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Metro Parent Top Teacher Award Nominations 2013

Metro Parent asked southeast Michigan parents which educators have made a difference in their child's life. Check out all of the 2013 nominees!

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Southeast Michigan brims with incredible teachers. Whether your kid's in elementary, junior or high school – or even preschool or kindergarten – and no matter if she or he attends a public, private or charter school, there's surely an educator who's managed to connect with her or him. At least, we here at Metro Parent are convinced. Just read through the nominations for this year's Top Teachers. Local parents (and kids) are raving about K-12 teachers in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

Which educators rose to the top of the class? Meet Metro Parent's five Top Teachers for 2013 here.

Macomb County

Kelly Abel

Schwarzkoff Elementary School, Sterling Heights

"Education is my business. I have been an educator for over 20 years, and I feel that I know what a good teacher looks like and what an exemplary teacher looks like. My daughter Kelly Ann Abel is an exemplary teacher! Kelly is a special education teacher (grades 4-6) at Schwarzkoff Elementary School in the Utica Community School District. Kelly has the compassion, enthusiasm, knowledge and skills it takes to make a great teacher – and if that is not enough, she always goes that extra mile.

"Kelly's students have a variety of disabilities – cognitive, emotional, learning disabled, autistic, etc. They each come to her with their own unique needs, and Kelly meets all of their needs with the greatest of ease. Making sure she is always in compliance with the state's special education guidelines, following and working at achieving each student's individualized goals, along with aligning her lessons to the Common Core State Standards.

"In addition to that, as tiring as that may sound, she meets so many other needs of her students, as well. If she has a student who needs their nails cut, Kelly will do it. If she has a student who needs their hair washed or cut, Kelly will do it. If she has a student whose family is struggling financially, she will see that that family gets the help they need, pulling together with the wonderful staff in her building to supply families in need with clothing, food, toys, etc. And if a student just needs a hug, she is there for them! Always focusing on her students with the permission and suppport of her student's parents. She is like the Energizer Bunny: never stopping, always making sure her students are taken care of educationally, emotionally, socially, etc.

"This school year Kelly tried implementing a 'Blessings in a Backpack' program for students that might not be eating properly at home, due to a family hardship. Blessings in a Backpack is where, each Friday, students who qualify receive a bag of food for the weekend, making sure they get proper nourishment at all times. I am not only proud to call Kelly my daughter, but I am very proud to call Kelly a 'superhero teacher!' Thank you for giving this mother an opportunity to brag a little about her daughter and acknowledge a fellow educator."

– Joyce, Shelby Township

Tracey Bell

Jonas E. Salk Elementary School, Clinton Township

"Our three children were fortunate to have had Mrs. Bell as their first grade teacher. She was able to share her knowledge and experience with our children. The school follows the FISH! Philosophy: be there, make their day, play and choose your attitude. Mrs. Bell is a perfect example of that philosophy and is able to teach the children that way on a daily basis. Mrs. Bell created such a wonderful foundation for their journey into elementary school. She does an incredible job on a daily basis. She is both an amazing teacher and a caring wonderful person."

– Astrid, Clinton Township

Nancy Bloch

Avalon Elementary School, St. Clair Shores

"I would like to nominate my mother, Nancy Bloch. My mom was my teacher when she homeschooled me for a number of years. The day I started public school in fourth grade, someone introduced her to the school's very pregnant speech therapist, who passed her phone number on to the director of special services at South Lake Schools. That afternoon, the speech therapist was put on bed rest and my mother was hired as her substitute the next day, two doors down from my classroom. That got her foot in the door to become the full-time speech teacher she is today at Avalon Elementary in South Lake Schools. As she inspired my sisters and I, along with the many students in her homeschool co-op classes, she now conducts on her hands-on, vocabulary-rich learning experiences with K-5 students. With each therapy session, she finds ways to connect the core curriculum with the students' goals and has the opportunity to enrich their understanding, even if they never get to experience the subject matter in real life. She is truly loved by her students, and she is a mother and teacher that never stops doing what is best for her kids. My mother is worthy this recognition because she is an amazing teacher!"

– Anna, St. Clair Shores

Mary Collar

Sequoyah Elementary School, Macomb

"Mrs. Collar has a true love for her students. She makes each child feel loved and worthy of her individualized attention. She does not coddle or baby the children and holds them accountable for their actions, which I feel is an extremely important lesson for a first grader. Mrs. Collar runs a 'tight ship' and has extremely high expectations of her students, which pushes them to learn and want to learn more. My son never complains about getting up and going to school because he adores Mrs. Collar. I am extremely thankful for that! In light of the Sandy Hook tragedy that took place this past December, there is not a doubt in my mind that Mrs. Collar would do anything to protect her 'little darlings' like so many teachers did that day. I will always be grateful that my son had Mary Collar as his first grade teacher. We truly love her."

– Amanda, Macomb

Maria Degenfelder

Collins Elementary School, Sterling Heights

"Mrs. Degenfelder is an amazing woman. Her teaching style engages the children and always has them on their toes. She is loving yet not coddling, challenging yet not discouraging. She loves to tell stories about her own family and that really brings her to a personal level with the children. We love Mrs. Degenfelder."

– Christina, Sterling Heights

Rae Eovaldi

Great Oaks Elementary School, Anchor Bay

"Mrs. Eovaldi was my now 13-year-old's fourth grade teacher. My son had been struggling since kindergarten socially and academically. She was the first and probably last teacher that took the time and had the patience with Zachary. She gave him lots of extra help and boosted his confidence. She is a very kind and warm teacher and person. My 13-year-old has since been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Mrs. Eovaldi was so positive and understanding with Zachary.

"He (and) we were so used to negative feedback from his previous teachers and she was just a breath of fresh air. You could tell she really enjoyed her job and loved watching the kids blossom. Other parents have said the same things about her over the years. I remember very vividly on the last day of fourth grade, my son cried because he knew she wouldn't be his teacher in the fall. She is a shining light in what has been a very hard path for our family."

– Stephanie, Chesterfield

Virginia Greenberg

Princeton Elementary School, Saint Clair Shores

"Virginia Greenberg is the child-whisperer. She has had a hand in my child's life like no other. She is a constant force and voice in my child's life and she makes me not just want to be a better parent, but to be a better human being. She loves all 27 of her second graders with equal love and patience. She is kind and firm and generous with her time and affection. She gives high fives and hugs, ties shoes and zips jackets, but she is just an extraordinary person. I don't view her as just a teacher; I see her as a partner in raising my son. She has offered her phone number to our family; my son can call her if he has a question about homework or if he misses her. If Gabriel emails her, she emails him back from her iPhone, smiley faces and all.

"Mrs. Greenberg's class is always buzzing with the latest science or math centers. For example, when it was too cold to go outside and play in the snow, we brought the 'snow' inside. A team of parents made 'snow' out of shaving cream and cornstarch, and as (it was) a math center, each of the children was able to play in the 'snow' while learning about mass and measurement. For "March is Reading Month," during its annual Family Reading Night, Mrs. Greenberg, in collaboration with other Princeton teachers, created her very own 'G'IA (think DIA), where students and their families were offered a tour of an art gallery. Mrs. Greenberg transformed her classroom into an art exhibit. Families learned about artists and different art forms and also made works of art to take home.

"Mrs. Greenberg is a teacher of many talents. What really impresses me is her ability to love the whole child – the entire child. I have a child who is temperamental and particular. He suffers from sensory processing disorder, ADD and OCD. She has 27 students in her classroom, but if you were to walk into classroom, you wouldn't feel it; you'd feel welcome into her world of second grade where every child is her top priority. Where each parent is a welcomed partner and set at ease – because as a parent, you know that your child is in the very best hands.

"Mrs. Greenberg has brought out the very best in my son, Gabriel – quirks and difficulties do not exist in Mrs. Greenberg's classroom. She loves each of those children as she would her own. Her laugh and smile are contagious. You just feel like a better person being around her and her second graders."

– Teri, Roseville

Johnathan Hickey

De La Salle Collegiate High School, Warren

"I think that Mr. Hickey is really cool, and he talks to us about our careers and what we can do. I know that he cares about us and I know that he is a really cool teacher."

– Kanzoni, Detroit

Gregory Hoskins

De La Salle Collegiate High School, Warren

"He helps me very much when I have a question and also makes class enjoyable."

– Daniel, Shelby Township

Stephanie Howay

De La Salle Collegiate High School, Warren

"I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts, since the medium is the human mind and spirit. John Steinbeck, the great American novelist, speaks to the impact of an inspired teacher. Great teachers motivate enthused students to their full potential and can awaken the unenthused student's love of learning. A respected teacher can make class a pleasure. Conversely, an uninterested teacher's class can be an uninspired passage of time.

"I am a sophomore at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, and I proudly nominate Mrs. Stephanie Howay as my favorite teacher. Albert Einstein stated, 'It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression in knowledge.' At De La Salle, the teaching administration prides itself on dedication and willingness to give their time freely. To further Einstein's maxim, a teacher must first earn the trust and respect of their students. I have not met a teacher who can accomplish this more effectively than Mrs. Howay – or, as her students address her, Senora Howay.

"As a freshman at De La Salle, I was overwhelmed. There were too many new faces, an alien building and the fear of being intellectually inadequate. I suffered through those first days nearly silent. Senora was my Spanish teacher. Little did I know the impact that assignment would make. Each day, she helped me achieve what felt like an insurmountable task – to acclimate to this new environment. She quickly became my advocate, supporter and ally. She inspired me to put forth my best effort, and I began to excel not only in her class but in all my classes.

"Fast forward two years, and I am now first in merit of the graduating class of 2015. Senora Howay awakened my joy in creative expression in knowledge. 'I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well,' proclaimed Alexander the Great. While acknowledging his father's importance in his life, he also recognized the profound influence of his teachers. Dubbed 'Great' for his expansion of the Greek empire, his possession of extraordinary knowledge of strategy and management, and his devotion to the prosperity of his subjects, Alexander credited a teacher for perhaps his most important achievement, living well.

"In life, we all need someone to fall back upon for unfailing support, especially in times of hardship. For many students at De La Salle, Senora does just that. She is dedicated to the improvement of her students' performance, as well as to the school as a whole, offering her time freely. She is approachable to all of the students. She is always open and available to listen to me, not just about Spanish, but about anything that I might need help with. Senora is like a second mother to me, residing at my home away from home.

"She is not only devoted to students in her class, but to others as well. She supervises the literacy program at De La Salle and oversees Peer Mediation. She mentors an interscholastic project known as the Global Trade Mission, where students develop real-world business experience. She has even coached intramural basketball. Through all these student interactions, and more, Senora is constantly engaged in the school and furthers its intention to better all of its students both academically and morally, that is, to 'liv(e) well,' As Alexander the Great was beholden to his teacher for 'living well,' likewise, I am indebted to Senora Howay. Many teachers tend to favor an absolutist role over their respective classes. Senora is the authority in her class, but she parallels the enlightened absolutists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Francois-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name, Voltaire, defined enlightened absolutists as 'those rulers who subordinate their interests to the interest of their subjects.' Senora Howay understands her students and the stresses of a teenager in the 21st century.

"She also understands the impact of our efforts upon our immediate and long term future. Therefore, she strives to see that each student succeeds. I have spoken with her on numerous occasions about my own future. Even with her own family to care for, and hundreds of student to mentor, she somehow finds time for me. In this way, and so many others, she subordinates her own interests to ours. I firmly believe Senora Howay has a God-given gift of positively influencing the lives of every single student she encounters. She has already greatly influenced my own life, likely more than she realizes. We greatly respect and will always remember the people that positively impact our lives. When it is my turn to graduate, my farewell will be a litany of thanks, but regardless of the number of times it is spoken, it will be insufficient to capture what she has done for me and my future.

"I know many students have felt this way before me, and I also know I will not be the last. Teachers leave their mark on us; some positively, and some not quite so positively. The greatest compliment we can give back to them is a life well lived. I will never forget Senora Howay. Andy Rooney said it best: 'Most of us end up with no more than five or six people that remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.'"

– Grant, Shelby Township

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