Madisonville Junior High P.E. teacher John Wondergem is the 2017-2018 H. Norman Saurage III Service Award recipient. Wondergem was honored during the Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Awards Gala in Baton Rouge.
Not only is John a compassionate and committed teacher at Madisonville Junior High, he is also active in his church where he serves as a youth group leader. Several years ago, one of his 14-year-old students was struggling with kidney disease. After discovering he was a donor match, John donated his kidney to the student.
He and his wife Julie, who is also a teacher, started a family of their own. After having two children of their own, they became foster parents. Over 15 years they have fostered 11 children. Fostering led to adoption, and they are now a family with seven children – five adopted and two biological.
John then saw a bigger need, a chance for foster kids to enjoy the same summer fun as other children. Working with his wife Julie, they opened Royal Family KIDS Camp. This Foundation runs a summer camp for kids who might never have such an experience. This summer was the fourth year for the camp, and it hosted 50 children, ages 6 through 12 years old. John has also helped launch summer camps in the Shreveport, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge and West Monroe areas. His goal is to see a camp in every region of foster care across the state of Louisiana.
Through fundraising efforts in his spare time, John is able to launch an additional camp this year for teenage foster kids. The Teen Reach Adventure Camp will take place over the Christmas break and serve 13 through 16-year-old youths.
The H. Norman III Service Award is presented to a Louisiana public school teacher who has demonstrated not only outstanding instructional skills but has made an exceptional personal contribution outside of the classroom to student enrichment, professional leadership, or community service. The award can recognize the achievement of a single outstanding event, or continuous dedicated service over a period of time.