Mary Berglund's voice broke as she listed the names of special needs students she worked with at Janet Berry Elementary School.
"I miss watching them learn new skills … I miss teaching, because I wanted to be a teacher since second grade," she said, brushing back tears in the Calumet County courtroom on Wednesday.
The Appleton teacher's 37-year career in education came to an abrupt end in January after she was charged with physical abuse of students in her classroom.
Berglund, 54, was placed on probation for three years
after she pleaded no contest to five misdemeanor battery counts and one count of felony child abuse on Wednesday.
Judge Gary Sharpe deferred judgment on the felony charge, but found her guilty of the misdemeanors.
Berglund faces one year in jail if she violates her probation.
She also has to undergo anger management and any other recommended counseling and participate in 100 hours of community service.
She can't have unsupervised contact with any children under age 12 who are not family members, while on probation.
In March, she was charged with nine felony counts of child abuse and a felony strangulation count.
The charges were amended before the sentencing.
The amendments took into consideration that Berglund lost her job and permanently lost her teaching license, said Assistant Atty. Gen. Karie Cattanach, who prosecuted the case.
"This defendant ultimately will be punished far more severely long-term than most people charged with physical abuse of a child,"
In court, Sharpe walked through some inappropriate moves by Berglund, including grabbing a child by the back of the neck, pinching another's cheeks and slapping one's hand.
"This was a severe violation of trust. Families place their most treasured possessions, their children, in the hands of the school district with the expectation they will be treated with kindness ... and nurtured in their environment," Sharpe said.
Berglund failed to use the methods she had been taught when handling tough situations and "resorted to what many of us might do for a child that was non-compliant," Sharpe said.
The judge said he considered the fact that Berglund has no criminal record in his decision to place her on probation, and while her actions were not appropriate for a special education instructor, they did not warrant her going to prison.
Sharpe suggested Berglund offer to talk with other educators in the district about the pressures that led to her disregarding her training and harming children.
If it helps prevent a similar circumstance in the future then "something good would come of this tragedy," Sharpe said.
At the sentencing, Berglund told the court she missed her job, students and the income that helped support her family. She said she's felt shame and humiliation over media coverage of the case.
Defense attorney Gregory Petit said the district didn't give Berglund sufficient resources to handle her classroom.
"It's easy to calm down when you have sufficient time and resources to do so," Petit said.
There's nothing to indicate that Berglund continues to pose a risk to children or the community, Cattanach said, and agreed that probation and stayed jail time is appropriate.