora in 2015 where I volunteered at a sea turtle sanctuary and became an adoptive parent to an injured sea turtle name Hope!  I have continued to work in Quixote Marketing, PR, and Events for the past few years.  

How did your experience at Palmyra-Eagle impact your future?
The smaller, cozier school size really affected my overall experience.  I felt that we collectively were able to take advantage of a more personal relationship with teachers and extra curricular activities, as we weren't just a number.  We were treated as individuals and taught in a more intimate setting that catered to expansive learning.  I was bullied for a couple of years but was encouraged to find my confidence and my voice through teachers like Jorelle Coe, Sue Fisher, Karen Hubert, and James Demler.  I think it's really important, especially during high school years, to have the support and positive influence from your teachers. 

Charles Jensen

Charles Jensen
Class of 1995

What journey did you take after high school?  Please include all college, military and trade experiences.

I studied film studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota (BA) and creative writing at Arizona State University (MFA). Also at ASU I took courses in the nonprofit management graduate program and almost completed my degree.

What and where is your current profession/occupation?

I direct the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension in Los Angeles. We are one of the oldest and largest adult education programs in creative writing. I'm also a poet, and have four chapter books and a full-length poetry collection published.  My first book, The First Risk, was a finalist for a 2010 Lambda Literay Award.  Prior to my current position, I served as Director of the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland; was the assistant director at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University; and was Communications and Events Manager at Arts for LA.  I have several years of experience teaching writing and cinema at several schools including the University of Denver.

How did your experience at Palmyra-Eagle impact your future?

At PEHS, my English teacher Ms. Oliver worked with me all four years both in independent studies and as an unofficial mentor, helping me become a better creative writer. It is because of her guidance I am where I am today, both as a writer and as someone who cares deeply about the opportunities education can provide.

Tara Gess

Tara Gess
Class of 1998

What journey did you take after high school?  Please include all college, military and trade experiences.

My journey has been similar to that of most people…thus far, it has been full of as many ups as downs.  I graduated from PEHS in 1998.  After being recruited by several colleges for basketball, I chose to attend UW-Stevens Point.  Though I loved the school, professors, and especially my teammates, I was unable to find a comfortable rythym with the basketball coach’s style.  After I finished my freshman year at UW-Stevens Point, I transferred to UW-Whitewater.  Though my new coach and I had a similar philosophy, I was never able to fit in with my teammates.  With great sadness, I decided to quit the UW-Whitewater basketball team about halfway through my sophomore year.  Since I had spent the better part of my middle school and high school years dedicating myself to a sport I loved, it was devastating that the college basketball experience felt more like a business than a hobby, and that I did not have what it took to finish what I started.

To fill the void that basketball had taken up, I focused my energy on earning my Bachelor of Arts in political science and coaching the Palmyra-Eagle Middle School 7th grade girls’ volleyball team and then the following year, the 8th grade girls’ volleyball team.  I also spent my extra time playing music for anyone who wanted to listen.  I played at some bars and restaurants in Eagle and Whitewater, sang the National Anthem at UW-Whitewater girls’ basketball games, and sang at various campus events.  Through networking, I met radio host, Reggie Michaels from the country radio station 104.5 WSLD located in Whitewater.  He interviewed me several times live on the air and let me sing 2 to 3 songs each time.

In December 2001, I graduated Cum Laude from UW-Whitewater with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, having had the pleasure of learning from phenomenal professors in that department.  After graduation, my goal was to attend law school but my heart was pointing me to Nashville, Tennessee.  Growing up I had always had two dreams: become a famous country singer and become a lawyer.  Odd, I know!  I decided to take the LSAT (which is a test similar to an ACT or SAT, but specific to applying to law school) and I applied to several law schools.  Unfortunately, I was wait listed by Marquette University Law School and I was denied by all of my other choices.  At first I was crushed and thought that I didn’t have what it took to become a lawyer.  After returning home with all of my belongings packed in boxes, my parents and I discussed my musical aspirations.  Within a month of graduation, and with my parents’ blessing, I headed for Nashville, Tennessee to pursue my dream of singing for a living.  I drove to Nashville with only a handful of money from my Dad.  The first night I was in Nashville, I met someone who said she knew of a law firm that was looking for an ‘Erin Brockovich’ type person to work closely with clients related to its class action lawsuits.  Within the week I was hired and my parents drove all of my belongings down to me.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed my work, I really wanted to use my Political Science degree and work at the legislature.  Nashville is the capitol of Tennessee, so the State Capitol building and General Assembly are located in downtown Nashville.  My resume caught the eye of a Senator and I began working for him 6 months after moving to Nashville.

During the day, I worked as a Legislative Aide to Senator Micheal Williams, which enabled me to network with other politicians and lawyers, attend committee hearings and full senate hearings, give State Capitol tours to constituents, meet Governor Don Sundquist and Governor Phil Bredesen, attend the Inaugural Ball of Governor Phil Bredesen, and participate in many other exciting events.  I spent my nights and weekends networking in the music industry, which enabled me to get back stage at the CMA Awards 2 years in a row, party with Wynona Judd, Billy Dean, Hank Williams, Jr., Gretchen Wilson, Phil Vassar, Joe Nichols, Eddie Montgomery, the artists from She-Daisy, Lonestar, and Rascal Flatts, and meet Toby Keith, Tracy Lawrence, and Jessica Andrews.  I even snuck into a CMA Awards after party by walking into a restaurant with Kenny Chesney’s entourage.  I played a gig at the famous Bluebird Café and won a talent contest at Douglas Corner.  Through years of networking, I was able to write songs with hit songwriters Gary Hannan (who wrote Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off), Dean Miller (A Little Gasoline), Roger Cook (I Believe in You), Don Pfrimmer (My Front Porch Looking In), and others.  Lonestar’s band cut a 4 song demo for me and then in 2006, I cut a full 12 song professional CD.  With the help of my business manager, producer, and manager, we set up a website and began promoting my CD.  My first real show was the most exciting experience.  I was flown out to Utah where I opened for Eric Heatherly (who sang Flowers On the Wall), standing at the base of a mountain on a crisp evening looking up the incline at thousands of people.

Of course, like most journeys, I experienced low moments just as devastating as the good moments were amazing.  After I returned from Utah, I discovered that my business manager was embezzling money and I had signed a bad contract with my producer.  It was as if someone had pulled a giant rug out from under me.  The Nashville music industry has a way of chewing you up and spitting you out if you let it.  I decided to let it.  After spending about 7 years in the music industry, I decided to walk away from it and pursue my second dream.

I began working as a legal secretary at downtown Nashville law firms and eventually worked my way up and into a large law firm, working for the construction group of attorneys.  I took the LSAT again and applied to the Nashville School of Law, where I attended class at night for 5 years while I worked during the day as a legal secretary.  This dream came with its own set of successes and failures.  In 2014, I graduated from the Nashville School of Law with a Doctor of Jurisprudence.  Unfortunately, a few months later I took and failed the bar exam.  After a good cry and gallon of ice cream, I picked myself up, got back to studying, and passed the bar and became a licensed attorney in 2015. 

Due to years of networking and a little luck, I got hired by a general contractor as its in-house counsel.  Thus, I have only one client and mostly practice corporate law as it relates to the construction industry.  Being an attorney is gratifying but my favorite part of my job is when I fly in our corporate plane for site visits, mediations and arbitrations in various states throughout the country.

In 2016, I invented a camping product, which is being designed and manufactured by my dad, Larry Gess, an accomplished inventor by trade.  The product has been picked up by Academy Sports, Dollar General, and Wal-Mart, to name a few, and will be sold in stores in 2017.

I never imagined my life would look like this.  Despite the roller coaster of the high highs and the very low lows, I am grateful for every bit of my life adventure.

What and where is your current profession/occupation?

In-House Legal Counsel at Construction Enterprises, Inc.

·  a general contractor located in Franklin, Tennessee, ranked number 1 in building multi-family housing (mostly student housing at Universities) throughout the United States

How did your experience at Palmyra-Eagle impact your future?

I was fortunate to learn from a great staff of teachers and coaches who supported and encouraged me, challenged me, and fostered a comfortable atmosphere of creativity and learning.  I was truly influenced by Becky (Fine) Rychlak, Sue Fisher, Tim Collins, and Nancy Naze, and cannot thank them enough for their patience and involvement in my development.  Of course, I was most influenced by my mom, Diana Gess, who taught at Eagle Elementary for decades until she retired.  She had even taught some of my classmates.  My mom was a teacher at work and at home.  She fed my curiosity and stressed the importance of being a lifelong learner.  She was a true ‘school marm’ in the classic sense, who brought creativity and flare to her classrooms, hope to her struggling students, and knowledge and experience home to me.

Because of the small school size, I was able to able to perform in plays and musicals, go on trips with the choir, participate on the volleyball, basketball, and track teams, and take part in other school activities, including the ski club and student counsel.  I believe that by having the opportunity and access to such wide a variety of interests, I was able to stay interested and engaged in school as well as define my talents and goals.  Also, having participated in so many different activities has helped me be more rounded which has helped me network with many different kinds of people.

Palmyra-Eagle specifically impacted my future in connection with college.  I took math classes through pre-calculus, Spanish 5, and 2 AP courses.  Because of my education, I was able to skip and test out of several classes in college and obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree in 3 ½ years.

I am proud to have grown up in Palmyra and to have been educated in a small town/school atmosphere.  I grew up riding my horse to Mary Ann's for frozen custard and my snowmobile to the gas station; playing basketball in Clinton with the support of our town who followed the buses to away games; meeting up with teachers outside of school who took me to see Broadway musicals in Chicago; and being comforted by teachers after rough games, trauma, and the death of Pat Oliver, a beloved English teacher.  How many other places in the nation could I have experienced all of that while growing up safely tucked in a state forest?

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  • Palmyra-Eagle Area School District
  • 123 Burr Oak St., Palmyra, WI 53156
  • Phone: (262) 495-7101
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