Metro Parent Top Teacher Awards 2017

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Every student has a favorite teacher – whether it was the science teacher who pushed them academically or the music teacher who inspired their passion for performing.

Each year, Metro Parent asks local parents – and students – to tell us about their favorite teachers for our annual Top Teacher Awards. We featured one local educator in our May issue (link to digital magazine feature), but below you can read about all the fabulous teachers who were nominated this year.

Kate Alexander

Greenfield Elementary

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“My son Gavin had Kate Alexander (or Mrs. A as she’s known to the kids) two years ago for kindergarten at Greenfield Elementary. The transition from preschool to kindergarten is stressful for kids and parents alike. As for my family, we had just moved to the district and the ink was barely dry on our mortgage papers before the school year was beginning. My wife is a teacher and, at the time, so was I. So we were a little stressed out. As Gavin has two moms, it was important to us that he go to a school where our family would be welcome and accepted, which is one of the reasons why we chose Greenfield. Kate made all three of us feel very welcome and my wife and I took great comfort knowing that our son was in good hands.

Just as things started to calm down for us, I learned that my father had stage 4 cancer. He died on Jan. 1, 2015. It was a very difficult time for my family and Kate was wonderful through it all. And then, in March, I was diagnosed with cancer myself. The rest of the year was spent in a whirlwind of surgery, chemo and radiation. Through it all my biggest concern was my son. I kept thinking to myself, ‘Gavin’s mom can’t die.’ My wife and I were very open with Gavin about what was happening. I remember very clearly after telling him that I had cancer and I was going to have to have surgery and take some medicine that made me very sick, but that I would be OK in the end. ‘What are you feeling?’ I asked him. ‘Scared,’ he replied, ‘because cancer is very powerful.’ It broke my heart to hear him say something so true and so wise for his age. I hated that he had to go through this.

At that moment in our lives, the home-school connection was more important than ever and Kate went above and beyond. Her communication with us about Gavin’s progress both academically and emotionally was excellent. She was always available either via email or after school to talk and check in. She even sent me personal cards and notes of encouragement and support during my illness. All in all Gavin did very well. He was, in fact, a great comfort to me while I was sick. But I think that is in large part to the fact that the most important adults in his life, including Mrs. A, cared about him and loved him and helped him through it.

As a teacher myself, it was always important to me to build relationships with my students. Mrs. A understands this, as well, and I cannot say enough how much it meant to me that during the most difficult time in my life I knew that my son was with her five days a week. I knew he was being loved, listened to, respected and cared for. He was also learning so much. His reading took off under Mrs. A’s tutelage as did his math skills. He loved going to school each day because Mrs. A’s class was a place where he felt safe, had fun and learned new things. He even picked up some of Mrs. A’s favorite sayings like ‘easy peasy lemon squeezey’ and ‘Mahalo.’ It is with much gratitude and respect that I nominate Kate Alexander for a Top Teacher Award. Her commitment to and love for her students is clear in everything she does both in front of the class and behind the scenes. I am so thankful that she came into my family’s life when she did. She is truly a gift.” – D’Anne Witkowski, Southfield

Jennifer Blazejewski

Sacred Heart Catholic School

“I would like to nominate Mrs. Blazejewski for the love and the passion that she puts in everything that she does for her class. For being so patient with our kids, for her values as a person, and for her integrity.” – Nelly K. Shhoemaker, Dearborn

Chelsea Campbell

Quarton Elementary

“At the start of this year, I was told, by a parent, that Ms. Campbell would be the best teacher my child will ever have. Wow – was she right! In a newsletter Ms. Campbell sent to parents, she explained her belief that children learn best and work harder for teachers they trust and enjoy. And, to foster strong relationships with students she offered her support: whether it be sending home a book or math games or attending a performance/dance recital/sports game – she would be there as even though it’s something small to her, she believes it is a big deal to the kids.

By getting to know each of her students as individuals, from their interests to their hobbies to how they learn best, she is able to connect with the kids in a deeper way. She demonstrates this on a daily basis as she works with each of the kids in the class. Just watching her with the students you can immediately see how she understands each student, investing personally with each child, and knows the unique needs of the students.

Ms. Campbell is the perfect mix of a nurturing and firm teacher: there’s lots of fun and learning in Ms. Campbell’s class, but it’s orderly, respectful and well organized. She commands respect from the students in the class and at the same time, she solicits heartfelt hugs from all the kids and puts a smile on each of their faces. Ms. Campbell encourages her students to not only do their best schoolwork, but also to be polite, respectful and kind human beings.

It’s clear, with all the extras she provides her students and parents, paired with her enthusiasm, that Ms. Campbell loves teaching and sincerely cares about the success of her students. She strives to make her classroom a safe, nurturing place where each of the kids has the best opportunity to learn and grow. An example is the think spot in the classroom that she created. It’s a place where the kids go to reflect on a bad decision they made. Ms. Campbell not only has tools for them to learn in this quiet place, but she has a process to work with both the kids and the parents on the issue at hand. Using the think spot she ensures that the situation is dealt with in the classroom and the kids learn from their mistakes. This type of approach is clear above and beyond the commitment and involvement that I would expect from a teacher.

In addition to communicating information via newsletters and emails on a regular basis, Ms. Campbell responds to emails within 24 hours. She has provided me with invaluable guidance, reassurance and advice. She even mailed her students individual holiday cards over winter break in Christmas to let them know she’s thinking about them! I am so grateful that Ms. Campbell is my son’s first grade teacher! She’s the best!” – Sally Matak, Bloomfield Hills

John Clark

L’Anse Creuse Middle School-South

“Mr. Clark is an incredible teacher and he brightens my day up in every way. The minute I walk into his classroom I am suddenly enlightened and happy. He makes learning and singing fun and exciting. I am so greatful to be his student. He deserves to be nominated for all his hard work, passion and joy. And even if he doesn’t win the ‘Top Teacher’ he will always be Top Teacher in my eyes and in my heart.” – Sophia Francis, Clinton Township

Monica Fry

Martin Luther King Education Center Academy

“I am in middle school and I play cello. I have been playing since I was in the fourth grade. Now since I am in middle school, I have Ms. Fry. Ms. Fry is really helping me and my fellow classmates to understand how to play the instrument we play. She is very nice and she especially helps me to learn more about the instrument I play and how to learn more pieces (songs) to play. A interesting thing is that both of my music teachers are professional cellists and I am a cellist (professional in training).” – Jabez Williams, Detroit

Brenda Gappy

Doherty Elementary

“Mrs. Gappy is such an inspiration and great motivator of her kindergarten class. My daughter Victoria is excited to go to school every day because Mrs. Gappy makes learning fun and engaging. Mrs. Gappy’s knowledge, patience and experience has helped her kindergarten class to excel. She deserves to win the Metro Parent’s Top Teacher Award.” – Janell Jones, West Bloomfield

Donna Horton

Focus Hope Early Head Start

“She’s great with my son. Even when he is cranky or not having an appetite, she has patience. She’s been teaching him how to express himself. He says a lot more words and is just becoming so smart, and I know it is thanks to her. So if she gets this award and can see it, me and Lil DeMar thank you for everything.” – Darce’ Triplett, Detroit

Kevin Kopec

Lake Orion High School

“Mr. Kopec has a passion for government like no other! My daughter took AP government recently and has said it was by far one of the best classes with one of her most favorite teachers of all time! She told me that she was never bored and he always kept their attention and was engaging! He cared about their learning and made sure they were all actively involved. She loved every moment and was sad when the class ended. Teachers like Mr. Kopec make a child excited to go to school!” – Windy Nuss, Lake Orion

Anita Martin

Birney K-8

“Ms. Martin is a kind, peaceful and patient second grade teacher of 37 students! Her students are well organized and well mannered. She took on additional students with surrounding school closures and did so graciously.

My daughter comes home happy and excited to tell me about what she learned. When I ask her what she likes most about school she says, ‘Ms. Martin makes it fun to have friends and learn she wants us to help others. I like that she is nice.'” – Nancy Heaston, West Bloomfield

Ruthe Petrovitch

Maple Park Montessori

“Miss Ruthe has been the most genuine teacher and truly in the business to nurture and guide children as long as she opened Maple Park Montessori in the 1980s and I’m sure longer than that. She is held in a high regard by all the parents and is known to have a magic touch. She is one of the few who sees the value in teaching cursive writing to the preschool and kindergarten students that come into this program. This past year my daughter’s best friend at Maple Park learned she had ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) and Miss Ruthe organized a fundraiser for the family around the holidays. and (she) tutors my daughter and this student once a week outside of school hours just so they can be together in the classroom once again while she is going through her treatment. This is just a sliver of the compassion she shows for these students. It is evident in everything she does that this is what she was born to do, and she makes it apparent in the way that the children respect her. She is all about letting the children be in charge of their learning and in turn feeling good about the choices they make. I truly feel honored to have my girls experience her methods and I know they will be better people because of it. She is the pillar of Maple Park and makes this school feel like a family. We know that her legacy will live on through each and every child she has touched throughout the years.” – Dayna Marcelain, Fraser

Kenneth Powers

Martin Luther King Education Center Academy

“This is because Mr. Powers goes above and beyond to help all of us students and to give us the education we all need.” – Jabez Williams, Detroit

Lindsay Smith

Lincoln Park Middle School

“Mrs. Smith teaches special ed has13 kids with all different special needs. She has worked miracles with a few to be able to count and one boy to know his address. Most come from a not-so-normal family environment. She buys snacks to give them to take everyday because most aren’t sure they will have food when they get home. When she was on maternity leave recently, there was no one interested in filling in for her. It’s a challenge everyday but she wants them to know with hard work and being a good person positive things can happen.” – Russ Rupp, Livonia

Katina Stallings

Martin Luther King Education Center Academy

“Ms. Stallings was my fourth grade teacher and third grade teacher. She really helped me and my other classmates to succeed in the later grades to come. She made us write most of our assignments in cursive and she gave us 40 spelling words per week. But this was only to help (us) become even more ready for middle school. I am now a middle-schooler and thankfully Ms. Stallings is still teaching fourth grade today.” – Jabez Williams, Detroit

Kimberly Stanley

Northwood Elementary

“She has been teaching for over 25 years and still carries an incredible amount of patience, compassion, and dedication to her students and their learning. She is also an active civil rights and public schools advocate.” – Camille Thompson, Royal Oak

Mary Talucci

Norup International School

“Mary Tallucci, our daughter Brianna’s former third grade teacher, is just as fantastic now that she is in the sixth grade as she was when our daughter was in her class. Brianna has a number of “invisible” conditions that she has been battling since she was a toddler that have directly affected the way she learns and communicates (Autism, ADHD, epilepsy, asthma, working memory, sensory processing diaorder and anxiety). Brianna struggled with reading, math and memory for years. Although her peers were, and remain, very supportive of her, she had become very shy and introverted in that she knew that she “was different.” When she began third grade in Mrs. Talucci’s class, she was still a shy young girl who struggled with reading and math. Mrs. Talucci took time to really get to know Brianna and how she learns. That extra step enabled Brianna to have a breakthrough year academically and socially. She did better with all of her subjects. She was, and remains shy, but she began speaking up more in and out of class. Mrs. Talucci remains a positive force in Brianna’s life as she continues to provide encouragement and support to her now that she is in the sixth grade. Our once struggling daughter how has a 3.4 grade point average and is a martial artist studying karate. She is active with school activities and is generally a different child. She is still shy but it’s not as poinful as it once was. Mary Talucci has made a HUGE difference in our daughter’s life.” – Jennifer Johnson, Oak Park

Julie Wadsworth

Barth Elementary

“Mrs. Wadsworth has always gone above and beyond the call for her students and co-workers. She has been a youth group leader in her community, as well as runs fundraisers throughout the year for her students to attend science camp. She is currently helping to raise funds for a fellow co-worker who is battling cancer. Mrs. Wadsworth is a dynamic teacher, who cares very deeply for her students and their families. She is a phenomenal teacher, mentor and person. She is always willing to lend a hand.” – Jo Zwally, Romulus

Erin Weiner

Burton Elementary School

“Erin’s work with students who have Autism goes beyond what is required. She often has her own two children get together with her students for out of school play dates. The parents find this to be a wonderful experience for their own children and allows them to feel another level of connection.

This is one of many activities that Erin does to enrich the lives of others that have special needs.Erin has a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and an endorsement in Autism from Oakland University. She and her para pros make each student feel they can take the next step forward, socially, emotionally and academically.

I think she deserves to be recognized and acknowledged!” – Judy Pearlman, Bloomfield Hills

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