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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!

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


Stephanie James

Mt. Clemens Montessori Academy, Mount Clemens

"I would love to nominate my son's teacher and my co-worker. She has such a caring personality! She has a special way to make EVERYTHING she teaches sound like it is the most interesting subject. She also has a personal interest in the likes of the children. By coaching soccer and basketball after school, she makes physical activity important, as well. Not only do I believe she is a fabulous teacher myself, but for the last nine years I have listened to my third graders rave about having Ms. James the previous year!"

– Tara, Chesterfield

Aga Kasprzyk

Mt. Clemens Montessori Academy, Mount Clemens

"My third grade daughter had the most amazing kindergarten teacher. Ms. Aga is a dedicated, committed, passionate, intelligent, hard-working and loving person. She told us right from the start how our children were her first priority, and what she does encompasses the entire family. She welcomed siblings to the classrooms for special functions, encouraged parents to come in weekly to read, had a special birthday ceremony to celebrate each child's birthday from birth to kindergarten. She took time to know each and every member of the family – names and ages. She was often seen sitting working individually with children guiding them. She fostered the children's social friendships through setting parents up for playdates. She instilled confidence in each child that they were unique and special. She didn't just teach reading; she taught children to love to read.

"She had a gift with children with special needs – she was working on her master's (degree) while still finding time to create innovative lessons and (do) extensive prep work. My daughter's passion for art was definitely ignited in Ms. Aga's classroom. When I would come to the class to read, she would hold my infant daughter for me and rock her so I wouldn't have to miss out on the special times and school events with my oldest daughter. At the end of the school year, she presented each parent with a scrapbook filled with pictures of our child she had taken throughout the year – her efforts must have taken forever. She also presented us with a framed piece of (the) Project 64 artwork she is so dedicated to and a DVD of a slideshow of pictures to highlight our child's growth from the beginning of the year to the end. I still have all of those items and will cherish them for the remainder of my life.

"All of the teachers we've had at Mt. Clemens Montessori Academy are amazing, but Ms. Aga and my family had a very special bond. She so deserves this honor."

– Rebecca, Ray Township

Janet Kilbride

Jonas Salk Elementary School, Clinton Township

"Mrs. Kilbride was my daughter's teacher last year for kindergarten. I have always said that it takes a special kind of person to teach children that young. Mrs. Kilbride did remarkable things with these kids last year. She took scared little 4 and 5 year olds in September and taught them to be confident and independent. My child couldn't read one word when she started kindergarten. She finished the year reading at first grade level. She had some special needs children in her class. She handled them with the utmost care and patience. My daughter has a good first grade teacher this year. I thought about nominating her. However, her kindergarten teacher really stood out to me. She deserves to be recognized for the work that she has done."

– Carrie, Clinton Township

"Mrs. Kilbride is the most wonderful teacher. She is a kindergarten teacher and was instrumental in both of my sons' start to their education. She is loving, caring, nuturing and, above all else, patient. She never asks for any type of recognition, but she surely deserves it."

– Shalise, Sterling Heights

"Mrs. Kilbride is a kindergarten teacher at Salk Elementary. My daughter was in her class last year – and what an amazing teacher she is. She is so great with the kids, a great communicator with the parents, and my daughter just loved her. She really has a big heart and is exactly what you need as a first teacher!"

– Brandi, Clinton Township

"Mrs. Kilbride truly enjoys the children. She makes your individual child feel special each day. She is a dedicated teacher and mother. My daughter continues to visit her every day after school to share her day or to just give her a hug. At the end of the school day, Mrs. Kilbride opens her door for the children to meet their parents. She always has a giant smile and takes time to speak to the parents during pickup. Mrs. Kilbride left a special memory in my child's life."

– Colleen, Clinton Township

"She is amazing! Every day she goes above and beyond for our children. She has at least 80 percent of her class reading above their kindergarten level."

– Amanda, Fraser

"Mrs. Kilbride is such an amazing kindergarten teacher. She goes above and beyond on a daily basis for each of her students. My daughter absolutely loves going to school each and every day, thanks to the learning environment Mrs. Kilbride has created in her classroom. My daughter now know hows to read and write because of the wonderful teaching of Mrs. Kilbride. She inspires her young students to want to do their best. It is not uncommon to see Mrs. Kilbride working in her classroom hours after the children have been dismissed for the day.

"She is a veteran teacher who is willing to try new things and infuse the use of iPads into her classroom. My kindergartner recently told me, 'I love Mrs. Kilbride and like how she teaches us new things.' Mrs. Kilbride invites parents into the classroom so that her students get even more support and small group instruction during their morning centers. She is a wonderful teacher, and I feel my daughter is so fortunate to have a teacher like her that makes learning fun. What better way for my daughter to begin her elementary school experience!"

– Michelle, St. Clair Shores

"Mrs. Kilbride is not only amazing, but she is adored by all of her students. Kindergarten is a very tough grade to teach – some might even call them glorified babysitters. Mrs. Kilbride takes that challenge of making sure each child learns in whatever way is necessary. Not every child learns the same and not every teacher teaches the same, which is why Mrs. Kilbride's exemplery skills in the classroom should not only be recognized but used to help others in their teaching quests."

– Melanie, Clinton Township

"Our three children were fortunate to have had Mrs. Kilbride as their kindergarten teacher. They learned so much from her experience, caring attitude and devoted work ethic. In addition to being well prepared for first grade, they also adored her. Mrs. Kilbride created such a positive introduction 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

David Kolbicz

Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Sterling Heights

"I would like to nominate Mr. Kolbicz for Top Teacher because of his dedication to his students. My son is accelerated in math (by two years) (and) has struggled a bit this year. Mr. Kolbicz is so helpful in making sure Jacob's head stays above the water. He in so in-tune with his students that he can tell when my son is having a hard time by his body language. He goes the extra mile to make sure that Jacob understands the material and even offers up lunch hours and (time) after school to help tutor him.

"He knows that my son's grades are very important to him and so he goes the extra mile to ensure that he understands the material. He has even given him back a quiz that he bombed to he could learn the material and retake it. I really feel that if he had any other teacher, he would be completely lost –which is very stressful for him. I know that Mr. Kolbicz has been dealing with his own issues, as his grandma is very ill, but he still makes time for his students. I wish all teachers had his dedication and aboslute LOVE for teaching. Thank you for your consideration of Mr. David Kolbicz for Top Teacher!"

– Debbie, Sterling Heights

Catherine Leix

De La Salle Collegiate High School, Warren

"She is a fantastic individual and has greatly assisted my learning."

– Brandon, Warren

Thaier Mukhtar

De La Salle Collegiate High School, Warren

"I would like to nominate this teacher because he is one of the hardest working teachers – through teaching the De La Salle varsity soccer team or keeping all his students on task. When one of his players did something wrong, he would get on them about it. In class he is the same. If you don't do the work, you would be called out and asked, 'Why didn't you finish your work?' The right answer was, 'No excuse.'

"He always taught us, 'In 20 years, you don't need to know who the Tutor dynasty was, but to realize you were the one that messed up, not your mom or dad.' Also, he said, 'You need to keep track of your work. No one else is going to do it for you.' History class may have been a scary class, always wondering if you did the work to your highest ability, but I always got work done to the fullest and on time. Mr. Mukhtar truly is a Top Teacher."

– Andrew, St. Clair Shores

"This teacher has helped me a lot, not only with my education but also as a person teaching me to be prepared, organized and also letting me know how the world is in reality."

– Chris, Macomb

Linda Russell

Masonic Heights Elementary School, St. Clair Shores

"Mrs. Russell is very caring and wants the best for my child. Emma is behind in her communication skills and reading skills. Mrs. Russell has gone the extra mile to help my daughter. I have been working with Mrs. Russell for ideas to help my daughters. And she has started sending home extra things for her to do so Emma understands and is doing great. I am very grateful that Mrs. Russell is my daughter's teacher."

– Lisa, St. Clair Shores

Grace Schmidt

St. Anne Catholic Grade School, Warren

"This is her first year of teaching, and she has done a wonderful job. My son is in her pre-kindergarten class, and he absolutely admires her and her learning style. She makes learning fun. I have tried to teach him letters over and over again, but because she has turned (it) into a dancing and basketball game of letters, he has learned to say them, write them and identify them in no time. He has even gotten better with spelling because of his ability with the letter recognition now. She makes everything fun for them, and they are not realizing they are learning. She definitely has a gift to teach, and you can tell it is never just about money, but it's about the joy of educating our young children. She most definitely deserves to be nominated for the Top Teacher Award for 2013 in my book, and I am sure the entire class of parents feels the same way."

– Shacara, Warren

Cory Sheridan

Ardmore Elementary School, St. Clair Shores

"This young teacher has taught my child more than just academics this year. He has infused many wonderful life skills, too. He stays late every day, responds to every email and or phone call promptly. He runs after-school programs for the kids – chess club, math club. He has a prosthetic leg from a battle with cancer as a teenager, but that didn't stop him from climbing many, many stairs at the capitol building on a field trip in Lansing (I was in awe!).

"He has a class websites that he updates every day to keep us parents informed. He started a blog page for the kids. He holds live debates in his class and Mr. Sheridan, along with another teacher, wrote some science songs to make the learning fun. As a mother of three, I have encountered many teachers. Mr. Sheridan is to be recognized for his gift of teaching. He stands out from them all and is a true blessing. There are so many wonderful things about this man. I hope you choose him. He deserves to know how amazing he is."

– Tricia, St. Clair Shores

"Mr. Sheridan goes above and beyond for his students every day. He comes in early (and) stays late to help them anytime they need. He has different clubs for them to join throughout the year. This year he has had math club where kids will spend time going over what they did in math that week and what will be coming up, and currently he has a chess club where he has taught them all the rules and how to play chess. These are all held after school. He has great incentives in his class for the kids to strive their best to achieve. He has made fifth grade fun for my son and every other kid in his class. They are so excited to go to school every day with him. I have seen a lot of improvement in my child's attitude toward doing his homework (and) studying and really giving it his all. Mr. Sheridan has really impressed the value of education on his students. I cannot say enough good things about him."

– Heather, St. Clair Shores

Michelle Susalla

Clinton Valley Elementary School, Mount Clemens

"My daughter says, 'She is a superstar!' Out of the countless teachers my children have had over the last 15 years, Ms. Susalla is by far the best. Always smiling. Always happy. Constantly encouraging the children. She is amazing with her kindergarten class. I work in the class with the kids (for) two hours once a week. I am amazed at how much the children have improved since the beginning of the year."

– Kimberly, Mount Clemens

"We feel that Mrs. Susalla goes out of her way to tend to each and every single one of her students personally. She's very involved and dedicated to make sure that all her students achieve their goals daily. My son started kindergarten at the very young age of 4 going onto 5, and we had our doubts of him being too young to even start with no previous education. Mrs. Susalla was able to make him feel comfortable and bring the best out of him. I feel that she understands the needs and wants from both students and parents and is a one-of-a-kind teacher and role model."

– Pong, Clinton Township

"Mrs. Susalla has been wonderful. My daughter has just loved being in her class. She is always so helpful and informative, even on the little things. She stays in contact with me and keeps me up-to-date on things that are going on in class. My daughter has grown tremendously since being in her class. What a great start to her education."

– Angela, Clinton Township

"Mrs. Susalla is my 6-year-old daughter Paige's kindergarten teacher – and she is the sweetest, most kind woman I know! She is very patient with my child and her class, which takes a special person to do with a class full of 5- and 6-year olds. She takes the time with each and every one of the 26 students in her class. I was very pleased at parent-teacher conferences because she actually took the time to talk to me about my daughter and didn't try rushing me out when I had questions, which she had no problem answering and discussing with me. Because of her, my daughter Paige LOVES to go to school, pretends to be her when she plays school at home – and she even tells me she wants to be just like Mrs. Susalla when she grows up and becomes a teacher."

– Nichole, Clinton Township

Patty Topalian

St. Lawrence School, Utica

"I think Mrs. Topalian should win this award because she is always there to care and help us out. Even when she was very sick herself and could not be in school this year, she helped all of the substitute teachers to make sure that we were always OK. When she was not there, her heart always was because she left us special notes that we would find – and it felt like she was still there with us during her illness. She always pushes us to be our best, and if she knows that we are struggling, she gets us the extra help that we need to get it. She never gives up on us, so we never give up on ourself."

– Logan, Sterling Heights

Renee Villaire

Sequoyah Elementary School, Macomb

"She is amazing!"

– Brandy, Macomb


Oakland County

Karen Barney

Forest Elementary School, Farmington Hills

"My son had been struggling to read all throughout kindergarten. After being told he needed to repeat kindergarten and refusing, I was afraid it would make his year in first grade awful. Mrs. Barney got him the help he needed and had it all turned around by December. She knew what (to) do, and I owe all his success to her. Love, love, love Mrs. Barney!"

– Maureen, Farmington Hills

Jennifer Bissell

Northwood Elementary School, Royal Oak

"This is Ms. Bissell's first year teaching kindergarten, and she is doing an amazing job. Our school needed to add an additional kindergarten classroom after the school year started due to the large number of kindergarteners this year. Ms. Bissell had to come into this new role after the school year started and set up her classroom, get acclimated to her new position and learn a new curriculum. She also had to help her students adjust to moving classrooms, leaving teachers they had finally become comfortable with and leaving friends they made in those classrooms. She did all this with patience, love and kindness and has built a great rapport with all her students and parents. I am thankful for everything she has done to make my daughter's first year of school a successful one!"

– Crystal, Royal Oak

Michelle Bortnick

Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills

"Michelle has been helping my son at school and, additionally, outside of school tutoring. She shows him different online sites to help him with math. She has a great personality and has made learning fun for him. She is enthusiastic and always smilling. I can tell she loves her job and has helped my son grow in leaps and bounds. We love Michelle!"

– Rachel, Huntington Woods

Shaun Brewer

Hillside Elementary School, Farmington Hills

"I would like to nominate Mr. Brewer for top kindergartener teacher, because he cares for the best interest of all his students and others. He expresses learning through song and music, making learning very fun for the children, where it's easy for them to remember. Mr. Brewer is a great role model to the kids. I have the pleasure of coming to his class and interacting with my son and the rest of his classmates. I have a 4-year-old son that will be attending Hillside Elementary in the fall, and I pray he gets the same experience with Mr. Brewer as my kindergartner."

– Sheree, Farmington Hills

Jane Cannizzaro

Laurus Academy, Southfield

"Ms. Cannizzaro is an exceptional teacher. This is a lady who left a career in health care to take on a second career as a school teacher because of pure passion and love for teaching children. Ms. Cannizzaro is a tough teacher. She will not spoon-feed you, and when you are in her class, you may not always be a happy camper, because she is determined to bring the greatness inside of you out – and this is not always an easy task. This is why I have decided to nominate her. These are the type of teachers that produce our doctors, lawyers, supreme court justices, presidents of the United States, etc. Kudos to all of the Ms. Cannizzaros of the world – and kudos to all of the students who have survived them and went on to bless our world with their greatness!"

– Penola, Detroit

Stephanie Center

Mayfair Co-Op Preschool, Farmington Hills

"Miss Stephanie is a wonderful teacher and has a kind disposition with the kids. My son is very shy and tends to hang back. He has found a friend in Miss Stephanie. He really opens up to her and is so comfortable in her class."

– Nicole, West Bloomfield

"Miss Stephanie is an amazing teacher for a lot of reasons. Even after years of teaching preschool and most likely seeing a little bit of it all, she makes everything feel brand new and exciting for the kids and parents. Her enthusiasm for teaching and for her students is infectious and makes every day at school so much fun. She also establishes amazing trust with the parents, talking with us and making us feel like we have the best kid on earth. I have no idea how she manages to love each kid that much and then let them go each year. I'm so glad our family found her at Mayfair."

– Victoria, Farmington Hills

Carlos Chavez

Bright Loritos, Troy

"Mr. Carlos is the most energetic, passionate teacher I have ever met. He teaches Spanish to students preschool to fifth grade."

– Ernesto, Waterford

"Mr. Carlos is the best Spanish teacher in Oakland County. He really makes an impact in his students."

– Andrea, Keego Harbor

Nancy Dillon

Hillside Elementary School, Farmington Hills

"Aside from her loyalty and commitment to her students and school, Ms. Dillion's compassion and love for the children she works with is the kind of thing that takes your breath away. When my daughter had Ms. Dillon, she would often come home talking about a classmate with 'delicate bones.' This particular little boy was a foster child that had been removed from his home because he was being starved, so he was tiny. He couldn't climb the stairs and he couldn't go outside to play when it was cold because he didn't have enough body fat to keep him warm.

"Ms. Dillon rallied all the children together to make sure that the boy with 'delicate bones' was well-supported by his classmates. Every day at recess, he got to choose someone to stay inside and play with him, which was a highly coveted reward. The day he was able to climb the stairs for a fire drill instead of using the elevator resulted in a celebration by his classmates. My daughter would come home eager to tell us of the accomplishment of the boy with 'delicate bones.' I can only imagine the impact on him if his situation had been mismanaged, having already endured so much in his short time.

"It is because of Ms. Dillon's approach, example and beautiful heart that the little boy is no longer a victim, but a person with value, someone the other children viewed as a hero for growing stronger and making progress in areas that we all take for granted. The lesson that she taught her class that year is not in any textbook, and one that few of us would handle with that kind of integrity and compassion.

"Her heart knows no bounds, and I know that every single child in her classroom feels safe, loved and like the most important person in the world in her eyes. My daughter woke up excited to go to school every single day and came home bursting with all the things that Ms. Dillon taught her during the day. As the mother of three children that all have attended Hillside for kindergarten, I can say with absolute certainty that Ms. Dillon is one in a million and is long overdue for recognition for all that she has given to the kids that have the privilege of learning from her."

– Marquel, Farmington Hills

"Ms. Dillon is the best teacher in the world. She helps me read and learn math. She tells me I'm a Wizard at Wordsearch and to kiss my brain. When I'm having trouble with something, she says, 'Inch by inch, everything is a cinch.'"

– Rex and Blanca, Farmington Hills

"My son has been in her class for kindergarten and first grades, and she really knows what she's doing. He has learned a lot. I wish she could be my kid's teacher all through school. Go Ms. Dillon."

– Krystal, Farmington Hills

Elizabeth Forsythe

St. Mary Catholic School, Royal Oak

"Ms. Forsythe was our daughter's preschool teacher for the 2011-12 school year and then took a promotion and became the kindergarten teacher for the 2012-13 school year – so we have been blessed with her for two years in a row. Ms. Forsythe is so patient and kind with our daughter, as well as the entire class. Ms Forsythe just has this way about her, and all the children listen attentively to her and follow her directions. She interacts with the children in such a loving way while recognizing the different needs of each child. She establishes and enforces rules for behavior. She adapts amazingly well if things don't go quite as planned.

"She keeps the parents well informed regarding lesson plans for each week, and she is also willing to answer any parent questions whenever requested. There is wonderful diversity in the class, and Ms. Forsythe encourages the growth of each child's cultural identities. She helps to grow their independence and self-esteem while also nurturing their individual strengths. In conclusion, we feel very fortunate to have Ms. Forsythe as our daughter's teacher. We have watched our daughter blossom with so many skills throughout the current school year as her love for learning grows."

– Ruth, Ferndale

Joan Freedman

Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills

"Mrs. Freedman is an outstanding teacher. Not only is she the head librarian and K-4 language arts coordinator, she also teaches accelerated language Arts. Learning is fun in Mrs. Freedman's class with her creative project-based learning activities. The Phantom Tollbooth came alive for her fourth grade students when they created their own word market and digitopolis city in their classroom. Pioneer-themed books were reinforced with students creating game boards for their classmates based on books they read.

"Mrs. Freedman always takes the time to know all 550 students, what interests them and what will enhance their love of reading and learning. Many of her students' writings were published for last year's Jewish Book Fair. The impact Mrs. Freedman has on her students is evident in their love and devotion for her. Last year, her students planned a surprise party for her birthday. Her impact is felt throughout the entire school. She is very worthy of this award."

– Amy, Huntington Woods

Emily Freeman

Schroeder Elementary School, Troy

"She is the best!

– Jayshiri, Troy

"I nominate Mrs. Emily Freeman. She is an amazing second grade teacher and an amazing individual! My son is now in third grade, but has been lucky to have had her as his teacher two years in a row – first and second grades. She teaches responsibility and consequence all while still having fun – and her students love and respect her. She takes the time to listen to her students and care about them as if they were her own.

"She is a rare gem and an asset to our schools. She is truly a caring, compassionate person and shares that relationship with her students and parents. She always took time to answer any and all of my questions and concerns. She always communicated with the parents through emails, phone calls or meetings. She took the time out to speak to you and the student, worked with you if you needed that extra help guiding your child and made things WORK. She always gave 110 percent.

"Because of all of this, I believe that Emily Freeman deserves to be recognized as the Top Teacher. She is very loving and patient. She challenges her children and keeps them moving forward to learn. She works with each child at their own pace and level and inspires them to learn and to love learning. My son and I just love her. I hope my younger son is as lucky/fortunate to have her as his teacher in a couple of years.

"Mrs. Freeman is an awesome second grade teacher. She understands every child and their specific needs. She works with a child at their level and does not rush them until they are ready to move on. Not only is she caring and loving to each child, but she is the most kind-hearted individual I know. Nothing would be better to her than seeing a smile on one of her students' faces, knowing they accomplished something and believed in themselves while enjoying what they learned. So again, I nominate Mrs. Emily Freeman for the teacher award. She is the best and totally deserves it!"

– Jayshiri, Troy


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


Washtenaw County

Kimberly Gillow

Cornerstone Elementary School, Dexter

"Kimberly is a phenomenal first grade teacher. She instills a love for learning. Kids are excited to come to school and, most of all, she inspires kids to read – and they love doing it! As a parent, (I like that) she regularly updates us on their reading and math progress in regard to various skills. It is nice to know what my child needs to work on and what their strengths are.

"She comes up with such fun learning activities, and the kids don't even realize they are learning. My child loves getting a 'Hip, Hip Hooray!' note when he moves up a reading level, and the classroom climate is very encouraging. Kimberly also welcomes parent volunteers in her classroom to work with individuals and groups of students. She goes above and beyond for these first graders and I nominate her for Metro Parent's Top Teacher award."

– Charity, Dexter

Dawn Rahn

South Pointe Scholars, Ypsilanti

"I nominate Ms. Rahn because she is one of those teachers that you wish your child had every year. She is very dedicated to giving each child in her classroom the best education possible. The growth I have seen in my own daughter has been remarkable. Ms. Rahn is a very caring person, and you can tell she loves her Fabulous 5 class (that what she calls them). She greets all the kids every morning at the door, which they love.

"She has great communication with the parents. I have had concern with my own daughter this year and, because Ms. Rahn listened to me, my daughter is getting help for her speech. Any time I have had a concern with my daughter, she always listens and gives me great advice or guidance. She goes above and beyond to help our children. I think that educating our children is a team effort between teacher and parent. But when you have a teacher like her to work with, it makes your child succeed even more. I could go on and on about what a wonderful teacher she is, but when you see your daughter light up every morning when she sees her teacher waiting to say 'good morning' to her, it speaks for itself."

– Heather, Ypsilanti

Joanna VanRaden

Klager Elementary School, Manchester

"Mrs. V is the best! That's what all her students say. That's what all her returning students say. Because they all come back to say 'hi' to Mrs. V. We were so lucky our school tried something new this year. Our son was part of a trial, so his whole class had Mrs. V for both third and fourth grade. She has been interviewed by educators and TV news for her innovative work with iPads in the classroom. She inspires a love of learning and independence. And whenever I see her, I can tell she is just as excited as the kids are!"

– Lynn, Manchester

Wayne County

Julie Ames

Riverview Community High School, Riverview

"Ms. Ames always takes the extra time to support all of the children in her algebra class!"

– Michele, Woodhaven

Megan Atwood

Detroit Merit Academy, Detroit

"I would like to nominate Mrs. Atwood because she is such a sweet woman, and I am so happy that she is my daughter's kindergarten teacher. Back in August of 2012, I was a terrified mother, afraid to let my baby go into a foreign place. All the new kids and parents, all the change and all of the upcoming days of my child growing up. Our teachers practically raise our children, and I am happy that Mrs. Atwood is helping me raise mine.

"My slogan is, 'it takes a village.' One day, my 5-year-old was talking about something inappropiate – sex (I know, I know – sex! At 5. I am still cringing) – and Mrs. Atwood swooped in to tell her right from wrong. She later told me about the issue, and I was able to reinterate that 5-year-olds should only talk about sex to their moms and dads. Most teachers would have flipped out and reprimanded the child. I applaud Mrs. Atwood for handling the situation like a good mom would. She wasn't frantic when she delivered the news, so that helped me to stay calm.

"My daughter wants to go to school because of her teacher and because she makes you feel like she cares. Mrs. Atwood is always interested in me and my day. I appreciate her (for) making the big kid school transition for me and my daughter an easy one!"

– Bethany, Detroit

Denise Bassett

Cleveland Elementary School, Livonia

"Mrs. Bassett is my son's third grade teacher, and we are so grateful for her. My son is a handful and always has been, yet even with class sizes as they are, she has been so helpful with him and with me. So very patient, kind and helpful – straight from my son's mouth."

– Jill, Livonia

Linda Brock

Kerby Elementary School, Grosse Pointe Farms

"Mrs. Brock has expertly and kindly transformed an extremely diverse (both academically and socially) second grade class into a united family! Her consistency, dedication and love for her students has changed the entire dynamics of a very challenging classroom, which many parents never thought was possible. She is a true miracle worker."

– Karen, Grosse Pointe Farms

Joe Ciaravino

Parcells Middle School, Grosse Pointe Woods

"I would like to nominate Mr. Ciaravino for a few reasons. I have him for Algebra I, and he truly tries to help his students succeed in his class. When you make a valid argument about a grade you received, he tries his hardest to give you the best grade possible. He is always so enthusiastic and excited about whatever he is teaching. He makes math class a really fun experience while teaching you at the same time. I think Mr. Ciaravino deserves the Top Teacher award."

– Alex, Grosse Pointe Woods

Pamela Cronovich

Kerby Elementary School, Grosse Pointe

"Pam Cronovich is a rockstar at Kerby school. There's not enough room in this box to get into why she should be on your list. Call me; we can talk. Or just ask anyone who's child has had her. She's a true hero, and the kids love her. Tough but loving."

– Lynn, Grosse Pointe Farms

Catherine Curtis-Couretueo

Old Redford Academy Elementary School, Detroit

"I would like to thank Mrs. Curtis-Couretueo for being an excellent teacher to my nephew. She is so hard working and caring – always there for the students and their families. She puts so much into her job that it's so hard to just go unrecognized. My nephew no longer attends Old Redford Academy but always talks of her. He misses her and all the kindness and gratitude that she has given him in the past (she taught him in kindergarten and first grade). She is such a wonderful person inside and out. We need more teachers like her. She meant business and was so professional; all at the same time, she did not take 'no' for an answer. She also believed that 'can't' and 'no' should not be a part of the children's vocabulary. We would like to just thank her sooooo very much."

– Renita, Farmington

Kathy Davis

St. John's Lutheran School, New Boston

"Kathy Davis is our son's kindergarten teacher. She is an amazing person! Her guided ways of teaching through prayer and music help every child relate. Also, she is a part of the administration and a huge talent in our church choir. Not only does she do for our children, but for others, as well. Kathy reguarly visits the local nursing homes and makes prayer blankets for anyone in poor health. She truly deserves to be honored for Top Teacher. Please recognize Mrs. Kathy Davis, as we already have."

– Valorie, New Boston

Dwayne Dorey

St. Linus Catholic School, Dearborn Heights

"Mr. Dorey is a great teacher. He makes learning fun for the kids. My son loves going to school, and it is because of Mr. Dorey. He is one of those teachers that truly makes an impact on his students and inspires them to want to learn."

– Nicole, Dearborn Heights

Lori Elliott

Northville Christian School, Northville

"My son left his previous school due to learning differences that were not accommodated. When we enrolled our child in Northville Christian, we immediately found the support and commitment of Mrs. Lori Elliott who, within a short period of time, truly transformed our son's life. It takes someone with exceptional foresight, dedication and commitment to be a great teacher for children with learning differences. Mrs. Lori Elliott at Northville Christian School truly understands each child – and gives all that she has from her heart. Her enthusiasm for teaching is contagious to her students which, in turn, drives them to want to learn. She inspires her students.

"Mrs. Elliott, a first grade teacher, and Mrs. Windisch, vice-principal, immediately saw what our son needed to reach his full potential. They saw a very bright boy with a reading discrepency, which created much frustration for him. Our son is 'gifted' but also has dyslexia. I noticed a disconnect with reading in kindergarten, and it was not going away. My husband and I went to different doctors and specialists to find the answer and address his needs so he could gain the self confidence he needed to succeed in school. Mrs. Elliott offered to stay after class and tutor my son to help him with his reading. She not only respected his dyslexia and his learning needs, but she went out of her way to see that his needs were accommodated.

"As a direct result of Mrs. Elliott's dedication and work, I have noticed a positive change in my son's behavior and self-esteem. He wakes up in the morning wanting to learn and can't wait to get to school. He is eager to learn and read. He can't wait to come home and read me a book! He loves going to school. He says, 'I don't feel anxious or frustrated at my new school. Everyone is so loving and nice here. They get me.' Mrs. Elliott fully understands and respects each child as an individual. It takes an extraordinary teacher to take the time to understand and be able to see a child's learning differences and equally invaluable to be able to accommodate a child's learning needs and inspire them. This has allowed my child to flourish.

"Only by embracing and nurturing these gifted children can we hope to create more Henry Fords, Thomas Edisons, Steve Jobses, Richard Bransons and Walt Disneys (all of whom had dyslexia). Teachers like Mrs. Elliott continue to bring more amazing discoveries to our world and our future. Teachers like Mrs. Elliott can and do have a huge impact to change our world through our children."

– Anonymous

Sandy Ewasek

Plymouth-Canton Montessori School, Canton

"I don't even know where to begin. Mrs. Ewasek is not just a teacher; she is an inspiration. Admittedly, my children are young, so I don't have decades of experience with schools and teachers. But what I do know is that this woman goes above and beyond the normal 'call of duty.'

"At the beginning of the school year, she meets with the parents as a group to tell us how excited she is to begin the school year and get to know 'our' kids (as she calls them!). She also makes it known that her door is always open to concerns/questions – except when she is with the kids. She makes it clear that during school hours is her time to teach and engage with the students, and she would prefer waiting until all students are dismissed before answering questions. She also makes certain that all parents have her home and cell phone numbers so that they may contact her at any time (but preferably before 9 p.m., she says!).

"Mrs. Ewasek taught my daughter last year and is currently teaching my son. In just five months, she taught both of my children to read. She also allows the kids to call home with her cell phone to tell mom and dad that they read their first book. What an exciting event that is. Unfortunately, I missed both calls from both kids, but I still have the saved messages to remember.

"Sometimes when a new student comes in mid-year, they have a tough time adjusting. I have seen such cases (as I volunteer in the classroom), and the manner that she handles these children is remarkable. I have seen her sitting on the floor holding and rocking children to help them feel comforted. I would also like to note that she calls parents on a pretty regular basis just to check in and report some of the things that go on in the classroom. I have also received calls 'just making sure everything is OK at home' because my son was having an off week. He ended up having strep throat so he was not acting like his usual self!

"She has even noticed things about my children that I hadn't even realized. For example, my son seems to mellow out when he's outside. I could probably go on and on forever giving examples of how Mrs. Ewasek goes above and beyond. I just believe if we had more teachers that truly cared for our children the way that she does, kids would love learning and going to school."

– Stacyee, Northville


Julie Foust

Ferry Elementary School, Grosse Pointe Woods

"Mrs. Foust is an elementary reading specialist. She sees dozens and dozens of kids over a weeks time at Ferry Elementary. She not only teaches children with reading deficiencies (some severe) to read; she teaches children who, over a short period of time, develop a passion for reading. Mrs. Foust has real strategies to enchant and challenge even the most difficult child. Mrs. Foust is caring and considerate. She is organized and passes on this organization to children who, without her,  would struggle in many subjects. She makes kids feel proud of what they have accomplished. Mrs. Foust is the best teacher that any of my five children have ever had."

– Renee, Grosse Pointe Woods

Ryan Francis

Stephen T. Mason Elementary School, Grosse Pointe Woods

"My son had Mr. Francis for third and fourth grades, and loved every minute. Mr. Francis has an ingenious knack of devising games that inspire kids and motivate them to learn. He makes everything fun – and kids learn better that way. Mr. Francis worked hard to help our son increase his confidence, which was truly the gift we are most grateful for. Our son came out a different child, confident and sure of his abilities. Mr. Francis encouraged our son's creativity and allowed him to create comics to share with the class. Our shy boy did class presentations and PowerPoint demonstrations!

"Mr. Francis keeps an extensive library for his students to borrow from, and he challenges students to expand their horizons with many reading genres. He does wonders with these kids. On top of motivating his class with laughter and fun, Mr. Francis sponsors the student council and the safety/service patrol. Earlier this year, he and the other fourth grade teachers introduced and purchased a schoolwide book so that every student in the school read the same chapters at the same time. It was fun!"

– Kathy, Grosse Pointe Woods

Keri Herbst

Yake Elementary School, Woodhaven

"We are nominating Ms. Herbst for the Metro Parent Top Teacher award. Ms. Herbst has extensive knowledge and skill with all students – and expecially with a wide variety of learning disabilities (such as our son has), and she understands the importance of the team approach when developing plans for his success in school. Ms. Herbst always makes sure that she is available for consultation and, if necessary, will come over to Joe and I to assist when concerns are new and pressing any day of the week with our son.

"She is a constant stream of strength in our lives, and she is a blessing to our son. She has led by doing, and by that, I mean she teaches with genuine love and that passion has reflected into the life of our son and his first experience with education. He is in kindergarten. Prior to finding Yake Elementary, we were told our son should not be in school – he should be excluded because he cannot pay attention. Our son was unfortunately a victim of bullying and ridicule by a preschool teacher in the classroom … if you can only imagine! So this was a terrible time for our family, and we were desperate to find somebody we could trust with his feelings about school and himself.

"We were a family in crisis before finding Yake and Ms. Herbst. Recently and timely: With the advice and support of Ms. Herbst and the entire staff who helps Salvatore at Yake, we had him evaluated and diagnosed with ADHD. He physically was unable to pay attention and sit still. He is brilliant, loving and now able to 'attend' – in class. We are thrilled to see the improvements that happened because of the team led by Keri Herbst to help Salvatore stay in school. Included, never excluded because of his inability.

"She believes that all children deserve a chance and to be educated, even if she has to work harder at it. No one works harder than she in a classroom. Twenty-five findergarteners; two or three with special needs. She is pioneer in education. She is the reason Salvatore Giuseppe will graduate kindergarten alongside his twin sister. Top Teacher award nominee – this award would be so awesome for this special teacher. She deserves the accolade and all the honor it has to offer."

– Sherri, Woodhaven

Sarah Jary

Webster Elementary School, Livonia

"My name is Brendan and I am 7. I think Ms. Jary is the best teacher, because she teaches me a lot of cool math games and teaches me about different countries. My vocabulary is growing because of her. She has taught me marvelous new words like perseverate, polemic, tempus fugit and regurgitate. It is very exciting to get new books in our classroom. Ms. Jary has lots of informational books that I like. It is fun to go to school each day."

– Brendan, Livonia

Kari Krausmann

Mason Elementary School, Grosse Pointe Woods

"Kari is my daughter's first grade teacher. She has really helped my daughter to read and improve on her writing. My daughter is also enjoying learning math, science and social studies. Recently, I was very impressed with how much information my daughter learned from her teacher about MLK. In the past, her teacher taught her about all the holidays different cultures celebrate."

– Karen, Grosse Pointe Woods

Sarah LaBlanc

Haigh Elementary School, Dearborn

"My daughter is in Mrs. LaBlanc's kindergarten class at Haigh Elementary. Sarah LaBlanc's creative style of teaching has helped my daughter learn to read – among the numerous other achievements she has conquered in her first year of school. She is kind and patient with her students. My daughter wakes up every morning ready to conquer the day because she has no qualms about going to school thanks to Mrs. LaBlanc!"

– Lynn, Dearborn

Lynn Massucci

Franklin High School, Livonia

"I would like to nominate, friend, colleague, mentor and teacher Lynn Massucci for Metro Parent's Top Teacher Award. Lynn has been inspiring students for almost two decades to explore the world every day in her Spanish classroom. With high expectations and the mantra 'Smart is something you can get,' her students work to master the Spanish language. She is honored regularly by senior students as being the most influential teacher they had in high school. She has deservingly been honored as one of Livonia's teachers of the year.

"The words 'friend' and 'mentor' are not enough to describe the relationship Lynn and I have developed over the last decade teaching together. Lynn has a special 'listening' desk ready for me whenever we have a problem to tackle. She is insightful, truthful and calm. Lynn is the teacher I aspire to emulate each day I step in front of my own students.

"An outstanding educator often does not realize the impact they have had on their students or colleagues. Lynn has sent thousands of students into our world as better learners, as goal-setters, as culturally tolerant individuals. She has helped her friends and colleagues rise above educational politics and do what is best for our students – teach them and love them. It is for these reasons, I believe my friend and colleague, Lynn Massucci, deserves to be recognized as a top educator."

– Mary Beth, Farmington Hills

Joan May

The Lincoln Center, Wyandotte

"Joan teachers students ages 15-22 with autism. Joan has high expectations for her students. She is patient, well organized and kind. She has had to make do in a very small classroom, but that has not hindered her teaching. Her students love to come to school and are very familiar with the classroom routine. Joan incorporates many CBI (creative behavior interventions) outings in her schedule, and every student is taught on their own level. Please consider Joan for your award."

– Janet, Southgate

Kelley Michels

Alexander Hamilton Elementary School, Westland

"I would like to nominate Mrs. Michels because she is a very loving and dedicated kindergarten teacher. She is an excellent role model to the kids, and she has a strong passion for educating the young kids in her class. She is a very organized and structured teacher and wants all her students to succeed. She is an excellent teacher and she makes sure each student is conducting themselves in a positive manner. And she helps each student learn and keeps them engaged and excited to learn new concepts.

"I love the way that she encourages reading and handles support groups to help students to read inside of the school. My daughter was in Mrs. Michels class last year and absolutely adored her. She was reading above grade level and her vocabulary was phenomenal. My daughter is in first grade and is doing excellent. I still volunteer in Mrs. Michels class. And she is the reason I am now pursuing an education in early child development. I want to change the lives of young kids who are going to someday be our future doctors and lawyers like Mrs. Michels has. And she should be recognized for hard work and dedication."

– Chantia, Westland

McKea Miller

Cornerstone School, Nevada Campus, Detroit

"It is with great honor that I nominate my daughter's first grade teacher, Mrs. McKea Miller, as a Metro Parent's Top Teacher for 2013. As an educator, I know the characteristics of a successful teacher. Mrs. Miller exemplifies these qualities each day with enthusiasm and professionalism not only with my daughter, Carrington, but with all students at Cornerstone School. This awesome educator has high expectations for all students. Mrs. Miller wants all of her first grade students to be successful and experience the love of learning.

"My daughter is presented with many learning episodes that allow her to think and apply her knowledge. Each day, I hear Carrington making connections about the content that Mrs. Miller has taught. When I am in the kitchen, Carrington will talk about solids, liquids and gases – and make direct connections to her science lessons. This extraordinary teacher creates a sense of community with her students and parents. Carrington feels very much at home in Mrs. Miller's class. Mrs. Miller is a very warm and nuturing teacher who respects all students. My daughter and all students are given a voice in this collaborative learning environment.

"Mrs. Miller is always accessible – after school hours and on the weekends. All of my questions are answered with care and knowledge. This wonderful person is very professional. Often, I observe Mrs. Miller working with her colleagues to enhance instruction and create teaching expereinces to foster learning and achievement for all students.

"I am very happy to nominate Mrs. McKea Miller as a Metro Parent's Top Teacher for 2013. Mrs. Miller's humble and dedicated spirit to teaching – and providing a warm and nuturing learning environment for my daughter and all students – will foster a love of learning and investigation throughout their educational lives."

– Ursula, Detroit

Andrea Nickerson

Detroit Premier Academy, Detroit

"Ms. Nickerson is a really exceptional teacher. My son was having a hard time sounding out his words, and she found a way to get him to understand the sound and take his time. She has brought him so far since the beginning of the school year. She has gone over and beyond for these kids."

– KayLen, Dearborn

Heather Noon

Bobcean Elementary School, Flat Rock

"She is an outstanding kindergarten teacher and is very dedicated to her student's learning. She uses active and hands-on learning as much as possible. Examples include teaching students how to write authentic letters to friends, writing using various materials or acting hydrogen and oxygen bonds to help understand 'what is water?'

"She uses differentiation in her class and teaches each student to the maximum of their ability. She instills in the students the desire to do their best. She always communicates to her students in a positive and constructive way such that it maintains students' self-esteem. Finally, she communicates well and frequently with parents so we are aware of what is happening in the classroom – and we are given tools to enhance our child's learning. Therefore, I strongly support Mrs. Noon for this award."

– Marie-Eve, Flat Rock

Nicholas Provenzano

Grosse Pointe South High School, Grosse Pointe Farm

"Mr. Provenzano is the best teacher I have ever had because of one simple reason: his classroom enviroment. From the first class of his I went to, I have felt good inside his classroom. He sets his students up for success rather than failure, and he also makes sure his students enjoy his class. With every project or lesson we have done, he has put a twist in that makes it exciting.

"Mr. Provenzano is also very dedicated to becoming the best teacher he possibly can be. He is always attending conferences and meetings to do so. He is a big advocator for technology in the classroom and goes all over the place to talk about that kind of stuff. Mr. Provenzano is dedicated to improving the education of students, and this is evident through the way he teaches each and every class."

– David, Grosse Pointe Park

Nan Sabella

Parcells Middle School, Grosse Pointe Woods

"My son has always been a good student, and his transition to sixth grade had its challenges. He was progressing and doing better when, over a period of time, he became more quiet and withdrawn and his grades started to suffer again. I was concerned and questioned him, but he said very little and wouldn't really talk to me. Mrs. Sabella also noticed that he had become more withdrawn and was very concerned. She is a busy middle school teacher teaching over 100 students a day, but was observant enough to notice my son.

"Mrs. Sabella took time to call me and discuss her concerns; she had even taken steps to alert his counselor. Because of her caring so deeply for my son, she was able to discern that he was being bullied, and we were able to address the situation before it got worse. Our situation is not isolated, though. I have heard from other parents who have experienced Mrs. Sabella being able to reach out and help their children.

"I think in today's environment when there is so much emphasis placed on standardized testing and teacher performance, we lose track of the safe, caring environments teachers like Mrs. Sabella provide. I truly believe she helped save my son from further depression and disengaging from school. She deserves to be recognized for truly knowing her students and going beyond the classroom to assist them."

– Judy, Grosse Pointe Woods

"Mrs. Sabella has stood out above all my son's teachers. She truly has passion and enthusiasm for teaching and really knows and cares for her students. Since she teaches middle school children, I find those qualities amazing!"

– Amanda, Grosse Pointe Woods

Lana Schultz

Botsford Elementary School, Livonia

"We would like to nominate Ms. Schultz because she goes above and beyond to personalize education for her students. She genuinely cares about her students and shows them through encouragement and positive attention. She is a joy to work with and creates a positive atmosphere. She sits with her children at the tables and works individually as needed. She uses tips and current techniques to help the children with problem solving. My son has attention deficit and hyperactivity, and Ms. Schultz has discovered a special way to work with him that motivates him to care and do well in school. She accommodates him yet challenges him. She is the perfect balance, and we could not feel more blessed to have her as his teacher!"

– Sara, Farmington Hills

Alana Snyr

Romulus Middle School, Romulus

"Mrs. Snyr is a wonderful teacher. She takes up her own time to make sure each and every one of her students get the education and more that they need. My child has autism, and I am very protective of my child – some say too much. But she makes me comfortable enough to relax while my daughter is in school. I can call at any time if I need anything. I can go on and on about her. Mrs. Snyr is the No. 1 teacher of the year to me, and I'm sure the other parents in my daughter's class feel the same way."

– Tonya, Romulus

Monique Stokes

Charles H. Wright Academy, Detroit

"Mrs. Stokes is a very caring, hard-working and excellent teacher. I volunteer in her class once a week on my off days. I watch how she interacts with the children. She is so very kind hearted and sincere. She also takes from her own pocket and gives to her students. My son and his classmates just love, love, love, love her. (For) the less-fortunate children in her class, she makes sure they leave with enough food so that their families can eat at night. You just do not find a lot of teachers like her anymore."

– Risa, Detroit

Brittany Straub

Quest Charter Academy, Taylor

"Even though this is Ms. Straub's first year with Quest, she has been doing a wonderful job with my daughter, Aubree. She has made a difference in the way Aubree is learning mathematics, reading and spelling – but also in science, learning about planets specifically. Ms. Straub take pride in not just my child, but her whole class. I am proud of her accomplishments thus far this year. Keep up the good work, Ms. Straub."

– Roseann, Dearborn Heights

Elizabeth Welkenbach

Madison Elementary School, Dearborn Heights

"I would like to nominate Mrs. Welkenbach as a Top Teacher because of her dedication to teaching and the love that she shares with her students. Early in the school year last year, Mrs. Welkenbach was diagnosed with breast cancer. She continued to teach throughout the entire school year through surgery, chemo, losing her hair and all the other things that go along with battling breast cancer. She rarely missed school except when absolutely necessary.

"She has definately been an inspiration to the students (and everyone) at the school where she teaches. For example, she was able to inspire a third grade student who is in her classroom this year and who has been battling leukemia for the past two years. This student gave her his bandana last year, which read 'Cancer Fears Me.' She returned it to him this year so he could share it with another cancer patient.

"I believe that Mrs. Welkenbach deserves to receive the Top Teacher award because she has been one of the best teachers that my children have had. She encouraged my own son when he was in her class. She has been the only one that recognized his positive qualities and (named) him 'student of the month,' which has caused his entire school year to be one of his best ever."

– Susan, Dearborn Heights

"My daughter Chloe had Mrs. Welkenbach in fourth grade. She was sweet and kind like any other teacher, but she had something else that made her special: She took the time to talk to my daugter and get her to be more open in class and try to help her not to be so shy. She took the time to make a difference into a clild's life, and for that I am nominating her for the best teacher award!"

– Simona, Dearborn Heights

Jennifer Wichmann

Cleveland Elementary School, Livonia

"My name is Evelyn, I am 5 years old and I would like to nominate Mrs. Jennifer Wichmann as the best teacher. She smiles a lot and lets us have time to think. She lets us take our time when we read her some words. She is nice! She brings in fun stuff for us to do, like the new 'pocket chart.' She has fun things in the classroom for us to play with. Mrs. Wichmann teaches me really good stuff like being kind and 'Lettercise.' We do dances and lots of songs like counting by fives, twos and 10s. My favorite part about her is that she is nice to everyone."

– Evelyn, Livonia

Erin Wysocki

Cleveland Elementary School, Livonia

"Mrs. Wysocki is my daughter's kindergarten teacher and has shown such patience and encouragement with her. She has made the transition into all-day kindergarten a wonderful experience for us, and we are grateful to her. I have had the privilege of working with her in her classroom and seeing her in various ways and degrees of craziness with 29 kindergarteners! She is a natural and just so genuine with the kids – and everyone she comes in contact with."

– Jill, Westland

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