Metro Parent Top Teacher Awards 2016

You had wonderful things to say about so many southeast Michigan teachers. Take a look at who was nominated for our 2016 awards.

Even as an adult, we’re sure you can still remember an educator that impacted your life in some way – whether it was helping you learn a new language or helping you with your self-esteem. Teachers touch our lives in all sorts of ways. That’s why each year we ask parents in southeast Michigan to help us recognize some of the top educators in the area by nominating their kids’ favorite teachers for our Top Teacher Awards.

Once again this year, we asked – and you submitted your nominations! Meet the two teachers that we highlighted in this year’s June issue of Metro Parent. Then, see below for the complete list of nominations.

Oakland County

Daniel Brownrigg

Bingham Farms Elementary

“I would like to nominate Mr. Brownrigg for his dedication to respecting the individuality of every one of his students and ceaselessly cultivating a diverse and thriving learning environment. His passion and skill for getting students to recognize each others’ strengths and work cohesively toward developing learning opportunities is remarkable.” – Laura Ferries, Bingham Farms

Linda Carlson

West Hills Middle School, Bloomfield Hills

“Linda is very involved with my son’s academic and social growth. We’ve been in communication all year and I have learned more about my son and his learning style from her than any other teacher. She seems personally vested in teaching my son and growing his learning. All of the teachers in Bloomfield are amazing so I guess that makes Linda super amazing. Just the other day, Mason expressed an interest in attending an after-school event that day. Linda personally gave him $2 for the fee and reached out to me for permission for him to attend. Above and beyond is my experience with her. Linda teaches in a Academic Resource Program and only has eight to 10 kids so she may not receive as many votes as a regular education teacher. But each vote should count for five because she’s doing amazing things for these kids.” – Mason Miller, Bloomfield Hills

Barbara Dworin

Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills

“Ms. Barbara teaches in the 4-year-old preschool at Hillel Day School. The best way to describe Ms. Barbara is to say she’s LIFE-CHANGING. I have four children, all of whom have had a lot of teachers throughout their lifetime (not to mention all the teachers I’ve had in my lifetime) and I can honestly say that Ms. Barbara stands out in the crowd. Her passion for teaching is infectious. Her love for the kids is shown in a “tough love” manner, which builds the students’ self confidence. Her style for talking and teaching the kids – she treats them as if they were adults in an age-appropriate manner. Her love for teaching is contagious. She is just the bomb diggity. I feel honored to have had two of my four children in her classroom. I will never forget what she did for my kids. We just love her.” – Ioana M Ben-Ezra, Farmington Hills

Jennifer Graham

Doherty Elementary, West Bloomfield

“When you walk into Mrs. Graham’s room, everybody is engaged in a learning environment. Her way of handling things is always fair and clear to all students. She makes each kid feel important and heard. My son says she’s the best teacher ever. When I volunteer in her classroom, I am always amazed by how she conducts herself in a calm, kind and firm way. I try to absorb as much as I can hoping to apply it at home!” – Regina Cardenas, West Bloomfield

Dawn Hayes

Athens High School, Troy

“She is a remarkable teacher that connects with her students.” – Christina Coden, Troy

Suzanne Curry May

Paradigm Care and Enrichment Center, Waterford

“She is great with the kids and loves them like they are her own. She’s got a big heart and is very kind.” – Cathy Wolfe, White Lake

Megan McQuillan

Lakewood Elementary School, White Lake

“Ms. McQuillan is a special needs teacher. Frankly that should be enough but that’s not it. Not only did she choose to help children that need more than the typical child, she has held my hand through figuring out how to best help my child. We moved here from DC and I had no idea what to expect with the ASD program here. However, Megan not only made me feel like part of the community, she taught my son that he was more than just a statistic. When a parent has a child with special needs, everyday tasks can be struggles. The last thing that parent needs is for school to be a struggle too. For the first time in years, I do not dread the end-of-the-day note from my son’s teacher. I love my child with my whole heart and I know she loves him that much too.” – Tanja Kydd, Commerce Township

Heather Petrus

Bingham Farms Elementary

“It takes a very special person to care for and teach children diagnosed with autism, especially one rated severe on the spectrum and said to also have processing sensory disorder. Well, Ms. Heather is that person. I knew that my son, Robert, was in good hands when upon my first visit to the school she took me to look at every room that he’ll be in – the gym room, music room, and even the bathroom and outside play area. On his first day of school, she sent me not one, but two emails letting me know how he was doing. I cried and I smiled. Some mornings, when he’s a bit fiesty, and I don’t quite have him ready before the bus arrives or he hasn’t eaten breakfast, all I have to do is put a note in his bag or send an email, and Ms. Heather always responds that she’ll take care of him. I appreciate how she’s always encouraging me on this journey and sharing tips on how to help Robert at home. One time she even put a handwritten letter in his bookbag, reminding me to be patient and shared ways on how to help my son hold a crayon. When I asked, she didn’t just tell me the name of the scissors that she uses at school, she sent a photo home, as well as links to the special chewie toys that would help him stop putting other objects in his mouth. She shows that she really cares. Ms. Heather is a TOP TEACHER!” – Stephanie L. Jones, Beverly Hills

Anne Schumacher

Roosevelt Elementary, Keego Harbor

“Mrs. Schumacher is a great teacher! She challenges her students. My son loves going to class. She has really embraced the new school initiative of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. She demands a lot from her students and they live up to the high standard. Mrs. Schumacher is constantly in contact with the parents and I believe this helps me to be a better parent when it comes to completing special projects and enhancing my son’s learning at home. Mrs. Schumacher is a wonderful lady, with a passion for educating and challenging her first grade students.” – Holly Bailey, West Bloomfield

Jennette Wrobel

Notre Dame Marist Academy, Pontiac

“Mrs. Wrobel is patient, fair and very creative. She has taught in New Zealand and brings a really different perspective to our class. Students feel loved in her room, and she makes learning fun.” – Jack Bartus, Bloomfield

Suha Zablock

Lakes Area Montessori Center, Walled Lake

“Like many Montessori classrooms, Miss Suha’s room is comprised of students of mixed ages. Her students range from age 3 to 6. As the lead teacher, she and her three assistants encourage the development of the whole child by providing an enriched Montessori curriculum. The students’ days are filled with cultivated experiences that allow each of them the opportunity to grow and develop into confident, independent and self-motivated individuals. The curriculum includes topics such as practical life, sensorial, language (reading and writing), mathematics, geography, science, art, music, spanish, physical education and computers. Social skills, critical thinking, cooperation, grace and peace education are topics that are implemented into all lessons. The students are expected to interact with each other kindly and to treat the school and all of their materials with respect. The children are given opportunities to work to their fullest potential in acquiring their academic and social skills. Their ‘works’ include individual, small group and large group activities where they have the freedom to make choices, understand consequences and practice self-responsibility. Students also gain problem solving and conflict resolution skills while in Miss Suha’s class. These are lessons that will take them far in life! Miss Suha teaches her students the ground rules for the classroom on the very first day of class and is consistent with her expectation of the students’ effort, attitude and behavior. She works hard to set a class routine that the children understand, appreciate and thrive from. She does an incredible job at differentiating her lessons, assignments and assessments to meet the individual needs of each student in her room. It amazes me that she is able to create individual lesson plans for all 32 students! When you walk into the class, you will see all of the children working quietly at their own rug when doing their individual work. When they have completed a task, they know to have a teacher check their work, and then they can move on to the next work or optional activity. While this is occurring you will also notice small groups formed working on larger tasks, and Miss Suha at a table working on new material with a few students at a time. Of course large group instruction also takes place during ‘circle time’ twice a day as well. The students move seamlessly from one activity to the next in an organized and systematic way. They have a strong sense of security because they know what to expect in Miss Suha’s room at all times. Miss Suha can be described as a calm, kind and caring teacher who has extremely high expectations of her students. She motivates them to always do their best and to not be afraid to make mistakes. She challenges them to continue growing by trying new things, brainstorming and asking questions. Each child feels welcome, safe and loved while they are in her class. Our daughter has been in Miss Suha’s class for the last two years and is just SOARING! We could not as for a better teacher for our child than Miss Suha. We feel so blessed that she has given our daughter such a solid academic foundation which will certainly lead to a successful future as she continues her schooling. She has been an excellent partner with us when it comes to instilling positive character traits that we want our daughter to possess. We appreciate Miss Suha’s hard work and dedication to her class and the entire Lakes Area Montessori school. Miss Suha has given our child the greatest gift of all – the love of learning! Miss Suha is an excellent role model for the young people in her classroom. She demonstrates kindness, polite manners and good etiquette. Her class runs smoothly with order and routine. The children learn about the importance of cleanliness. They learn about hygiene and self-care. Students know it’s their responsibility to replace their learning materials when they are through with them. Even though the class thrives on structure, Miss Suha is still sure to include FUN! Smiles, laughter, games and songs are common place in her room. My daughter looks forward to school each day and misses her teachers and classmates on days that she is not there.” – Michelle Brandon, White Lake

Wayne County

Sue-Beth Balash

Ridge Wood Elementary School, Northville

“Mrs. Balash is the BEST! She was the most caring third grade teacher my now-seventh-grade son Spencer could have asked for. She understood his challenges and cared for him unconditionally and supported him through his ups and downs both emotionally and academically. We have since moved to another school district and she lives in the area we now live in. We see her occasionally in town at a restaurant and she is always so excited to catch up with Spencer. We love Mrs. Balash and things she is an amazing teacher who touches her students and leaves a lasting impact on all of them!” – Angela Jones, Milford

Karen Hart

Plymouth Christian Academy

“Miss. Hart is one of the great teachers at PCA. She is a kindergarten teacher and what makes her stand out is her heart of gold. She is always very pleasant and excited about teaching. She has great patience and she wears a smile daily. I believe she is truly committed to building a strong foundation that will be strong enough for children to excel in their future educational endeavors.” – Ericka Thornton, Canton

Shiba Hill

Westside Christian Academy, Detroit

“From day one, my son’s preschool teacher has done a phenomenal job. The kids in her class adore her. She’s kind and very patient with the children. Mrs. Hill deserves the Top Teacher Award for her extra effort she puts in every day to make sure the preschool students at WCA have all they need so they can advance to the next level. Mrs. Hill loves her job and I love her for loving it so much. It shows in her work with my son!” – Keani Harris, Detroit

Karen McGraw

Dearborn Heights Montessori Center

“My son been with Karen for two years and he’s doing great.” – Ghada Kawar, Dearborn Heights

“My teacher Mrs. Karen McGraw deserves to be teacher of the year! Mrs. Karen disciplines me like a mother and teachers me to be a really good child. When Mrs. Karen gives me a compliment that I did something right, she makes me feel very special about myself. When Mrs. Karen laughs, I feel very happy. I really like when she teaches me things that are above my level in the third grade. She really prepares us for our standardized tests. I am not only great at math now, Mrs. Karen prepared me and all the other third levels to be great in grammar. My sister Alina is a first level and she adores Mrs. Karen too. Mrs. Karen doesn’t put us down, she makes us better and better each day. Mrs. Karen is a magnificent teacher because she always makes me feel like such a special kid. I want to do my best all the time because I don’t ever want to let her down. I loved Mrs. Karen for all three years and when I leave her class to fourth grade I am going to be so sad. I wish I could stay back with her one more year or have her teach me in fourth, fifth and sixth grade. That would probably make Alina and Adam really mad and sad not to have her as their teacher. But at least I will! – Ali Younes, Dearborn

“I truly believe that Mrs. Karen McGraw should be selected as 2016 Teacher of the Year. Currently, I am in the fourth grade and I cannot explain how much I’ve missed being in Mrs. Karen’s classroom. Mrs. McGraw was my teacher for the best three years of my life – first, second and third grade. Even though she’s one of the most strict teachers of the school, she’s also loving, kind and amazing in so many ways. Mrs. Karen did not only teach me math, reading, writing and science, but she taught me how to do one of the things I’ve always wanted to learn … a cartwheel! Even though I’m great at it now, I will never compare to how good her cartwheels are! And you just have to see how elegant and beautiful her handwriting is. Her lessons are not any ordinary lessons. They are so entertaining that time flies by. When she was giving a lesson on habitat, she made it really make sense to me. She gave me an example of a baby gorilla in Australia being pulled out of his habitat and placed in another area and how sad that poor gorilla was. She just makes you “get it!” I used to doubt myself and not trust my instincts. I will always love her for teaching me to believe in myself. Now I feel confident and believe that I can accomplish anything. My Star Teacher, Mrs. Karen!” – Julia Younes, Dearborn

“She’s a great teacher and caring person.” – Nesrine Berry, Dearborn

“I would like to speak to you today about an exceptional woman. Upon seeing the advertisement for The Metro Parent 2016 Top Teachers Awards, I immediately envisioned Karen McGraw, the first-third grade Montessori teacher from Dearborn Heights Montessori Center (DHMC) whom three out of my five children had the privilege of having thus far. Mrs. McGraw is the embodiment of all that constitutes an exceptional teacher. I speak not only primarily as a mother, but also as an educator of 18 years. In the four years that I have known Karen McGraw, I have been both impressed and heartened by her peacefully dynamic nature. I marvel at the uniqueness of the seemingly paradoxical qualities she possesses: she is at once firm but nurturing; serious but playful; maternal yet childlike. It is through the combination of these dual traits that she manages to truly relate to, bond with and almost enchant the children she teaches. Upon entering her classroom she can always be found completely engrossed in whatever the lesson at hand may be. Her petite frame seems to camouflage with the students. Whether she be huddled with them all grouped on the floor teaching any subject, or leaning over a smaller differentiated group guiding an individualized activity, her essence establishes the pulse of the classroom. Her students are routinely found fully engaged and excited to learn. Her dynamic use of time and creative lesson plans (which she takes so personally) that a parent dare not attempt to remove their child even 2 minutes early lest they break her magical spell. Mrs. McGraw also boasts a long list of favorite and necessary teacher qualities from setting the bar of learning expectations high for all, to her exceptional organizational skills, to her very pointed use of meaningful praise that comes rarely but with such a profound and lasting impact. This creates a culture of proud learners. Such genuine and heartfelt compliments have brought my children literally to tears for the pride they have felt in knowing they have legitimately earned them. Again, this exemplifies her ability to influence each student to do and be their best in a most holistically and intrinsic way. It is for this that I am especially grateful to her: the genuine desire for learning and inquiry she has unequivocally imparted to each one of my children. This, I would say, especially in my perspective as an educator is the crowning hallmark of all teaching. Mrs. McGraw deserves the distinction of 2016 Top Teacher Award for her amazing ability to make learning intrinsically valuable to children. I will be forever grateful to her as there is no better foundation and gift to give to a child than this.” – Rima Younes, Dearborn

“I have never met a teacher who cared more about the well being and education of children. She pushes children to see outside the box and to be high achievers. She believes in them and shows them by caring about their success and achievements. She created leaders and enthusiastic students. She is one of a kind and I would highly nominate her with no question. She is amazing and I love her so much. God bless her for all her hard work. She lets kids stay after school and stays with them and even keeps in touch with parents about children who have left her class. She always checked on my daughter when we moved. She is so easy to talk to and I wish more teachers were like her. She always gave her cell number and would encourage us to call her and discuss any concerns. Again truly deserving recipient.” – Sabrina Safiedine, Franklin

“ALWAYS goes above and beyond. Takes from her personal time to make sure that each child get the attention they deserve! Works with each child on an individual basis to make sure they are getting the best education possible! Always communicates well with parents and makes sure to keep them involved and informed. All that while keeping the student excited about school and learning! This is the fourth year that I’ve had a child in her class and I am still always impressed by her dedication!” – Zeena Hourani, Dearborn

“I have three children that attend Dearborn Heights Montessori Center. Of the three, two have been or are currently students of Karen McGraw. Her dedication to her students is profound. She goes above and beyond what is accepted from her. From follow-up phone calls during summer break, to meeting to help challenge her students when she should be enjoy her vacation, to staying after school every day to make sure her students are where they should be. She treats each and every student of hers as if they are her own and gives each one her undivided attention, as you know that is very hard to accomplish when you have 25 students. Her mind is constantly working as to how she can make make education fun and beneficial for her students. I volunteer twice a week in her classroom and I always leave feeling as though my kids are the luckiest students to have such an amazing teacher. I hope you consider her as a nominee.” – Jennifer Darwich, Dearborn

“Karen McGraw is the definition of a dedicated teacher who goes above and beyond every single day to ensure that her students are engaging in the best leaning experience. Mrs. McGraw has taught two of my children so far at DHMC, and I am proud to say that she is the best of the best. The students are continuously challenged with tasks that create exceptional learning opportunities for them. Mrs. McGraw encourages children to read, write, do math and science beyond their average abilities because she knows that all that the child needs is for someone to make him or her feel capable and give them the opportunity to try. Mrs. McGraw is organized, efficient, creative, culturally tolerant and above all is adamant to raise good citizens. Her love for nature is an asset that gives the students an opportunity to connect with their outdoor world and acquire an appreciation for it in a new and beautiful way. Teachers like Karen McGraw deserve to be acknowledged, and thus I am hoping that your magazine will give us, parents, the opportunity to show our gratitude for her and her distinguished teaching.” – Hanan Fadlallah, Dearborn

“Exhibit outstanding skills, dedicated to each child’s specific needs, never gives up on delivering the learning to a child even when challenged with resistance until she get the expected outcomes. My son was a great example, and she was able to change behavioral and learning skills in a short period of time. I admire her skills and wish her success to continue to inspire and teach. We need more teachers like Karen to build compassionate/educated community.” – Abir Mehanna, Dearborn

India Moore

Matrix Head Start-Infinity II, Detroit

“Ms. Moore went above and beyond the call of duty as a teacher for my special needs child, all while not having a permanent teacher the first couple months of school. She made my child a sensory box. She helped with different potty training techniques. She even came to her birthday party. My daughter adores Ms. Moore and so do I. She’s definitely a Top Teacher!” – Charnita Bostic, Grosse Pointe

Donnie Wilson

Cornerstone Nevada Primary, Detroit

“Mr. Wilson gave my child the love of learning. He understands that every child learns differently and that there are many ways to get a child to learn. He was my son’s first teacher in pre-K. He learned so many things from him. Mr. Wilson is patient, kind and an angel walking on earth! My family and I are so thankful and appreciative for all of the things he taught and still teaches my son!” – LaToya Moore, Detroit

Metro Parent Editorial Team
Metro Parent Editorial Team
Since 1986, the Metro Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for metro Detroit families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.


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