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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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Dena Grabowski

St. Hugo of the Hills School, Bloomfield Hills

"All three of my children were blessed to have the same kindergarten teacher. She is truly a special person. Each of my children are so different, yet she connected with each one. My oldest was my quiet, shy child who found a home away from home with her. My second son was a bit absentminded, often with his head in the clouds. He found focus and grew in self confidence with her guidance. My youngest is best described as a hurricane. She rolls into a room with a roar and leaves a path of destruction in her wake. Once again, this teacher was able to harness this energy while fostering her spirit. She shared her gift of teaching with my children and fostered a love of learning in each one. She will forever have a special place in each of their hearts."

– Lori, Bloomfield Hills

Judith Greer

Bartlett Elementary School, South Lyon

"Mrs. Greer is very dedicated, spending lots of time before and after school. She always makes specific pointed comments on classwork and tests, which are valuable for the student but time consuming for the teacher. She is very approachable and is instilling a love for learning in my daughter. Her years of experience have not diminished her enthusiasm or her love for teaching. This combination of experience and enthusiasm helps her provide an environment where each child can thrive and be inspired. She and one other teacher even took time out of their summer to have a before-school picnic for the kids to meet and greet! I can't say enough about the wonderful Mrs. Greer."

– Tricia, South Lyon

Cheryl Hess

Carpenter Elementary School, Lake Orion

"Mrs. Hess has spent her life teaching and has not lost the passion or love. She is known for putting in extra time and extra effort. She is usually at school late working on things even though she is a veteran teacher. She involves parents and encourages them to come in as often as they like to help out. Mrs. Hess even helps the PTC as the teacher representative. Her hard work, passion and love of her school and kids is worthy of recognition. Thank you."

– Ann, Lake Orion

Terry Higgins

Auburn Elementary School, Auburn Hills

"Every day, my son comes home from second grade with a new Mr. Higgins story. Mr. Higgins brings every lesson to life for the kids. From freshwater jellyfish to acting out what they are reading, this second grade classroom is beyond compare. This is all due to the fact that the classroom is managed by a teacher who truly cares. Mr. Higgins is sure to write home emails about what is going on in classroom. He cares about each student and knows them on a personal level. My son says that Mr. Higgins makes math games that he loves to play. He is full of positive energy that makes the classroom shine."

– Laura, Auburn Hills

Julie Hudak

Kingsbury Country Day School, Oxford

"Julie Hudak is my daughter's kindergarten teacher. She teaches a combined JK/K classroom with 16 students, all of varying abilities. She is a devoted and caring teacher, always putting in extra time to ensure her students get the individual attention they need. The children in her class thrive and develop beyond expectation. She is able to draw out the shy child; she recognizes the child who thrives in leadership roles and provides ample opportunity for them to practice these skills. She does not teach to the 'middle of the pack,' but rather helps each child improve their areas of weakness and develop their areas of strength. She does all of this with boundless energy and love, and the children (and parents) adore her. We are blessed to have Julie Hudak teaching our children."

– Chiara, Rochester

Emily Lamott

Hillside Elementary School, Farmington Hills

"Mrs. Lamott is my favorite teacher. She is always nice and never yells. She helps me become a better writer every day. I like her because she tells us stories."

– Ronin and Blanca, Farmington Hills

Lois Mann

Oak Ridge Elementary, Royal Oak

"Ms. Mann has taught kindergarten at Oak Ridge Elementary for over 30 years. She is truly an inspiration to the students and staff at the school. She always attends PTA meetings and is always promoting and attending school events. She really takes the time to get to know the kids and their families. She has such fun and creative ideas for her classroom. All of the kids in the school, no matter what age or grade, love to just hang out in her room and look through the books and toys in her room. In the fall, she has the kids all search for a gingerbread man cake that they all cooked together, but has mysteriously disappeared. The whole school enjoys helping the kindergarteners find the cake.

"This is the first year our school has had all-day kindergarten, and some of us parents wondered if she would embrace the change. We didn't need to worry, of course; she adapted beautifully and seems to really be enjoying getting to spend more time reading books, playing games and getting to know the kids better, since she has half the number of kids for twice the amount of time. As she gets older, parents start wondering if she will retire anytime soon – and have their fingers crossed that their youngest child will be lucky enough to have her for a teacher when they start kindergarten. I've been lucky enough that both of my kids had her as a teacher, and I consider her a friend."

– JoAnne, Royal Oak

Michelle McKenna

Laurus Academy, Southfield

"Mrs. McKenna is a teacher a Laurus Academy in Southfield, Mich. She works with special needs children. Her love and committment to these students is unwavering. She treats the children as if they are her own. She works tirelessly to make sure their educational needs are met and the kids are not overwhelmed. When you interact with Mrs. MckKenna regarding your child, one leaves with the sense that teaching is not just a job for her, but a true calling. I would love to put her up on a billboard just to say THANK YOU."

– Penola, Detroit

Mark and Patty Modich

Kirk in the Hills Preschool, Bloomfield Hills

"This husband-wife teaching team has made school a place that my 3-year-old daughter bolts out of bed to attend. As this is my daughter's first formal education experience, I couldn't be happier that her introduction to school has been so positive. My daughter loves school and the teachers who have brought her out of her shell, taught her to write her letters (with much more success than her mother has ever had) and nurtured her imagination such that daily elaborate fairy tales that she spins up have my husband and I smiling from ear-to-ear.

"I love the way Mr. Mark greets my daughter at the door to the classroom and Mrs. Modich awaits behind him with a big hug for each child. It warms my heart to see my daughter's outstretched arms as she heads in for the embrace from her much-loved teacher. Someone once asked me why I like the experience my daughter is having in preschool so much. What was she learning that had me so pleased? I struggled with putting words around my feelings, and ultimately said, 'my daughter is happy.' And that pretty much sums it up. Thank you, Mr. Mark and Mrs. Modich, for enabling me to say that."

– Jacquie, Bloomfield Hills

Kathy Murray

Mary Helen Guest Elementary School, Walled Lake

"I have known Kathy Murray as a dedicated and creative teacher for approximately 12 years. Kathy shows such creativity and kindness in her dedication as a kindergarten teacher in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District. She is always ready with a new strategy to help each student reach their own potential. Kathy has created an atmosphere of fun learning in her classroom to the point that I have heard of students who were ill and begging mom to go to school for the party on a non-party day. This particular student was running a temperature and said, 'I can't miss the party.' When mom questioned Mrs. Murray, it was a 'Sound Party' learning the different sounds each letter makes. Kathy sets the bar high and creates an atmosphere of fun for her students. She is truly exceptional."

– Peggy, West Bloomfield

Dawn Nyikes

Shrine Catholic Grade School, Royal Oak

"Mrs. Nyikes is a truly gifted teacher! Every morning she greets the children with enthusiasm and a warm smile. It is evident every day how happy the children are to learn from her. She takes a great deal of pride in her teaching and stays in touch with parents regarding their children's progress. She cares deeply for the kids and inspires them to be their best. Always with an encouraging word, she helps the children to reach their full potential and believe in themselves. She is a shining example of a Top Teacher."

– Ann, Troy

Renee Perrett

Country Oaks Elementary School, Commerce Township

"For her dedication and passion that every child should have the opportunity to learn. When our first grader suffered a stroke on Oct. 6, 2012, Mrs. Perrett volunteered to be his homebound teacher. Even though she has a family herself, she takes the time to come over after school twice a week. She has patiently worked with our son to relearn his letters and sounds, getting creative and making up games to keep the learning fun. She is dedicated to seeing all children succeed. Our son would not have made the amount of progress that he has made without her loving attitude, caring spirit and dedication to her profession and students. She is to be honored."

– Kristin, Commerce Township

Christie Sabon

Hillside Elementary School, Farmington Hills

"Mrs. Sabon teaches second grade at Hillside and was teacher of the year for Farmington Public Schools Elementary Level in 2011-12. She is extraordinary. In the beginning, when class supply lists go out, she only asked for each student to bring in a 'Friday folder' that appeals to them. She supplied everything for her students, so that everyone would have everything that (they) needed and not feel left out. Her classroom is bright (and) fun but organized. She has 23 7- to 8-year-olds, and the room is meticulous! She has posters of each writing rule that children have learned for them to reference – and they do.

"She has taught the kids that there can be a teachable moment in any moment. The class writes and writes and writes and they've all come so far! When comparing writings on the lockers in the hall, Mrs. Sabon's class really stands out. She has taught them to just go with the flow, to find good in any situation. When the custodian played a prank on the class and stole their desks, she didn't get upset. They wrote about it (in a story called) The Day the Desks Went Missing – and she took pictures. She utilizes stations in the class to allow her daily one-on-one time with every student to work on whatever subject they might need a little extra help in.

"One night, as I was helping my daughter with her homework, she began to get upset and actually cried for Mrs. Sabon. 'Mrs. Sabon is the only one who understands me!' She has a close bond (and) connection with each one of her students, and they all feel very close to her, safe with her – and the self esteem of her students has soared. The children are all so well mannered because they want to please Mrs. Sabon. The respect, the knowledge, the compassion for others … everything she teaches her kids will benefit them forever, and it just comes so naturally to her.

"She is a mother of two small children of her own, but she always makes time for her class. She's absolutely lovely, and we've been so blessed to have her as our teacher!"'

– Natalie, Farmington Hills

Jennifer Smith

Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School, Ortonville

"Jen Smith is an outstanding teacher and person. She is constantly seeking new and better ways to meet the needs of the learners in her classroom. She is an innovator, risk taker, problem solver and compassionate teacher who models these dispositions in her classroom. She engages each and every learner and has created a network of student peers learning from one another through student-created Kahn Academy-style math screencasts. Jennifer goes above and beyond in many ways and is a constant professional. I believe Jennifer Smith is an invaluable asset to the teaching profession."

– Michael, Auburn Hills

Martha Telinda

Hillside Elementary School, Farmington Hills

"Mrs. Telinda is an awesome teacher. She is so nice and always helps me with my work. She is patient with me when I have trouble doing my work. Mrs. Telinda is great at reading books to us and makes it fun and interesting. She is very understanding and has a great heart. If there was an award for the teacher with the biggest heart, she would win."

– Russell and Blanca, Farmington Hills

Julie Tigay

Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills

"Mrs. Tigay gets the students excited to learn. She is open and honest with parents. She always makes time for our questions, concerns and comments. My son loves her and tries his very best for her."

– Jennifer, Bloomfield Township

Debbie West

Shrine Catholic Grade School, Royal Oak

"Mrs. West inspires her children every day! She's kind and patient and takes the time to help each child reach their full potential. She is an amazing example of what a kindergarten teacher should be."

– Ann, Troy

Elaine Zielinski

Kenbrook Elementary School, Farmington Hills

"My daughter has Down syndrome, and Mrs. Z is her teacher in her basic classroom. She has patience of a saint and is sweet but as firm as the kids need her to be. I don't know how she and the parapros do it all day. Mrs. Z also appreciates the parapros in the room, and they are all considered equal teachers in my eyes (Miss Mary, Miss Shelly and Mrs. Pearce). They teach 10 kids with different learning issues and covering K-4 – and they do it well, all in one classroom.

"They juggle the schedules to get the different kids to specials (art, gym, music) with their age groups and run the room like a well-oiled machine. Fitting in IEPs through the year, teaching life skills like baking, selling, counting money, shopping, etc. While others think full inclusion is the only way to go for my daughter, Mrs. Z's class is the perfect fit for her, and she is learning every single day. We love our teachers lead by Mrs. Z."

– Peggy, Farmington Hills

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