Top Teacher Award Nominations 2012

From the kindergarten teacher with the heart of gold to that science teacher who infuses kids with a passion for the periodic table – teachers all across southeast Michigan educate and empower kids of all ages. Metro Parent asked you to nominate the best teachers in your area when it comes to your child’s education. See what local parents had to say about these K-12 teachers from Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

Macomb County

Katie Stenger

Thomas Edison Elementary, Fraser

“Ms. Stenger is my son’s kindergarten teacher at Edison Elementary in Fraser. She is an amazing teacher whose passion for teaching is evident in the way she makes learning a fun and positive experience. She has 25 students in her classroom all day, yet she makes each and every student feel like they are important and recognized. This is a challenging grade to teach, as kindergarten can be an exciting or difficult adjustment for many students. However, you would never know this, as she always greets students and parents with a smile every school day. Teachers like Ms. Stenger help build a foundation for lifelong learning, and I am grateful my son has the opportunity to experience that through her teaching!”

– Tina, Fraser

“She has a special way of teaching her kindergarteners. She also offers a youthful perspective that I really think helps her students. As a parent, I feel truly blessed that my daughter has her as a teacher!”

– Lori, Fraser

“Kindergarten is the most important year of a successful educational career for children. In order to get children off to the best start, a teacher must be encouraging and demanding, motivating, part-mom and part-educator, and be able to get each and every child to feel like his/her education is the most important thing in the world to the teacher. Ms. Stenger is doing a superb job with a large classroom of 5-year-olds, each with his/her own challenges. For (these kids), a full day of school is tiring and challenging, yet I see a classroom of happy, confident children exit Ms. Stenger’s room each time I go there after school. She is getting each child to attain the very best possible.”

– Katie, Fraser

Julie Ricci

Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary, Fraser

“Our son, Ethan, had Mrs. Ricci for developmental kindergarten – and she was amazing. Ethan has life-threatening food allergies, which made me very anxious about sending him to school without me. Mrs. Ricci did absolutely everything in her power to keep Ethan safe and ease my mind, and has continued to support us throughout our years since. Ethan is in third grade now and I have often gone to Mrs. Ricci for support or guidance regarding opinion on different situations that have occurred and she is always more than willing to help out. She is amazing with the kids and they just feel at ease with her.”

– Lisa, Fraser

Robert Park

Thomas Edison Elementary, Fraser

“Mr. Park is the fifth and sixth grade band teacher at Fraser Public Schools. He is wonderful with the kids and gets them excited about band. We have a huge sixth grade band and it is mainly because all the kids love Mr. Park. He went out of his way to help my son advance in his trombone playing. My son is not into sports and has never really enjoyed school. Since he has started band he actually looks forward to school – especially band days. Mr. Park is very good with all the kids and takes the time to get to know them and help them be their best. At our house we call his touch the “magic of Mr. Park.” He can get our son to do things that no one else could. He encouraged our son to do a solo at the fifth grade concert in front of hundreds and to join the sixth grade jazz band as a fifth grader, not knowing anyone. Mr. Park has changed our son’s life in a fantastic way!”

– Elizabeth, Fraser

James Rodgers

Fraser High School, Fraser

“Jim Rodgers, affectionately known as ‘J-Rodge’ by many of his students and parents, is the band teacher at Fraser High School. He is also a Fraser graduate. I have a son and a stepdaughter who were both Mr. Rodgers’ students in high school. They graduated in 2007 and 2008. Both of them would tell you that the best time they had in high school was definitely band. Fraser High School has a marching band of over 200 students! This can be directly credited to Mr. Rodgers – and the strong elementary and middle school band program in Fraser schools. But with so many students to handle in the high school band, Jim does an incredible job of keeping his cool. This band has received Division 1 ratings every year at marching band competitions. As a bus driver, I watch a ragamuffin group of students get on the buses to go to an event and then become a beautiful, uniformed, well-organized marching machine playing beautiful music. As soon as Jim speaks, they listen! The respect the students have for Jim is incredible, and this gives him amazing control over such a huge group of teenagers. The marching band students go to camp for five days in the summer, and in this five days they work out almost their entire halftime program – complicated marching patterns and music together! They perfect it in a week of daily practice at the school and one night weekly after that. But what Jim is able to pull from so many students, and so impressively, never ceases to amaze. Fraser is one of the smallest school districts in the state, but we have one of the biggest – and best – bands. And now we have one of Jim’s students who has graduated, is in college and is currently working in our elementary band program. The first place he wanted to be was back with his mentor. My son went into the Air Force after graduation and has played in the band in basic training and is also in honor guard, where he plays for special occasions. Unfortunately, Fraser hasn’t had the best record for our football team in recent years, but the bleachers are still packed for every home game – at least until after half-time. A lot of fans are there to see our band! And did I mention that we didn’t even really have a marching band program until J-Rodge came back to Fraser? Once he took over our band began to excel, and it has gotten better with every year. Jim Rodgers has influenced so many young lives in such a positive way. He has made being a ‘band geek’ a good thing. He deserves the ‘Top Teacher Award,’ and any parent who has ever had a student in his band would say the same!”

– Roberta, Fraser

Mary Johnson

Bruce Collins Elementary, Sterling Heights

“Her unique skills and vast experience in early childhood development were instrumental in my formative years. Mrs. Johnson provided me with skills that enabled me to transform from a quiet child with limited social skills to become a well-rounded and independent young woman that can handle any social situation. From Mrs. Johnson, I also learned how to use the computer. In learning this valuable piece of information, I am able to adapt with today’s modern technology. Mrs. Johnson’s caring and nurturing style of working with children has left a profound and deep impression on me that I will never forget.”

– Julie, Howell

Ms. Witte

St. Peter’s Lutheran School, Eastpointe

“As a current teacher myself, I know how hard it is to connect to students on a daily basis. Ms. Witte is a secnd-grade teacher that is dedicated to her students/classroom and makes connections with her students that will last a lifetime. My daughter Alexandria has blossomed in Ms. Witte’s classroom. She was a shy and quiet student in the beginning of the school year, but now has gained confidence, poise and determination to complete her work to her fullest potential. Also, Ms. Witte takes each student into account by gaining as much information about the students (as possible), as well. She will ask questions of each student and provide the students with multiple opportunities to bring in their culture, ideas and likes into a project. Ms. Witte has a love for sled dogs; she has brought her sled dogs to the classroom so the students can learn about the dog sport. Also, she has the kids track the Iditarod race throughout the race time period. Then, Ms. Witte brings her dogs and sled to the school, so the kids can ride on the sled while the dogs pull it through the snow. This is a teacher that is dedicated to her students by providing high-quality instruction, as well as providing the students with an enriched curriculum that brings new interest and knowledge amongst the students. My daughter will remember Ms. Witte throughout her lifetime as being patient, kind and a teacher who cared about every child in her classroom.”

– Kelli, St. Clair

Wayne Janda

Briarwood Elementary, Warren

“Mr. Janda is very dedicated and loves his students. Sometimes, he is still at school until 8:30 p.m. after all the other teachers have gone home. The students in his class really respond to him and his teaching methods; they are having fun and learning at the same time. Mr. Janda deserves a moment to shine!”

– Denise, Warren

“Mr. Janda is one of the best teacher’s I’ve ever met! He is currently my daughter Molly’s second grade teacher. Mr. Janda has an infectious enthusiasm for teaching. His positive attitude coupled with his ability to connect with the students on their own level make him an inspiration in the classroom. He is always looking for ways to engage the students in active learning and challenges them to be their ‘Bronco Best’ at every opportunity. The last time I stopped by the class unexpectedly, I saw my daughter and her classmates on their feet cheering on students competing in a math game about fractions. If Mr. Janda can make fractions that exciting, he can teach these kids anything! He also spends a great deal of time helping the students improve not only their minds, but their character. He stresses community and integrity in the classroom. His high standards and connection with the students make him an A+ teacher.”

– Elizabeth, Warren

Mrs. Shaum

Graebner Elementary, Sterling Heights

“Mrs. Shaum truly has a love for teaching. This year, she has a class of 25 kindergarten students, and almost all the children are like mine: hyper, talkative and overly playful. She handles the classroom with ease. She is firm but nice. The children love her. I volunteer in the class once a week, and I am always amazed at her patience and understanding. The kids have learned so much despite the fact that they seem to rarely listen. My daughter is extremely talkative and can’t sit still, but Mrs. Shaum is always so good with her; it amazes me. She is truly one of the best teachers I have ever dealt with.”

– Michele, Sterling Heights

Mrs. Friedrich

Browning Elementary School, Sterling Heights

“I would love to nominate Mrs. Friedrich. She is a kindergarten teacher at Browning Elementary School in Sterling Heights. My daughter is in her class this year. We are a military family that has been in Michigan for three years. As a military family, our children go through hardships that many children do not have to face. Mrs. Friedrich has gone above and beyond with helping my daughter this year adjust to all the changes that we face. My husband is currently stateside but travels a lot. He will be leaving in March for schooling in Georgia while we stay here. At the end of this school year, we will move to the D.C. area. This has been hard for my 5-year-old. She is very unsure of all that will go along with these changes. Mrs. Friedrich has talked with me in great details as to how to help my daughter out. This is Mrs. Friedrich’s first year in kindergarten, as she taught fourth grade last year. She has brought a lot of love and fun to her class this year, and all the kids love her. Mrs. Friedrich is an A+ teacher in my book!”

– Trish, Sterling Heights

Mrs. Kocovski

Graebner Elementary, Sterling Heights

“Mrs. Kocovski is my son’s kindergarten teacher. She has 26 children in the class, and she takes the time to know each of them. She is always positive; even when everyone is sharing colds, she makes sure to be in class. The kids are so important to her. I feel like she takes care of my son as if he were her own (and she has three of her own!). I love the communication Mrs. Kocovski is committed to with the parents. It feels like we are all on the same team. We are very fortune to have such a hard-working, positive, sweet, kind and loving teacher as her. She really is a trooper. My son loves her. All the kids love her. I think she is a great teacher and deserves this award!”

– Krystn, Sterling Heights

Cassie Cicchini

Cherokee Elementary, Clinton Township

“Until my son reached fourth grade and Mrs. Cicchini’s class, I had never had a truly outstanding school experience. He was diagnosed with ADD in first grade, and every teacher always said, ‘He’s got so much potential, but he doesn’t use his time well.’ Every conference began the same way: ‘Your son’s a really nice boy, but… ‘ That was the point when all the negative things, I already knew, were splashed out there for me to be reminded of. And then I walked into Mrs. Cicchini’s room, all prepared for the worst for our first November conference. ‘Your son’s such a nice boy.’ Rolling my eyes, I said, “Yeah, yeah, but… ” With a huge smile she said, “No ‘but.’ He’s just really an awesome kid!” She spent 10 minutes telling me all the successes he’s had in her class and went on and on about how much progress he’d made since the first weeks of school. She made me smile with anecdotes of his precocious behavior, which she thought of as amusing, while he tried his darnedest to get out of one assignment or another before finally giving in. It has always seemed disheartening to send my son off to spend his whole day with teachers who didn’t necessarily understand what made him tick. Words like ‘lazy’ and ‘disorganized’ were how he was described by the people who spent more significant hours in a day with him than I did. Then Mrs. Cicchini came along and said he was creative and funny. She described his strengths and didn’t worry about where he was lacking. She took the time to listen to my suggestions about what would work and what wouldn’t, and she tried to understand the kid and not lump him into a category of ‘normal.’ She saw what his strengths were and built on them. She made him feel like if he tried his best, that was good enough. So he did. When in previous years he’d come to the conclusion, ‘Why bother? It would never be good enough anyway.’ Finally he began saying, ‘Look how great I did!’ Kids with issues aren’t always easy to deal with, especially in a classroom where the bottom line score is all the matters at the end of the school year. Mrs. Cicchini looked beyond the bottom line number and found a wonderful boy who would have tried anything with the encouragement one outstanding teacher could offer. Bravo to the best teacher that this mom has ever met!”

– Patrice, Macomb

Dana Haigh

Carlson Elementary, Warren

“Dana Haigh is an exemplary teacher here in Van Dyke Schools in Warren. Her passion for teaching and learning is contagious! Dana has a demonstrated record of commitment and enthusiasm for teaching and leading within her classroom and outside of her classroom walls. Her professional responsibilities surpass the required expectations for teachers. Dana is currently in her fifth consecutive year as a school improvement facilitator, she is involved in the Van Dyke Teacher Leadership Program, she is a member on the elementary ELA committee – and she facilitates the first-grade ELA intervention system for at-risk learners. Dana has led and presented professional development for staff, which recently included the topic of guided reading. Dana is a member of the Carlson PTO, too, and regularly volunteers for their projects. Additionally, she attends almost every Carlson Family Night. She’s served in the past on the following district committees: Language arts curriculum, math committee and report card committee. Dana’s dedication to teaching and leading within the early elementary grades for over 19 years has made her an expert in her classroom and in implementing literacy standards. Her leadership roles in the building and district, as noted, are numerous! She supports and cooperates professionally with her colleagues. She is sought out by her peers and administrators as a resource for her organized and well-planned literacy centers. She is always willing to share her knowledge and use of research-based strategies. Dana was a member of the 2008 MISD Teacher Leader Cohort. She has engaged the community within her classroom and district by seeking out community resources and programs for family nights. Dana participates in the annual Van Dyke Foundation for Excellence Fundraiser and has written and received four mini-grants for her students. Dana demonstrates a genuine caring and respect for all of her students. Positive behavior supports and recognition are implemented for a safe and nurturing learning environment. Students are always wanting to respond, which shows the strong, trusting relationships she has with them. There are high expectations for the learning; students work productively and assume responsibility for their learning. Activities and interactions also convey high expectations for student achievement. Dana is able to monitor and adjust lessons as needed, and she often steps aside to let her students take on a teaching role as appropriate. She promotes and nurtures positive relationships with her students, parents and families. She makes it a priority to welcome her students and parents every morning, and she even voluntarily supervises bus-duty at the end of the day to ensure her students safety – as well as promote positive communication with parents.”

– Tricia, Warren

Lauren Wesolowski

Prevail Academy, Mount Clemens

“Ms. Wesolowski is a kind, caring and very involved teacher who always takes the time to make sure our children are receiving the best education possible. My son had struggled with moving to a new school this year, as he is a mainstreamed autistic child who never had to transition to a new school before – and Ms. Wesolowski assisted us with ensuring we made the change as smooth and easy for Josh as possible. Ms. Wesolowski used every social story I sent in for my son, and let me come in to stay with him in the mornings for several weeks until he was settled into the new routine and school. I truly wish that every teacher was as open, caring and patient as Ms. Wesolowski has been with my son.”

– Adriane, Clinton Township

Patty Schwartz

West Utica Elementary, Shelby Township

“Mrs. Schwartz is the most outgoing and loving teacher at the school. She has been with my son’s third grade class for two years, and you can see how much the kids love her. This year in third grade, she got all the kids hooked on the Michigan and American Chillers series from Michigan author Johnathan Rand. The kids are having contests for reading the most in one night, who can finish a book faster, etc. These kids LOVE reading, and I thank Mrs. Schwartz for getting our kids to read and enjoy it at the same time. This is her last year at West Utica; she is retiring after 35 years teaching at the school. I would love to nominate such a wonderful person and teacher.”

– Erin, Shelby Township

“Mrs. Schwartz has been teaching for over 35 years, and this is her last year. I think she is a GREAT teacher. She is the type of teacher I had as a child. She still believes in all of the old methods of teaching instead of some of the new ways, which I feel show children the lazy way of life. She also treats every child like they were her own.”

– Tina, Shelby Township

Mrs. Pearson

St. Germaine School, St. Clair Shores

“She is my son’s science teacher. He is in first grade; she teaches third and science. My son, Miki, talks about her all of the time – how she is nice, helpful, understanding and makes learning fun and interesting. I’m sure that he probably finds her to be attractive as well. He always wants to be in afterschool science class and only talks about what he learned in her class. I agree that she is down-to-earth, very, kind caring and a good-looking young gal. She treats everyone with great respect and is humble. Most teachers lack that – and can learn a lot from her.”

– Katarina, St. Clair Shores

Connie Hagel

Sequoyah Elementary School, Macomb

“Mrs. Hagel is a kind, caring, remarkable and devoted teacher who goes out of her way for her students and their parents.”

– Amanda, Macomb

Mary Beth Ostrowski

Walt Disney Elementary, Clinton Township

“Mrs. Ostrowski is an excellent teacher! She is so caring, and the structure of the class is amazing. It is so unbelievable to me how she is able to keep 24 kindergarten students structured and organized. She is very goal-oriented and sets high expectations of each student in order for them to succeed. She treats each student with the utmost respect. This is her first kindergarten class that she is teaching this year, and I think she is doing a fabulous job. My daughter loves her and talks about her every single day. If we had more teachers like her, many children would be a lot more advanced and excited about school. When my daughter walks up to the door, Mrs. Ostrowski always has a big smile on her face and greets the children with the best spirit ever. She really deserves this award!”

– Crystal, Clinton Township

Bonnie McCormick

Great Oak Elementary, Chesterfield

“This teacher is a tough teacher, but she commands the respect and attention of her students. My child was not interested in reading until she had Mrs. McCormick and, half-way through the year, she loves it. She really is in-tune to her students’ whole education. She keeps track of all their progress through the year and can back-up at conferences all the achievements and areas of improvement with past work – and not just grades. She is caring and on-top of issues in the class between students and pulls all aside and gets to the bottom of things in a fair way. She turns these kids’ work ethics and study habits around and gets them back on track. I have the utmost respect for Mrs. Bonnie McCormick. My daughter cried the last day of school because she missed her. To this day, she has kept in contact with my daughter during her elementary days and asks how she is doing. Even sending my daughter a sympathy card when she lost her grandmother. She is one of the best teachers in the school. I am thankful my daughter had the chance to have her as a teacher and only hope my boys get her, as well.”

– Pamela, Chesterfield Township

Oakland County

Amy Miller

Walled Lake Elementary, Walled Lake

“Mrs. Miller inspires learning and individuality in each of her students. She takes the time to learn each student’s interests, and what will best motivate them to excel. She teaches as if each student was her own child. There isn’t a parent I’ve come in contact with that doesn’t comment with how extraordinary of a teacher she was for their child. From the meetings and conferences we have had with her, it was very apparent that she took the time to get to know each student personally. My daughter was disappointed when the weekend came around and she couldn’t go to school. Mrs. Miller is a huge supporter of writing and reading, which had a large impact on my daughter. She would take extra time to assist with Internet research for non-fiction writing – even at the kindergarten level. Her passion for teaching, reading and writing was instilled in many of the students. My daughter dedicated one of her first grade stories to Mrs. Miller ‘for teaching me to love to write.'”

– Holly, Wixom

“Mrs. Miller works extremely hard to understand each individual student and so she can help them develop. She has a lot of patience, and her excitement about learning is passed on to the students. She is creative and passionate – and she also treats all of the kids with compassion and care. She has found a way to not only make the kids better students, but better individuals.”

– Samreet, Wixom

“Mrs. Miller is a dedicated teacher and truly loves her students. She is the right mix of teacher, mother and caregiver that is needed when our ‘babies’ leave the nest and start school. Both of my children had Mrs. Miller for kindergarten, and I’m so thankful for her guidance and support – which set the right tone for both of my kids to thrive in school after leaving her classroom.”

– Kellie, Wixom

“Mrs. Miller was a bright shining light to her kindergarten students last year and I, as a mother, felt so comfortable in my heart knowing that my son was in such good hands every school day. Mrs. Miller is so dedicated and comforting to students and parents alike. Whenever I had a question, she was immediately responding to my emails and phone calls with the answers I needed. She devoted her time to the kids and made sure that they had fun while learning important skills, which they’ll need for the rest of their lives. She set a good foundation for them for their future school years. She is so creative, and she has created so many special projects for her students throughout the year – which I have saved as mementos from my son’s first year of school. I noticed that she always took the time to make her room warm and inviting, and parents were welcomed in the classroom to volunteer or to spend time celebrating the kids’ achievements. They were so proud to have loved ones in their classroom, and these are the memories that I think all her kids will benefit from when thinking back on their kindergarten days. The notes that came home from school always kept us informed, connected and aware of what the kids needed or what they were working on. Her organizational skills are fabulous! As another bonus, she always took the time to make each child feel special and recognized, whether it was by giving them an ‘orange ticket’ or sending home a note about what the child did great that day or why they were a ‘star.’ I am certain that each of her students felt valued and proud. As a mom, I enjoyed reading the classroom blog and seeing photos of school activities – something that I feel shows that she goes above and beyond to include the parents and keep them informed. Certainly, this is not necessary for her to do, but she did it willingly, and I for one really enjoyed the extra peek inside the classroom. I could go on and on, because the examples of her generosity are endless. Because of the many examples I already explained and all of the ones I forgot to mention, I strongly believe that all of her efforts should be rewarded and appreciated. Teachers like her don’t come along too often, in my opinion. I feel that Walled Lake Elementary is very lucky to have such a great instructor – and all the children who go through her classroom will only benefit from the love and learning that she provides. Please consider this letter my formal nomination that Mrs. Amy Miller be awarded the honor of being Metro Parent’s Top Teacher. She really is a shining star at Walled Lake Elementary!”

– Tamar, Wixom

Donna Finn

Holy Family Regional School, Rochester Hills

“Mrs. Finn in a second grade teacher. She facilitates learning in a non-intimidating, positive classroom environment. She allows children to display their personality while facilitating learning. She facilitates class discussions around the topic she is teaching. She is a fun teacher but gets the content covered. Her teaching ability allows children to be themselves and feel comfortable in her classroom. She is caring, compassionate and genuine. She really tries to get to know the parents and family in addition to the children in her classroom. She likes to know about their extracurricular activities, too. My daughter looks forward to going to school each day and tells me how much she loves Mrs. Finn.”

– Janet, Rochester Hills

“She is a wonderful teacher and makes learning fun for the children.”

– Jill, Rochester

“She is patient and motivating and makes a point to make sure the children learn to love school. She has been a blessing to us this year.”

– Gina, Oakland Township

Stacey Burns

Halfman Elementary, Madison Heights

“Mrs. Burns is one of the most passionate teachers I have ever met. She sincerely cares about each one of her students and goes above and beyond to make sure they succeed. We recently moved, so my children are new students at Halfman – and Mrs. Burns has helped my daughter adjust well academically and emotionally. She has a gentle way of teaching the children. I love the fact that before the children even walk in the classroom, they have to give Mrs. Burns a handshake, hug or a high five. I would love for her to be recognized for what a great job she does with the students and how much we love her!”

– Nanette, Madison Heights

Richele Williams

Discovery Corner Academy, Troy

“Discovery Corner Academy is blessed to have Ms. Richele Williams as their kindergarten teacher. Our son, Liam, loves going to school and learning from such an enthusiatic and dedicated teacher. Ms. Richele takes time every day to greet each student as they come into the room – and even takes a few minutes to connect with the parents. Every week, each student has ‘special time’ with Ms. Richele – one on one time to review lessons, receive any support that may be needed, and general encouragement. Additionally, parents receive a written report and letter every Friday detailing what was covered in class the past week and the child’s progress. It is precisely because of Ms. Richele’s dedication and high level of expertise that our son, Liam, is reading, relating “stories” to us about Hanukkah, Martin Luther King, Jr., Chinese New Year, Native Americans, fire preparedness, and the “famous” science experiment taste test. Having a group of energetic kindergartners would appear to be exhausting, but Ms. Richele is patient and kind to every child. She is always well-prepared, enthusiastic and compassionate. Quite honestly, she exudes love for each student! Ms. Richele, we all love you very much!”

– Claudia, Ferndale

Kerry Kowalcyzk

Parkview Elementary, Novi

“My daughter always says Mrs. Kowalczyk is her favorite teacher. When I ask her why, she tells me Mrs. Kowalczyk cares about everyone, makes learning fun and never yells. As a parent, I feel Mrs. Kowalczyk goes above and beyond excellence and is truly dedicated to kids and teaching. She individualizes the curriculum to meet the needs of all the children in her classroom and has high expectations for each child. The learning activities she provides for the students are interactive, fun and teach to a variety of learning styles (visual, kinesthetic, etc.). Mrs. Kowalczyk treats each child as an individual and makes a personal connection with each one. Her classroom is one of movement and change. She uses her smart board and lets the kids use her SMART Board everyday, all day long, for a variety of learning activities including reading, math and science. She’s implemented the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People into her everyday work with the kids. Mrs. Kowalczyk is calm and gentle with the kids and has great parent communication. I’ve seen her spend her own money to get a kid a book from the book fair and to buy things for kids to use in her classroom. At the end of the year, when my daughter had her last day of first grade, I cried. My daughter will always hold Mrs. Kowalczyk in her heart as a very special teacher, and so will I.”

– Kimberly, Novi

Jamie Pastwa

Lake Orion Community Schools, Lake Orion

“I would like to nominate our 3-year-old son’s preschool teacher, Mrs. Jamie Pastwa. She has been our son’s special education teacher for two years now. Our son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. From the very beginning, she has exceeded all of our expectations. She always has a smile on her face and a positive attitude that the kids and parents appreciate. She is one of the most important people in our son’s life, and we are so grateful for her and appreciate everything she does for him. She deserves to win the Metro Parent’s Top Teacher Award because she always goes above and beyond to make sure her students are making progress and having fun along the way. She always keeps the parents involved and informed about what is going on in the classroom. She is more then just a great teacher; she is the best.”

– Kristy, Oxford

Elizabeth Levy

Whitmore Lake High, Whitmore Lake

“Ms. Elizabeth Binder Levy teaches special needs high school students with compassion and energy. She has also served as a counselor and expects to complete her second Masters Degree this summer.”

– Laurie, Farmington Hills

Kevin Gallatin

Hazel Park High, Hazel Park

“Kevin is the most dedicated teacher I know. He always goes above and beyond the call of duty with his students. Whenever they need something, he provides them with love, support and respect. His job is to teach math, but in actuality, he does so much more.”

– Emily, Berkley

Marlene Azzo

Hiller Elementary, Madison Heights

“Miss Marlene Azzo is an amazing third grade teacher! My son Dane has been lucky to have been in her class. 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 their education, interests and home life. She is an absolute treasure to our education system.”

– Stacey, Clawson

Lisa Norwick

Brookside School at Cranbrook Lower School, Bloomfield Hills

“While all of my daughter’s teachers at Brookside have been outstanding, her current fourth grade teacher, Lisa Norwick, is exemplary. She challenges her students each day to achieve the best work possible and simultaneously instills a love of learning. Her teaching approach appears to treat each child on an individual basis and tailors her academic program accordingly. She must have a unique and refreshing way of teaching math, since math has now become my daughter’s favorite subject. My daughter is so inspired to get to school each morning, and Mrs. Norwick is no doubt the catalyst for her motivation.”

– Karen, West Bloomfield

Jan Irvin

Lanigan Elementary, Farmington Hills

“Mrs. Irvin has taught my son, who is now 12, my daughter (8) and now is teaching one of my twin girls. I volunteer in her class once a week, so I see the level of committement she puts into her students. It is getting harder for our teachers to teach with the various ethnic backgrounds, behavioural issues and lack of support from parents. Not to mention that the kindergarten curriculum has changed in seven years. I see Mrs. Irvin doing her best every time I am in the class. She encourages the children to make good choices and gives them hands-on opportunities to learn concepts. She is creative and organized. She also trains college students who wish to become teachers. Now that takes patience and dedication – on top of all the teaching being done with her students!”

– Esther, Farmington Hills

Mrs. Hudson

Lakewood Elementary, White Lake

“Mrs. Hudson is truly the teacher you want every child to experience a school year with! My 9-year-old daughter, Ava, is over-the-moon crazy about her. She can’t wait to go to school each morning and is eager to learn new things. She is tackling math (multiplication!) with such enthusiasm, I am both floored and thrilled! Mrs. Hudson didn’t go back to college to get her teaching degree until she was 36. Apparently she kept talking about the way things ‘should be done’ and her husband kept telling her ‘to put her money where her mouth was’ and she did – and we are so grateful for that! She is an excellent teacher, always trying to learn, and takes the time to know all of her student’s personalities. Ava is part of an Upward basketball team, and Mrs. Hudson asked for her schedule and came to a Saturday morning game. Ava was SO excited. She is the TOP teacher in my eyes – my daughter is thriving in third grade under her wonderful teaching style. Thank you for considering Mrs. Hudson for your award.”

– Leslie, White Lake

Kate Donnelly-Harris

Gill Elementary, Farmington Hills

“Mrs. Harris is an extraordinary teacher! I have seen my shy little kindergartener blossom into an enthusiastic, hard-working learner in her classroom this year. Mrs. Harris loves each of the students as individuals, showing them great love and understanding and challenging them at their individual levels. She has created a lovingly structured and organized classroom and school day that helps the children feel confident in their abilities, ability to work with their classmates, and learn both curriculum and social skills. She puts enormous extra effort into being available to parents, communicating with us and doing preparation for hours after the school day. I know she’s making a big difference in the lives of a lot of little people. Even my other daughter begs to go visit Mrs. Harris when I pick them up after school!”

– Cathrin, Farmington Hills

Cathy McCotter

Ealy Elementary, West Bloomfield

“My 4-year-old son, Xavier, has autism and he started at Ealy in Mrs. McCotter’s ASD class two years ago. She is the most caring and loving teacher I could ever imagine! She always has a smile on her face, and you can tell she loves all six of her students equally. Xavier is non-verbal, so she makes it a point to keep in touch with the parents via email to let us know about our children’s progress. My son has come a long way since he started school. Cathy spends a lot of her own money on supplies, toys and sensory items for her students. It shows in so many ways that she loves her job and looks forward to seeing her students every day! She is like a second family to us and, because of her, I know someday my Xavier will have a voice.”

– Carla, West Bloomfield

Cheryl Pelletier

Lanigan Elementary, Farmington Hills

“My son cannot wait to go to school. She makes learning a lot of fun for all the students. My son also has ADHD and is trying different medications. She has been with us and helping us every step of the way. I would recommend her to any parent of a first grader. We love everything about her!”

– Kelly, Farmington Hills

Adina Levin

Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills

“Mrs. Levin goes above and beyond the day-to-day requirements of her teaching work to thoroughly invest in the students’ learning and growth. She instills such a love of Hebrew, Israel and Judaica it is amazing to see.”

– Elliana, Commerce

Ellen Berlin

Brace-Lederle K-8 School, Southfield

“My mom has been teaching in the Southfield Public Schools system for the past 24 years. She is the most devoted woman to her job, and I look up to her as a role model daily. She stays after school to help struggling students. When she comes home, she gets her work done very quickly and grades very honestly and efficiently. I only hope I can be as wonderful as her.”

– Meredith, Huntington Woods

Judith Teodoridis-Clarke

Greenfield Elementary, Beverly Hills

“Thanks to the LRC teacher, Mrs. T., our son is having his best year ever in the fourth grade at Greenfield Elementary. To say he is thriving would be a gross understatement of his achievements in this school year. Due to birth trauma, he is behind in most areas. His reading, writing, math and social skills have all improved with her guidance. From the first week, Mrs. T. started figuring out what would motivate him to get his work done. For that fact alone, she deserves the Sherlock Holmes Award for her investigative prowess. He even chose to participate in the district-wide Battle of the Books reading competition. Those were some tough books for him to get through, but he just kept chugging along with encouragement from his family, classmates and teachers. Mrs. T. has found the perfect balance between giving him the support he needs to feel successful while also building his independence and self-confidence. She keeps in constant contact with us about how he’s doing, such as if he’s having an off day, or maybe he has shown an interest in a certain topic. She’d better be planning to stick around next year, or we may just have to follow her!”

– Julie, Southfield

Kathy Mouradian

Heritage Elementary, Highland

“Mrs. Mo, as the kids know her, is a fabulous kindergarten teacher. It’s her entire way of being that just surprises me in wonderful ways. Her class is different. She strings lots of lights to the ceiling and will give the children a break from the harsh fluorescent lights and use the ones she has hung (along with natural light from the windows). One day when my daughter forgot her glasses at home, Mrs. Mo moved her seat so she would have an easier day in school. My daughter felt better and had less eyestrain just because Mrs. Mo was proactive in helping her. Mrs. Mo has this kind and gentle way of being that makes me want to learn her secret so I can use it at home with my kids! I’ve seen her effortlessly help her special needs kids by leaning down to gently squeeze their shoulders to help them calm down. What she does, works. I watched her do this one day in amazement at how she just kept flowing in her gentle tone speaking to the class, helping this child to calm down as if it was just routine to her. I absolutely love Mrs. Mo’s approach to teaching her kindergarteners, and I’m so happy that my daughter is starting school with Mrs. Mo.”

– Jaimee, Highland

Mrs. Phillips

Daniel Axford Elementary, Oxford

“Mrs. Phillips is my son, Kirk’s, second grade teacher. The reasons I would like to nominate her are the following: 1. She has a very kid-friendly sounding voice. She is so easy for all the kids to open and relate to simply by her voice and personality. 2. She has very unique techniques she uses in the class – one of them being she teaches the kids sign language. She encourages them to use it in class when asking questions and, therefore, they pick it up very easily. Sign language is a language you can always use and you never know when you will need it. An example being: The class had a ‘lock down’ one day, and I happened to be there to help in the classroom. Mrs. Phillips calmly directed all of us to get into the walk-in closet and be very quiet. The reason for the lock down was there was an unidentified man walking outside the school property. We were kept calm by Mrs. Phillips with her using sign language to direct us. The situation turned out to be nothing to worry about; however, I thought, ‘What an amazing teacher to keep us so calm and in the know with the sign language.’ 3. Lastly, she makes all the children feel very special with all her praises, notes and stickers she rewards them with. I truly hope Mrs. Phillips will win this recognition as ‘Top Teacher.’ She really needs to be recognized!”

– Michele, Oxford

Brenda McGuire

Dolsen Elementary, New Hudson

“If there was a teacher who needs to be spotlighted as a top-notch teacher, my recommendation is for Mrs. McGuire. She is my daughter’s first grade teacher. This woman has been a blessing in my family’s life. You see, Izzy was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Before we knew she had this, Mrs. McGuire was taking steps to assure Izzy was comfortable in her class setting. Being a teacher with 25 other children to look after, Brenda makes sure to give every child in her class that one-on-one time. She believes in her students and, as a parent who has witnessed this, you become proud of teachers like her. I give her the most respect and only hope that my daughter comes across others like Mrs. McGuire in her school years to come. Mrs. Brenda McGuire deserves to be nominated – and here’s my vote.”

– Charlene, Wixom

Ms. Rama

Lakes Area Montessori Center, Commerce Township

“Ms. Rama knows the subject matter and inspires her students to do their best. She always makes her students feel important and welcome. Ms. Rama is the best teacher!”

– Elena, White Lake

Janice Kaminski

Costello Elementary, Troy

“I’d like to nominate this teacher, who is a special educator. For at least 20 years, she has toiled and given her all and more for the kids who come into her classroom. She’s always patient, and she truly understands both the struggles and victories that come in dealing with kids who have special needs. She isn’t just their teacher. She truly loves them. Like, last year, I might not have allowed my son with autism to attend the annual fifth grade camp trip if she hadn’t gone along with them. With her many years of experience dealing with other children and their families who are on the spectrum, she always has good advice and ideas. When she’s not teaching, she mentors new teachers. In addition to that, she helps other phenomenal nonprofit organizations in the area with fundraising and other things. I know she is also involved with Troy Kiwanas. She does SO much in the Troy community for our kids and the thriving of everything that’s good about this community. I just think it’d be great to see her recognized.”

– Vanessa, Troy

Daniel Ristau

Geisler Middle School, Walled Lake

“He is a social studies teacher, as well as the coach for basketball girls/boys. He is so considerate and he also comes to school on days when there is no one to help kids. He sends emails, he makes calls, he stays late, he arrives early.”

– Kimya, Farmington Hills

Paula Abramson

Wattles Elementary, Troy

“I nominated Paula Abramson for this Top Teacher Award because of her caring, compassionate relationship she had with her students and parents. She always took time to answer any and all of my questions and concerns. In addition, she viewed each of her students individually. If a child needed extra help with something, she provided that – as well as giving additional challenges to those students who required it. She always gave 110 percent. It is for all these reasons I believe that Paula Abramson deserves recognition as Top Teacher.”

– Karen, Troy

Ann VanFleteran

Guardian Angels Catholic School, Clawson

“Ann Van Fleteren – Mrs. V, as the kids call her – is my daughter Lilly’s first grade teacher at Guardian Angels Catholic School. Mrs. V loves all of her students. She is a wonderful, encouraging and compassionate teacher. Mrs. V is an excellent role model for both students and parents. She weaves God and religion into everything she does. Her patience with 27 first graders is outstanding. Mrs. V is very organized, and her ability keep up with all of the things that come with her job is amazing!”

– Monica, Madison Heights

Jennifer Culley and Amy Lane

Twin Beach Elementary, West Bloomfield

“These teachers ‘team teach’ kindergarten at Twin Beach Elementary. They are everything you would want in a kindergarten teacher. They are compassionate, but at the same time, keep order. They are organized and know what to say to make you feel comfortable. They enjoy their job, and it shows in the classroom and with the kids. They are a true TEAM!”

– Amy, West Bloomfield

“The reason I am nominating two teachers is that they ‘team teach’ my daughter’s kindergarten class. It is a unique and wonderful situation. I feel like we get 200 percent, since they are each able to contribute 100 percent-plus of themselves each day. Their philosophies are the same, there is no break or distraction when one comes in and the other takes over in the afternoon. My daughter has taken off in both math and reading especially, and I know it’s because they keep the classroom fun, the subjects interesting and know just what each child needs to excel. Their energy and enthusiasm for what they do is evident from the way they display the children’s work in the classroom, to the special events they plan for the parents to come and see what the children have been learning. Every child should experience their first year of school with teachers just like this!”

– Lisa, West Bloomfield

Darcy Dowd

Hillside Elementary, Farmington Hills

“She is the best! I always feel short of words to describe her. She is the best!”

– Deepa, Farmington Hills

Lori Charochak

Hoover Elementary, Hazel Park

“Ms. Charochak teaches first grade at Hoover. She is a phenomenal teacher. The way she teaches the money and states, etc. makes it like a game for the kids. She takes an active interest in the kids. She recently found out that my husband will be out of town for an important event for my daughter, and Ms. Charochak is going to attend it – surprising my daughter – to help make it special for her. She is just wonderful, and I can’t say enough good about her!”

– Danielle, Livonia

Ms. Everette

Laurus Academy, Southfield

“I would like to nominate Ms. Evertte because she is a talented woman. She helps us children with everything, from educational issues to home issues. She lets us know when we are slacking off and builds us back up. Ms. Everette is also encouraging and does everything in her power to help us. This is why I nominate Ms. Everette.”

– De’Aira, Detroit

Bill Munson

Kingsbury Country Day School, Oxford

“I’ve heard some say that ‘those who can’t do XYZ, teach.’ This is not the case for Bill Munson, who brings art to life for the kids; junior kindergarten through eighth grade at Kingsbury Country Day School. He is an amazing, world-class artist who also happens to be gifted at translating his knowledge in a way that inspires and is easily understood by all ages. Mr. Munson identifies the topics learned in core curriculum classes and creatively reinforces the topics in his own classroom through a wide variety of media and techniques. He has turned our school into a surprisingly sophisticated gallery. He often donates his talent, personal materials and time after school for the benefit of the entire school community. The students love him and the parents are incredibly appreciative of the talent he shares in and out of the classroom.”

– Lori, Almont

Nola Whetstone

Kingsbury Country Day School, Oxford

“There are so many incredible teachers at Kingsbury Country Day School that it’s difficult to pick just one. Nola Whetstone is a second-grade teacher at the school in Oxford. To say that she ‘teaches’ wouldn’t be enough. She nurtures students. She gently stretches them beyond what they think they can do. She helps them realize that they can be confident, creative problem solvers. Understanding that not all kids learn in the same way, she seeks to identify every student’s style, and then varies how information is shared within each lesson so each kid ‘gets it.’ Parents are always welcome in the classroom; no appointment necessary. My husband has observed she is very intuitive when it comes to understanding her students and what they need. If there is something she doesn’t know, she will go above and beyond to find answers. For example, the summer before my son would become her student, I explained to her that he has dyslexia. She proactively expressed sincere interest in recommended books or other resources she could study during her summer vacation, in order to best help him. Not only is she a dedicated muse, but my son says, ‘She’s pretty nice.’ My daughter was in Nola’s class a couple years ago. She adds, ‘Ms. Whetstone makes learning fun.'”

– Lori, Almont

Ayela Perlstein

Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills

“Mrs. Perlstein teaches from the heart and loves her students like her children.”

– Shay, Farmington Hills

Leslie Baron

Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills

“Mrs. Baron is an outstanding role model and teacher. She’s a cool, hip woman who understands kids. She is able to explain science in a way that resonates with the students. She’s kind, comforting and generous with her time and attention. Mrs. Baron goes above and beyond, she assists with book clubs, she has parent seminars on cultural topics, she assists with social action projects. She’s the whole package!”

– Marianne, Farmington Hills

Ms. Brown, Ms. Baker and Ms. Wesley

Silver Springs Elementary, Norhville

“I have had three A+ teachers at Silver Springs. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Brown, was fun because she had great centers. We also had Buddy Bear that we took home for a weekend. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, was great because she taught me about commas. She also taught me disco spelling, so I could spell words like ‘prettiest’ and ‘because.’ My second grade teacher is Mrs. Wesley. She is always awesome because she makes learning fun. We have a class store that teaches us about money. We earn money when we are leaders. We get to buy things from the store each month. Another thing I like about Mrs. Wesley’s classroom is that we have a class pet. Our class is a beta fish and her name is Rhoda. I feel really lucky to have the best Silver Springs teachers!”

– Marissa, Northville

Joshua Cutler

Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills

“Mr. Cutler is an incredible role model. He brings American history to life for his students. As the girls’ basketball coach, he not only develops their skills; he works on self-esteem, team spirit and camaraderie. The parents of the school recommended that Mr. Cutler accompany the seventh grade students to Washington, D.C. this year so they could be part of his knowledge of American history. He will turn the city into a living lesson for the kids. I wish I were going, too.”

– Marianne, Farmington Hills

Leigh Emmett

Wixom Elementary, Wixom

“Leigh Emmett is one of the greatest vocal music teachers in the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools district. Teaching at Wixom Elementary, this wonderful teacher teaches her art with so much compassion and enthusiasm. She shows daily her commitment to the school children, teaching them not only vocal music but so much more, such as being on a team and making wonderful music together and, as that team, being able to harmonize together. She is not only a great teacher with a terrific welcoming smile at every event, but we also cannot help but notice and recognize her after-school efforts in the school district, which include a variety of volunteer services including her most recent volunteering at the Walled Lake school district’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, where she donated time to help with food preparation for the hundreds of people in attendance. She is truly a gifted teacher that Wixom Elementary if fortunate to have, and we as a family feel fortunate to have been able to have Miss Emmett for our daughter’s vocal music teacher in her elementary school years. Thank you Miss Emmett for all you do!”

– Curtis, Novi

Mark Lada

Sarah Banks Middle School, Walled Lake

“Mark Lada is one of Sarah Banks Middle School’s finest teachers. One of Walled Lake Consolidated Schools’ best science teachers. A head-full of knowledge willing and wanting to spread that knowledge to all those children looking and wanting to learn. Mr. Lada has teaching methods that seem to reach all personalities in the classroom. His presence is known at all events, as he seems to always be at most events with a greeting with a pleasant and welcoming smile, making you feel like part of the Sarah Banks family. He takes his time to be a leader in charge of the school’s student council, and his presence is known at PTSA meetings. Always there for all his students, he has special study groups prior to a test for those wanting the extra help. He puts his students first! Thank you, Mark Lada, for making our daughter Hope’s educational experience in middle school that much nicer. We hope every child in America is fortunate enough to have a wonderful teacher like Mark Lada. He is a true inspiration to teachers everywhere.”

– Curtis, Novi

Mr. Todoroff

West Bloomfield Sports Club, West Bloomfield

“When I saw an announcement of a Metro Parent’s teacher award, I immediately thought of Mr. T – the martial arts teacher at the West Bloomfield Sports Club. I do not know of any other teacher who would be so compassionate and dedicated to educate kids. He teaches kids respect, self-discipline and honor – and brings happiness to every child’s life. It is an absolute delight to see kids interact in his class and how happy they are during and after class. He is truly an outstanding educator.”

– Nonna, Farmington Hills

Vicky Donovan

St. Fabian School, Farmington Hills

“Mrs. Donovan, with her caring heart and ability to make students love to learn, has turn my C-average student into an A student with such a passion for learning, we spent our mid-winter break in Washington, D.C. She is absolutely amazing, and I can’t begin to describe what she has done for my son, and his ability to learn and to love history and space.”

– Laura, Farmington Hills

Roxanne Sanders

Lakes Area Montessori, Commerce Township

“A visit to Ms. Sanders’ classroom will find an organized, peaceful classroom with a quiet buzz of activity: Students working individually or together, all energized to complete their work and share with the class. Although it is a classroom of 20 children in grades 1-5, Ms. Sanders creates individual plans for every student. They are designed to encourage the students’ strengths and work on their weaknesses. Ms. Sanders works closely with the parents to attain goals. There are no challenges too big to be overcome. Ms. Sanders’ students gain entry to (and excel at) the area’s most challenging schools. They are taught to be responsible for their work, to encourage and help their classmates, and have strong experience in public speaking. It is no surprise that parents choose to bring their children back year after year to Ms. Sanders’ classroom. My daughter still says, ‘I miss Ms. Roxanne!’ She is certainly one of the most influential persons in her young life, and a role model we are glad to have chosen.”

– Pamela, Commerce Township

“In such a short period of time, Ms. Roxanne won our hearts and, most importantly, has won the heart of our daughter. She wastes no time in getting to know her students and has a high level of expectations for each and every one of them. Managing a multi-level (1-3 grade) classroom, she, along with her talented staff, somehow manages to instill a strong sense of pride in her students own education, quality of work and love of learning while exceeding academic standards. She has shaped my daughter’s love of learning into a passion for life. What more could a parent ask for?”

– Stacy, Commerce Township

Nicole Kutsick

Sheiko Elementary School, West Bloomfield

“Year after year, Ms. Kutsick goes above and beyond what’s asked of her to bring her love and knowledge of music to the children she teaches. Each grade, from K to 5, put on an amazing performance by the end of the school year. The quality of her teaching shines through repeatedly. But you might say that about many music teachers. Ms. Kutsick doesn’t stop there. She also runs a fifth grade choir. This group of 45 children put on 10 performances throughout the school year. Year after year, the fifth graders give up their recess time to practice with her. These aren’t ordinary performances. They travel to nursing homes and senior-residence centers to provide much-needed stimulation and entertainment. The children are taught an important lesson about giving back to the senior community. They learn how much of an impact a single performance of theirs can mean to this population. She extends learning beyond the classroom in a most meaningful way. It’s for these reasons she should most definitely receive special recognition.”

– Suzanne, West Bloomfield

Denise Ottenhoff

Guardian Angels Catholic Elementary, Clawson

“Mrs. Ottenhoff is a veteran third grade teacher who has made school fun and accessible to hundreds of children. When she has parking lot duty in the morning, she SINGS to the kids as they walk in. When she teaches a reading unit about cooking, the class makes pancakes. When a kid is having a hard day, she gives him a hug. With her trademark Diet Pepsi in hand, she stops fights, teaches fractions and takes the kids out for an occasional extra recess when it’s a warm, sunny day. Mrs. O has a special place in her heart for students who struggle with learning and tries every possible method at her disposal before deciding what will help each individual student. While she has a classroom before her, Mrs. Ottenhoff truly sees each of the children in her care as unique personalities – all of whom she makes sure to connect with each and every school day. ‘I love my kids,’ she always says, and that is abundantly clear to anyone who spends even three seconds in her presence. Mrs. Ottenhoff is a one-in-a-million teacher, and we are so grateful to have her right here at Guardian Angels in Clawson, Michigan!”

– Marylee, Royal Oak

John McDaniel

Our Lady of Victory School, Northville

“We would like to nominate Mr. McDaniel for Metro Parent’s Top Teacher Award. Mr McDaniel has taught Sydney in third and fourth grades and Emilia in fourth grade. Mr. McDaniel makes learning interesting with craft assignments related to what is being taught and keeps the classroom fun with humor. He requires on-time completion of homework assignments and daily planners signed by parents. He expects proper class behavior on field trips. Mr. McDaniel encourages students to do their best on tests. If you do not do too well on a test, he says not to worry too much. He will provide additional help during free reading time, give extra credit assignments and stay after school to tutor students. Mr. McDaniel genuinely cares about his students. He sacrifices some of his own freetime, which he could be spending with his wife and daughter to attend non-academic activities of his students. He attends school sports and functions that his students are participating in after school and weekends. He has attended our dance recitals, volleyball games and basketball games.”

– Sydney and Emilia, Northville

Didi Wainess

Bingham Farms Elementary, Bingham Farms

“Didi Wainess has taught kindergarten at Bingham Farms Elementary for over 30 years. Didi epitomizes the kindergarten teacher. She is kind, loving and funny and engages the children at their own level. Two of my three children have had the privilege of being in Didi’s classroom. Because of her, they have learned to love school. It’s rumored that she will be retiring at the end of this school year, and I think it would be a fitting tribute to her many years of dedicated service to our children for her to be honored. My favorite memory of her was walking into the classroom one afternoon to find my 5-year-old boy curled up in her lap. Mrs. Wainess looked up at me, smiling from ear-to-ear and said, ‘He’s just so darned cute, I could eat him up!’ It was her evident love for all her students that made my first year as an elementary school parent so enjoyable. Knowing that your child’s teacher loves your child and wants what’s best for them is key to their future success in school and in life. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of children and adults who have benefited from Mrs. Wainess’ dedicated teaching. I know that all of them would want her to be honored as one of the best teachers in southeast Michigan.”

– Lauren, Southfield

Lisa Hermann

Levey Middle School, Southfield

“Lisa Hermann inspires the Southfield art teachers and makes us want to be the best teachers we can be. Last March 2011, she organized us to participate in the Inside Out Program. This was the largest global grafitti art project in the world based with and promoted by the artist JR. (The 2011 TED $100,000 winner) Lisa asked myself and the SPS art teachers to join her, and we pasted over 135 black-and-white photographs in the community of Southfield to create a conversation between our students and the community. The project turned out to be one of the biggest in the USA. The Southfield students since then have been asked to be in an international full-length documentary about the project. She presented with me at the Michigan Art Education Conference, and then traveled by herself to the national alternative conference this February to inspire alternative educators from around the U.S. to join in the Inside Out project. She texts me at 3 in the morning when inspired, coaches track, drives across town on nights after teaching all day to meet about curriculum, teaches workshops on the weekends, argues her passions with people who are scared to attempt such a project and shows her love for every student she sees. She began the art program at the Southfield Regional Academic Campus and worked here for five years with at-risk teenagers, and her imprint is still felt here. I am honored to call her my friend. There is no one more deserving for this teaching award. She is a leader who will laugh and cry with you and loves, more than anything else, the joy of discovery with her students.”

– Molly, Farmington Hills

Lisa Lapko

Wood Creek Elementary, Farmington Hills

“She is awesome. She has a way of motivating the children to learn. She words things in a positive manner, even when the situation is negative. My daughter has also said she does not yell. My daughter said if one or two kids are acting out, they are the ones punished, not the entire class. Mrs. Lapko appears to be a kind, smart and creative teacher. She rocks! ”

– Erika, Farmington Hills

Ms. Wetterholt

Heritage Elementary, Highland

“Ms. Wetterholt is the best all-around teacher my son has ever had. She truly makes learning fun, shares family stories that the kids love and is so attentive to the children. My son and her really bonded. He struggles with learning and always needs extra help, and she was always willing to take the extra time with him without making him feel like it was a burden. She also always kept the lines of communication open with me. Ms. Wetterholt was my son’s teacher last year and she still will have him come down to her class for lunch every month or two just to see how he’s doing. It’s these kind of teachers that truly make a difference in a child’s life, and this will be a teacher my son will never forget.”

– Beth, Milford

Sue Gardner

Bussey Center for Early Childhood Education, Southfield

“My son is in special education, diagnosed with PDD, and only recently started to speak. When he started in her class, his tantrums were very bad. Sue has taught my son many things. He does not have a huge vocabulary (maybe 20 words). She has taught him to be more patient, and I see the change in him drastically. I know that she cares about him as if he were hers. She always makes sure that we know exactly how he is doing. I have had difficulty with other people and my son. To me, she is his MUSE; she will bring him out of his shell that he is in. She is a great woman and needs to be recognized for her years of teaching.”

– Elaine, Southfield

Jennifer Hopcian

Haviland Elementary, Waterford

“Jennifer Hopcian (along with teacher Karen Hirschfield) teaches the third and fourth grade multi-age class at Haviland Elementary in Waterford. My son was lucky enough to be in their class for two years. These two ladies had upwards of 60 kids in their classroom; however, on any given day, they could tell you exactly what was going on with your child. Ms. Hopcian specifically was extremely instrumental in helping us help our son, who at the time was struggling greatly. She suggested that the school do an evaluation to determine if there was a deeper problem going on. The team of evaluators did a workup and determined that my son was fine and there would be no intervention. Ms. Hopcian was very determined to help my son, and came up with her own interventions that helped greatly. Our son was then evaluated privately, and as it turned out he has Asperger syndrome. I truly believe that he would not be doing as well as he is now if it were not for Ms. Hopcian. She was nurturing and supportive and always there for him when he needed some one-on-one care. She helped him above and beyond the call of duty. Truly great teachers are a gift, and my son was lucky to have had the gift of Ms. Hopcian for two years. And for that our entire family is truly grateful.”

– Vicki, Waterford

Paula Abramson

Hamilton Elementary, Troy

“Mrs. Abramson is a gifted teacher. She has great insight to every child’s needs. She has knowledge, patience and a sense of humor, flexibility and uses every possible teaching moment. Mrs. Abramson loves children. It shows in all her interactions; she makes every child feel special. Her love of literacy is always apparent in her lessons, her classroom and her love of books and stories. She has taught many youngsters how to read. She was my son’s kindergarten teacher in 2002-03, and they still have a relationship. Mrs. Abramson is a smart, kind, loving, fun, caring teacher. She has touched many young children and set a positive tone for their future education. I am so happy she was my son’s kindergarten teacher. He has ADHD and can be a challenging, active child. Mrs. Abramson loved him, and worked with him and his strengths, and understood him, as no teacher had before kindergarten. She is truly a fabulous, gifted teacher.”

– Mary Lynn, Troy

Kyle Curtis

Woodcreek Elementary, Farmington Hills

“It takes something special to be a great teacher, but it takes something exceptionally special to be a great teacher for children with autism. Kyle Curtis pours her passion and love into her position as an ASD K-4 teacher. She constantly collaborates with families to help her students reach their full potential. She approaches each child as an individual and knows how to bring out the best in them. She even authored a book that teaches the other students in the school about autism and how/why they may seem different. She began the school’s LINKS program, which matches an autistic child with a neuro-typical playmate to teach play and social skills. She’s always eager to do more, such as helping with potty training, being a support to parents in meetings, working on food tolerance issues, and teaming with medical professionals to help each student thrive within an academic setting. She’s very creative and consistently incorporates new sensory themed activities into the classroom. She also provides and plans monthly community integration opportunities for students to help them learn independent living skills. It’s always scary when you put your young child on a bus for the first time and hope the world will be kind to them. Think now of having that child be nonverbal, developmentally two to three years younger than their actual age, and overwhelmed by every sight, sound and new person. As a parent, I feel my child with special needs is in great hands. He is safe, happy and making progress. Having an exceptional teacher you trust, who truly cares, works hard and adores my child – priceless! Kyle Curtis is easily one of metro Detroit’s Top Teachers.”

– Sharon, Farmington Hills

Erin Gallagher

Doherty Elementary, West Bloomfield

“My son, Jake, is very fortunate to have Mrs. Gallagher as his first grade teacher. Mrs. Gallagher consistently goes out of her way to make sure each student’s academic needs are being met. She is dedicated to each of her 26 students and has taken the time to know each student on a personal level. She knows each student’s strengths and weakness and makes sure to provide work that is challenging in both areas. Mrs. Gallagher doesn’t look the other way or take the easy way out. If a student needs extra help, is average, or advanced in certain areas, Mrs. Gallagher will make sure that student is being taken care of. She helps them during the day and also provides extra work that can be completed at home. Mrs. Gallagher is also always available either in person or through email. She also goes out of her way to make sure her students, and their families, feel respected and welcome in her classroom. What makes her so special to our family is how dedicated she is to her student’s well-being. My son Jake has a severe food allergy. Mrs. Gallagher has made every effort to include Jake in the classroom activities and to keep him safe. She even emails or calls me ahead of time so that Jake is not left out. Mrs. Gallagher also emails other teachers and support staff with reminders about food safety and is willing to answer any questions they may have. This is not a requirement of her position; however, she has made it something that is important to her. I have two advanced degrees and I have also spent a lot of time volunteering in Mrs. Gallagher’s class. I can honestly say from experience that I have never met a teacher that cares as much as she does. I wish every teacher was as dedicated and caring of their students as Mrs. Gallagher is.”

– Cheri, West Bloomfield

Washtenaw County

Jamie Shock

Lincoln Multi Age, Lincoln Consolidated School District, Ypsilanti

“When my friends and family are impressed by my son, I wish I could take the credit, but I only have a small role in nourishing his young mind. His teacher, Mrs. Jackie Shock, has achieved the most difficult, yet most important goal for a teacher – inspiring a lifelong love of learning. Every day when my son comes home, he is not only eager to tell me what he has learned, but he wants to further research and read about the subjects. Classroom conversations and lessons roll into a desire for exploration at home. Mrs. Shock does her job by educating students about all required topics for their grade level, but, more importantly, they become willing and ready to learn more.”

– Andrea, Ypsilanti

Abby Smith

Lincoln Multi Age, Lincoln Consolidated School District, Ypsilanti

“When I think of my daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Abby Smith, I think of a woman that was born to be a teacher. She willingly takes on all of the difficult roles of a teacher and makes them look easy. Mrs. Smith is first and foremost an educator. My daughter, who was intimidated by academics, is now more than prepared to enter middle school next year. Mrs. Smith is a family therapist, because her advice has helped my daughter and I to become much closer. She is a philanthropist, because sharing her ideas has helped my daughter to become more organized and self-confident. She has nursed my daughter when she is ill, policed her behavior when she needed to be put in her place, and preached to her when she needed guidance. She has been her school-day mom. Teachers no longer have the luxury of simply educating, and I know this first hand because I, too, am a teacher. Mrs. Smith fulfills both her official and often-ignored duties with grace.”

– Andrea, Ypsilanti

Katie Larzelere

Harvest Elementary, Saline

“After the first day of school, my son came home saying he loved school! He has never said that before, not that he’s ever complained about it either. I think Mrs. Larzelere engages the children and tries to ensure every child reaches his/her potential. My son has been blessed with amazing teachers every year he’s been at Harvest Elementary, but what sets Mrs. Larzelere apart is her commitment to her students even in the face of the trials of her personal life. Hopefully she doesn’t mind me sharing this with you, but this year has been especially difficult for her and her family. Her husband has been diagnosed with cancer. She has been focused with the children and my son has had a fantastic year so far with her. She’s just a wonderful teacher!”

– Lena, Ann Arbor

Marcie Klump

Harvest Elementary, Saline

“When I asked my kids who I should nominate, they both said ‘Ms. Klump!’ My oldest says, ‘She’s very kind and helped me learn concepts very well.’ He still remembers her even though it’s been four years. My youngest says, ‘She’s nice and he learned a lot in her class. She never lost faith in a student when trying to learn something. She’s fun and not too strict.’ As a parent, I felt both my sons received a great education from her class, and that was also apparent in the scores they received from NWEA. I feel fortunate that both my sons had a great teacher who’s been able to effectively teach them, even though they have different learning styles!”

– Lena, Ann Arbor

Dana Shue

Klager Elementary, Machester

“Mrs. Shue spends a great deal of time inside and outside the classroom preparing for her kindgergarten class. Everything she does, from worksheets to classroom notes to grading the kids’ papers, shows an incredible amount of love, care and creativity. She truly LOVES teaching and taking care of her classroom kids. She is effective and committed to making sure every child learns responsibility, respect and the love of learning all with an incredible amount of patience, light-hearted humor and attention to details. As a result, my child absolutely adores her and loves going to school ready to learn something new every day. He comes home delighted with his assignments and eager to tell us about the day.”

– Aileen, Manchester

Joanna Van Raden

Klager Elementary, Manchester

“Mrs. V, as the kids know her, has shown an incredible amount of commitment to the school’s mission where ALL students will be challenged to obtain the skills necessary to realize their highest personal potential. She realized immediately that my son’s abilities were beyond the general level of the classroom and was able to consistently challenge him with extra activities and assignments within the classroom, despite the challenges she faced in having to teach 28 other children. When those efforts were not enough, she spearheaded conferences between the principal, the fourth grade teacher, and us to give my son the opportunity to continue to be challenged by transitioning to fourth grade right in the middle of the school year. As a result, my son is incredibly happy to be pushed ahead and challenged at his own personal potential.”

– Aileen, Manchester

Wayne County

Ann DeVore

Dearborn Heights Montessori, Dearborn Heights

“Ann is an exceptionally dedicated teacher. I have seen how she managed 13- to 15-year-olds in a respectful manner. The students in turn acted very respectful and mature. She ran her classroom like a business. She knew how to keep the focus of the students as not to bore them with traditional teaching methods. Her methods were very innovative and on-key to the needs of the age group that she taught. Both of my daughters attended her class when they were in seventh and eighth grade. They both miss the style of teaching that Ann and the Montessori approach provided them. I cannot think of a teacher that would be more deserving of recognition than Ann.”

– Pamela, Dearborn Heights

“Adolescence is a challenging time, pivotal for students who may become disillusioned with school or find themselves making risky choices. Middle school teacher Ann DeVore creates situations with real work and responsibility as she maintains a reliable, safe structure in her middle school environment where students can try on different selves. There are weeklong internships with businesses in the community. Service opportunities exist to fulfill requirements within the school community and surrounding community. Her middle school students operate a short-range radio station from the classroom. Students manage the hot-lunch program; economics becomes real for them as they track orders, count money, monitor checkbooks, keep track of expenses and sales receipts, deal with vendors and keep customers happy. Guest adults instruct cooking, sewing, gardening, knitting, art and speech classes during regularly scheduled elective classes. There have been student-directed Shakespearean plays and student-written plays. Middle school students operate light and sound equipment during performances. Woven throughout these experiences and her high expectation for academic performance, is Ann’s language of personal responsibility, honor and self-assessment. Ann understands that goal setting and time management are challenging for adolescents. The year is divided into six-week themed cycles so that there are six new starting points, and no student can get buried in long overdue work. She designed her own curriculum to teach organization, time management, goal setting, note taking and test taking to prepare all students for high school. Ann arrives at 6:30 a.m., supervises a breakfast study club before class when she is available for students and an afterhours study hall until 5 p.m. She communicates by email and stays abreast of technology and social networking. Her graduates go on to become valedictorians at area high schools in disproportionate numbers to other programs. Ann is chairman of the school curriculum revision team, having taught all other grade levels. She advises other middle school programs as consultant for the American Montessori Association. Ann has particular talent at inspiring and encouraging students of all backgrounds and abilities to succeed. Students of Arabic, Asian, East Indian, African American, Mexican American descent and all economic levels have attended her program. She has welcomed students with cerebral palsy, apraxia, Asperger, autism, ADHD, behavioral and emotional problems and prepared each one to succeed in high school. Ann DeVore turns adolescents’ lives around by expecting responsibility and inspiring them to make their education their own. Her dedication, innovation and excellence in teaching has improved outcomes in many lives!”

– Susan, Livonia

“Drawing upon the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori to ‘educate the human potential,’ Ann DeVore turns an academic education into an education in character. She always takes her students seriously and treats them as adults, teaching them the value of responsibility and how to make their education their own. Using innovative approaches, she has inspired students to design a peer-mediated conflict resolution program, helped students run a school radio program and newspaper, and organized monthly visits to a retirement home to teach the importance of community. Ann inspires an almost-impossible confidence in her students. In the seventh grade, she put me in charge of running the hot-lunch program for the school, which worked with local restaurants to provide lunches to students. I once was on the phone with the manager of a local Taco Bell, who could clearly tell that I was not an adult. He said he would only speak to an adult if we wanted to start a partnership, a message I promptly relayed to Ann. Ann’s immediate response? ‘If he won’t deal with you, then he won’t have our business.’ And thus, a seed was planted: Regardless of my age, gender or any other classification, I should demand to be taken seriously. There were no limits to accomplishing great things. Her encouragement also extends outside of the classroom. When my family moved from Detroit to Little Rock before I started high school, I was terrified of beginning a new life. As my first time to be away from a Montessori educational environment, I was worried about learning in the new structure. Ann wrote me an email a few days before my first day of high school. It contained four bullet points: 1. You are Julia Fitzpatrick. 2. You are a leader. 3. You have your entire school community behind you. 4. THIS IS THE MOMENT! I printed out that email, taped it to my wall and looked at it every day for the next four years. I still carry that same printout in my journal as a reminder that I am greater than any obstacle I face and that I represent all the experiences and people that have shaped me. Many years have passed since I left Ann’s classroom, but the lessons she taught stay with me. I remain in close contact with her, often meeting her for lunch when I visit my parents back at home in the Detroit area. My life’s path since middle school has taken me through college, to study abroad in Egypt, to learn Arabic, to live in Jerusalem and work for a humanitarian aid agency, and now in graduate school for international affairs. I often look back upon those lessons of resolve and self-sufficiency I learned in Ann’s classroom when faced with obstacles, remembering my own potential and that of others. Without a doubt, I would not be the person I am today without her presence and influence in my life.”

– Julia, Livonia

“Ann is dedicated to being the toughest teacher these kids will ever have. She (and her teaching team) prepared my daughter for high school, college life and adult life by allowing her to figure out who she wants to be, as a person, while in middle school. After enrolling into a public high school (from a group of 12 in middle school at DHMC) my daughter had the self confidence, time management skills and academic knowledge for a smooth transition.”

– Cheryl, Highland

“I would like to nominate Ann because she was an excellent teacher. She cared about the students and how well they did as to prepare them for their futures. She is very insightful and hardworking. She is very educated in the Montessori ways, and I think that Maria Montessori would be very proud of the work that Ann has done. She lives her life the Montessori way.”

– Paige, Redford

“There are moments in a person’s life that are life shaping. I was fortunate to have a moment that lasted four years with Ann DeVore, my Montessori middle school teacher. She did more than help shape my life; she invited me to dream and understand the world through literature, history, politics and many other subjects – not only as it was, but also, as I could imagine it being. My worldview as a middle school student is one that included a non-violent practice. It wasn’t until my adult life that I would be able to reflect back and see my choice to study conflict transformation and peacebuilding in graduate school as one that started with a curiosity and a ‘grand and lofty idea’ of peace. I can recall sitting in a circle on the floor. Ann was holding a globe in her hand with no lines. She asked the group what a world with no lines would be like. It was that question that sparked my quest to better understand how lines and distinction came to be and what a peaceful world might look like. Ann DeVore is more than a teacher; she is a sage who plants seeds in her students that she nurtures with love, and an invitation to be and live out one’s maximum potential. It’s not information that changes the world; it’s the questions that we ask of the world and ourselves. Ann taught by posing the question of and ‘why not you?’ to me as a student. In treating me as an adult, I could become an adult. Ann gave me the unique opportunity and guidance to help run a hot-lunch program for our school, as well as a snack cart. How does a woman break a glass ceiling? Her middle school teachers entrusts her, at 11, to run a program, work with outside companies, make phone calls, market products and provide a service to other members in the school community. She never flinched when I would report back that local businesses on the other line wanted to know how old I was, because she knew my potential wasn’t in the maturity or quality of my voice, but rather, what I could produce and be apart of if given the right opportunities. We had a garden that our class would attend to under the guidance of Ann. It, again, wasn’t until my adult life that I realized that the garden that we would plant and harvest every year was a metaphor for our life and work. The more attention we gave to it, the more it grew. The soil was a prepared environment for growth after we tilled it. Our classroom functioned the same way, because Ann was tilling us to grow information that we explored, not simply memorize it. Ann would never laugh at an idea; she would encourage them. Ann DeVore unleashed her student’s potential by acknowledging they had one; she valued opinions and engaged students. She never spoke to us, but rather, with us. She was a teacher who lived amongst her students. Anyone who has been in a Montessori classroom knows that it’s not simply a room, and there is more than class happening. It’s the place of self discovery and endless opportunities. Learning with Ann is a process, where each day melts into the other, and the product is one that is evolving within me to now. Ann DeVore, for all that she is and all that she does, is the teacher who influenced me most in life. She taught me peace, created a safe community, made space to reflect, grow, nurture imagination and live out our potential. For those reasons, and the heartfelt gratitude that I extended to her and her years of service to others, I would like to nominate Ann DeVore for Metro Parent’s Top Teacher Award.”

– Nadia, Canton

Christina Del Pizzo

St. Michael School, Livonia

“Mrs. Del Pizzo has been a blessing to our family! Our daughter struggled in reading throughout first grade, and we were very concerned about her progress until she started second grade. This teacher has made a point to read with our daughter one-on-one every single day. Mrs. Del Pizzo even takes the time to email us with updates on our child’s daily successes with as much enthusiasm as if it were her own child learning to read. Our daughter is tutored by Mrs. Del Pizzo after school once a week for free. She knows that we have made sacrifices to send our child to St. Michael, and we cannot afford private tutoring. She does not make as much money as a public school teacher, but she still offers her time without charging extra. I think that she deserves to be recognized for going above and beyond everyday. She is a remarkable, giving teacher and I cannot thank her enough for the confidence she has given us as parents – and our daughter as a reader!”

– Rob, Brighton

“I am delighted Mrs. Del Pizzo has embraced the Society of Automotive Engineers’ A World In Motion program and offered her second grade class, and my son, the opportunity to experience a new adaptation in learning. Throughout the duration of the program, Mrs. Del Pizzo was in constant communication and collaborating on new ideas as she built on the science principles offered in the course. Mrs. Del Pizzo demonstrated impressive organizational skills in class preparation and preparing of materials. Her remarkable communication of the concepts to her students made it fun for them to learn engineering. Her overall commitment to expand on ideas and use of materials to help her students understand the lesson plans was well received by them. Mrs. Del Pizzo created excitement in the classroom that fully engaged her students. Her influence and dedication to teaching has an impact on her students and gave them another avenue to learn and prepare for the future.”

– Paul, Canton

“Mrs. Del Pizzo is a second grade teacher and a prime example of teaching to the student and not the class. Her empathy and commitment to each child’s educational growth and their sense of self is remarkable. My husband is also a teacher, and he describes her as a ‘phenomenal teacher.’ I feel incredibly lucky that my son, Miles, has an educator who so wholly understands and respects him. By being in her classroom and observing her grace in action, I have decided to return to school to obtain my master’s in teaching. Here is a teacher who is respected by her peers, inspires parents and is loved by her students. I can honestly say that I believe she deserves to be Metro Parent’s Top Teacher; she’s certainly the best in my book.”

– Amy, Redford

“Mrs. Del Pizzo is a very fine second grade teacher. She has inspired my child through The Society of Automotive Engineers’ A World In Motion program. Mrs. Del Pizzo has gone out of her way to bring engineers into the classroom to work with her students in small groups throughout this school year. My child has built paper helicopters and tissue parachutes, graphed, charted, analyzed and created. My daughter says that she knows how to ‘think like an engineer’ now! Mrs. Del Pizzo always takes lessons just one step farther by brining in guest speakers. WJR’s helicopter pilot Joel Alexander came in to speak to the class about aerodynamics, and a Green Beret spread out his gigantic parachute on the playground for the children to see just how thin and large an Army parachute really is. Mrs. Del Pizzo is able to identify and help students at all different ability levels. She challenges gifted and talented students with creative and engaging projects, while she supports struggling students by gently supporting them through reading levels and offering free after-school tutoring. I am impressed with how well Mrs. Del Pizzo communicates with parents. Not only does she have an open-door policy in her classroom with volunteers, but she also makes parents want to be in the classroom with all of the excitement that our children come home with. Mrs. Del Pizzo keeps an up-to-date website that keeps all of us informed on what is happening in the classroom. I also receive regular text messages reminding me about spirit days, retreat meetings and field trip reminders. What teacher cares that much about her children? As a working mother, I deeply appreciate the reminders and extra support! I don’t know what we are going to do without her in third grade! Mrs. Del Pizzo does so much for our children. I certainly hope that she can be recognized in some way by Metro Parent. I have never met anyone who deserves it more!”

– Ingrid, Livonia

“Our daughter was a student in Christina Del Pizzo’s second grade class for the 2010-11 school year. Mrs. Del Pizzo employed a variety of learning techniques in the classroom that allowed our child to progress quickly in several subjects. Her communications with the parents were timely, concise and provided in different formats that made staying informed easy. She was very welcoming to all parents to spend time in the classroom, whenever busy schedules would allow. As a working mother, I greatly appreciated this open invitation to be an active participant in the learning environment. Above all else, Mrs. Del Pizzo displayed amazing insight and awareness into the group and social dynamics of her students. She was very proactive in reaching out to parents with concerns and worked collaboratively to find solutions that met the needs of the school and of the family. Her positive attitude continually reinforced our decision to send our daughter to St. Michael School as the best decision we could have made. Mrs. Del Pizzo is a wonderful educator, and it was a great school year for our family.”

– Catherine, Livonia

Ms. Chatters

Vernor Elementary, Detroit

“I would love to nominate Ms. Chatters, the pre-K teacher at Vernor Elementary, because she is a phenomenal teacher, instructor, advisor and friend. Her interaction with the students and parents are of something I haven’t witnessed before. She guides the children in the right path of growing and education. She teaches them to become leaders and not followers, how to gain independence, self-control, discipline, patience and self-confidence. She is in the process of teaching the children how to read, operate computers, how to speak, read and understand English and Spanish. Ms. Chatters also allows the students to explore different nationalities and teaches them we are all the same. Ms. Chatters is an excellent teacher and I highly recommend her for this award.”

– Morgan, Detroit

Kathleen Frame

Rosedale Elementary, Livonia

“Mrs. Frame was new to Rosedale Elementary this school year. Needless to say, my daughter was a little apprehensive at the beginning of the school year to have a teacher she knew absolutely nothing about. But Mrs. Frame is a warm and loving teacher. She is open to using various methods to help teach the kids in her classroom. She didn’t settle for using the old method of prepared spelling test. Instead she utilizes word ‘study’ for groups of children, which allows all the kids to progress in spelling. As a parent, I appreciate the fact that she takes the time to write comments and notes to her students on a daily basis. Her words of encouragement and praise do so much to inspire. Regardless if Mrs. Frame wins an award or not for her teaching, she will forever be a winner and inspiration to me and to the many children who were fortunate enough to have sat in her classroom.”

– Karen, Westland

Lori Coleman

Forest Elementary, Riverview

“Every child has that ONE teacher who turns the light bulb on for them, who gets them like no one else, that once-in-a-lifetime teacher. For my daughter, it was Mrs. Coleman. My daughter went from a girl whose eyes welled up with tears every morning because she disliked school so much to a girl that was running and smiling and anxious to get to school, all because of Mrs. Coleman. She goes above and beyond to get to each child and figure out what makes each one tick and makes each child feel like she/he is her favorite, even though they are all treated equally special. Mrs. Coleman still gets in touch with me to see how my daughter is doing, has advice on great websites, etc. She never stops being her teacher, even though she has moved onto the next grade. I know my daughter does not yet appreciate what she had in Mrs. Coleman, but I sure do. One day, when my daughter has kids of her own and her child has that one special teacher who is THE teacher to him/her, then she will know all that Mrs. Coleman did for her and every other student that has had the privilege to sit in her classroom. Every child deserves a teacher like Mrs. Coleman at least once in the life!”

– Deborah, Romulus

Patricia Green

Clarenceville Middle School, Livonia

“I would like to nominate Mrs. Patricia Green, because she takes time out of her schedule each Sunday night to email parents with the week-ahead schedule, what supplies are needed for science projects, what studies need to be done for the tests that are coming up, and what is happening in the school as a whole. I feel she gives her students extra care by doing this, to help each student achieve their goals, and keeps parents aware of events, etc. I would like Mrs. Green receive a thank you for her efforts and know that she is appreciated for all she does.”

– Elizabeth, Redford

Renay Gamble

Bennett Elementary, Detroit

“My nomination is not only a teacher, but also my mother and friend. Currently, she is a first grade teacher at Bennett Elementary for Detroit Public Schools, and she has dedicated her entire life to teaching. Although her income steadily declines, she continues to invest in the lives of her students. The past few years she has been moved from school to school, and taken on each new classroom with a positive attitude. She provides stability for students who do not experience it at home, and develops partnerships with parents who are involved. She even bakes cookies for parents who attend parent-teacher conferences to thank them for coming. A few years ago, she was placed in an eighth grade classroom and raised money on to raise funds for a special dinosaur project. She is a true problem solver and will always find ways to give her students the best educational experience, regardless of economic issues. She has a huge heart for her past and present students and has such joy in watching them succeed. I would like nothing more than to recognize her as a Top Teacher because she lives out her commitment to be an outstanding educator every day. No one deserves this more than my mom.”

– Lindsey, Farmington Hills

Amie Jamison

Hillcrest Elementary, Dearborn Heights

“Lately, it seems like teachers are constantly being criticized and bad mouthed. Their ‘job’ performances questioned and budgets constantly being cut. Personally, I have always considered teachers to be much, much more important than they are given credit for! My daughter has been blessed with one of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and working with. Mrs. Amie Jamison was my daughter’s teacher from first grade through third grade at Hillcrest Elementary. In those three short years, both my daughter and myself grew to love Mrs. Jamison and now we think of her as a part of our family! I have no doubt that she will be ‘that teacher.’ The one who is always invited to family birthday parties and eventually graduations and beyond. First and foremost, Mrs. Jamison helped to develop the CAP (Crestwood Accelerated Program) in my daughter’s elementary school. From the first day of the program, Mrs. Jamison was always looking for fun and exciting ways for the kids to learn. Our school had never had such a program, and it was Mrs. Jamison that made it a success. I feel that any less of a teacher could not have pulled it off! Mrs. Jamison has always showed incredible compassion and love for her students. You can tell she cares deeply for each one of them. There are so many different instances I can recall where she went out of her way to help my daughter outside of the ‘normal’ teacher role. I’m not sure how many you would like for me to list but just a couple examples would be: When Gracie was being picked on, on the bus home from school, Mrs. Jamison went out of her way to get me the information I would need to get the situation resolved. When we found out that Gracie’s grandfather (my father-in-law) had stage-four terminal lung cancer, Mrs. Jamison (again) went above and beyond her ‘teacher’ role. By recommending several different books and websites, she gave me invaluable resources on how to talk to Gracie about this sensitive matter. Most importantly, Mrs. Jamison instilled a love of learning in my daughter that I doubt would be so great otherwise. That, in itself, is the greatest gift a teacher could give any child and I will always be indebted to her for it!”

– Wendy, Dearborn Heights

Mrs. Netta

Rainbow Academy Too, Detroit

“I would like to nominate Mrs. Netta at Rainbow Academy Too, because she is so compassionate about her kids. She goes above and beyond to make the children feel welcome every day. She always tells the children that they can do anything. From Day One, my son Reese has loved coming to school; he is learning at an excelerated rate because Mrs. Netta invest time into his future. She is a preschool teacher well deserving of the title Top Teacher.”

– Richelle, Southfield

Pamela Samsel

Weston Academy, Detroit

“I would like to nominate this teacher because she is wonderful. She is an absolutely wonderful teacher. She goes far and beyond the measures of teaching kindergarteners. She makes learning fun and easy to understand. She does not just put her knowledge into teaching; she also put her heart into it. I admire her for that. I also enjoy working with her. She is a great person, a phenomenal role model, and the best teacher to be nominated for the Top Teacher Award.”

– Beauty, Detroit

Tonya Byrd

Nolan Preparatory School of Excellence, Detroit

“My daughter has autism. To find the right school is hard, but when you find the right teacher, that is part of the key that will open doors for all children with special needs. You need time and understanding, but most of all a kind heart to be good mom, friend, mentor for all children. This has been a hard journey for me. My child is now in the fourth grade. There has been wonderful service staff that has made a change in our lives, but to have a teacher that loves her job, cares for her class, makes a mark in a child’s life that is struggling to just belong and a mom that needs comfort that everything will be all right, that is what matters the most. My daughter finally found her best elementary teacher. We’re really blessed.”

– Lucinda, Detroit

Kelly Bartashnick

Meek-Milton Elementary School, Inkster

“Kelly’s dedication to her students is inspiring. She cares about them deeply and goes above-and-beyond her duties as a teacher to make sure they have the supplies they need to get through the school day. Kelly works in a higher-poverty school, and we find her in our resource center after school, or on weekends, picking out school supplies, books, hygiene items and clothing for her students who need them the most. She comes in to do this on her own time. Kelly is moved by her students’ needs and you can sometimes see a tear as she recounts their stories. She’s committed to the success of her students and enjoys seeing the looks on their faces when they receive something special. Kelly has also become an advocate for all the students in need within her district. Kelly’s energy, compassion and dedication is worthy of being rewarded.”

– Menachem, Troy

Tammy Duffield

Brownell Middle School, Grosse Pointe Farms

“Mrs. Duffield has boundless passion and energy for teaching middle schoolers English and writing. She always has a fun activity to draw the students into the material that she is teaching, and her love and passion for reading and writing is contagious! The children that she teaches are always amazed at their own progress and learning.”

– Jane, Grosse Pointe Farms

Jennifer Kopp

Salem High School, Canton

“I’d like to nominate Mrs. Kopp because she did so much for so many people, and still does. She is a truly genuine person and teacher, with adorably funny quirks and surprising talents/interests that make her even easier for high schoolers to talk to. Mrs. Kopp is quite obviously passionate about music of all types, and can relate to much of what her students listen to, in addition to exposing them to choral music and actually learning to read and write sheet music. She goes out of her way to help you, is very friendly and approachable, and a true inspiration in how she conducts not only her students, but her life. I’m happy to say that ever since I graduated, we’ve kept in touch online, and even just seeing Facebook statuses she posts help brighten my days.”

– Laura, Canton

James Fisher

Ferry Elementary, Grosse Pointe Woods

“Over the past two weeks, 24 fourth and fifth graders have been running a new country on a newly discovered island. They established a government, a currency, designed a flag, wrote a constitution and developed business to line Fisher Way. This was after traveling back several hundred years to Native American times, when they built wigwams. Fisher Island was the creation of James Fisher, one of the best teachers in the metro Detroit area. The island was one of the many ideas he has to get his students excited about school. His sense of humor brightens the classroom. He teaches the students in a fun way and plans outside of the box in order to go past the normal student experience. He develops creative ideas, such as Fisher Island and the Native American tribe, and puts them into action. Every fourth and fifth grader in his class thinks he makes school fun and enjoyable. Most of the time we don’t even realize we are learning. Mr. Fisher believes in sticking to the curriculum, but allowing us to use our own intricate brains to explore topics and ideas. We master the concepts quickly, and we can’t wait to see what Mr. Fisher has ready for us next. If any teacher deserves the Teacher of the Year award, it has to be Mr. Fisher. His love of teaching is astonishing and our love for him is unstoppable.”

– Fisher fifth graders, Grosse Pointe Woods

Colleen Byrne

Bennie Elementary, Allen Park

“Mrs. Byrne is an AWESOME first grade teacher. She understands every child’s 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 the most kind-hearted individual I know. My son comes home from school every day with a smile on his face because she takes the time to let every child know they are special. My son has never appreciated school as much as he does until he met his first grade teacher. She makes things FUN and teaches every student that nothing is BORING and if you need help, she will help until you understand. I never met a teacher that is so spontaneous and SPUNKY as her. As much as she would appreciate an award, nothing would be better to her than the smile on a child face knowing they accomplished something they couldn’t do and believed in themselves more than anything. This is why Mrs. Byrne should have the teachers award!”

– Cameron, Taylor

Kimberly Vrooman

Cleveland Elementary, Livonia

“I would like to nominate Mrs. Vrooman, my first grade teacher, because I like that she has a class store called V-Mart. The store helps teach our class about math. You get money throughout the week for rewards because we do our homework. On Fridays, we make a pile of bags and she tells us how much money we have all together. She has cool things in there like addition and subtraction books, erasers, pencils, tops, buckets, paper and stuffed animals. She puts price tags on them too. If we don’t have our own snacks, she has snacks in her room. She has graham crackers or animal crackers. She reads us cool books and has two baskets of those books. One is labeled ‘Great Books that Mrs. Vrooman Reads to Us.’ She is a good teacher. All the kids like her.”

– Brendan, Livonia

Beth Shaum

St. Paul Catholic School, Grosse Pointe Farms

“I would like to nominate Mrs. Shaum because of her enthusiasm and creativity in teaching, especially in her literature class. Earlier this year, her sixth graders Skyped a children’s book illustrator. She encourages her students to attend author lectures via emails to parents. For example, on winter break, she let parents know about the Feb. 28, Newbery-winning author Christopher Paul Curtis visited Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. She has created amazing literature circles with blog posts for her students. Both my boys have had Mrs. Shaum. Please consider her for the Top Teacher Award.”

– Patti, Groose Pointe Farms

“Mrs. Shaum is a sixth grade teacher who specializes in reading. She has a love for reading that is so infectious it spills over to the kids. She fills her room with books that she has hand-selected and purchased. They are available for the kids to borrow, bring home and return when they are finished. Mrs. Shaum brings authors into the classroom and updates her students with author visits in our surrounding communities. She runs her classroom with quiet motivation and her students respond beautifully. She has opened our daughter’s eyes to the fun of reading. I would strongly recommend Beth Shaum for the southeast Michigan Top Teacher Award for 2012.”

– Julie, Grosse Pointe Park

Linda Guenzel

Isbister Elementary School, Plymouth

“This teacher is beyond wonderful. She is a great teacher, but beyond that, she has a heart of gold. She has taught both of my sons. One being an ‘A’ student, and one that struggles with his grades. Not only was she wonderful to both of them, but she took my younger son (who has OCD) under her wing, and his grades and self confidence have improved dramatically. I can’t tell you how much this has changed our life in this home. My son is excited about learning for one of the first times in his life. I look forward to my daughter (hopefully) having her next year. Please consider Mrs. Guenzel for this award. She is top-notch!”

– Donna, Plymouth

Ms. Carson

Communication and Media Arts High School, Detroit

“Ms. Carson is my nominee because she is a very great person and techer. She relates to us in so many ways. She’s not just a teacher who could care less about our education; she is a kind-hearted woman who has a big dream for us to become succesful in our future, and has an even bigger heart. She is the best teacher I’ve had yet, next to my mother, who is also a teacher.”

– Dajae, Detroit

Carolyn McPherson

Munger Middle School, Detroit

“I love Mrs. McPherson because she was trying to tell us about the future with and without education. I’m so happy I listened. I became a teacher because of her. She somehow was able to educate a classroom full of hormone-driven, smart-mouthed know-it-alls. We all love her; we may not have understood then, but we do now.”

– Carolyn, Detroit

Amanda Kalinowsky

South Canton Scholars Academy, Canton

“Mrs. Kalinowsky teaches first grade with an abundance of positive praise that motivates her students to want to learn. She sets clear expectations and keeps the tone of the room upbeat – and yet quiet. Her effort to teach the students to work independently is clearly paying off, because they know what to do and have the encouragement they need to be successful. Mrs. Kalinowsky provides specific feedback to her students who are part of setting their own learning goals. Her students feel empowered and focused. Mrs. Kalinowsky has the right combination of happiness, warmth, structure and discipline to offer her students the chance to reach their potential.”

– Lauren, Plymouth

Dwayne Dorey

St. Linus Catholic School, Dearborn Heights

“Getting one 5-year-old to listen can feel like an accomplishment. Getting 25 5-year-olds to listen, share, imagine, learn and work together is nothing short of magic. Dwayne Dorey does just that in his classroom and somehow manages to make it look easy. With a combination of patience, enthusiasm, heart and what is obviously a genuine love for teaching, Mr. Dorey earns his students’ trust and respect and creates an environment where students feel that they’re respected, too. He empowers them with knowledge, encourages them to dream and create, challenges them to grow and celebrates their individual achievements. While he does make this all look easy, there’s no questioning the time that he puts into his classroom and the school. Mr. Dorey is there at every parent-teacher meeting and every school fundraiser. He’s making phone calls on a Saturday afternoon to plan an upcoming classroom activity and answering parent emails at 10 p.m. Mr. Dorey’s light is often the last one on in the school as he plans and prepares another lesson designed to keep a classroom full of curious kindergartners engaged and excited to learn. For his heart, dedication and the impact that he makes on each of his students, Dwayne Dorey deserves to be recognized as a Top Teacher.”

– Christine, Dearborn Heights

Other Counties

Anne Prill

Rolland-Warner Middle School, Lapeer

“Mrs. Prill is an amazing science teacher. To keep the children engaged, she will get up and walk on the desks if need be. She teaches with excitement and enthusiasm – so much so that when one of the elective classes has her name attached, students sign up in droves. One the same account, students have been known to request schedule changes when a new teacher is unexpectedly reassigned to teach the class. Mrs. Prill is also one of the student council advisers – teaching leadership and life skills to top students. Additionally, she is one of the cross-country coaches and assists her husband in leading the track team as well. There is no doubt that this highly involved teacher deserves recognition.”

– Jenine, Metamora

Tonya Powers

State Road Elementary, Fenton

“Mrs. Powers is a phenomenal kindergarten teacher. She makes each kid feel smart and special and genuinely cares for every single one. Mrs. Powers actually sees the great character traits in each student and celebrates it. She could tell you any given day a specific fact, favorite color or story or a special skill that one of her 24 students has. She pays attention and notices what makes each child wonderful and unique. Mrs. Powers not only helps these children learn such things like how to read and do math, but she also makes it fun – often with singing! My daughter is always singing the new things she has learned, which will help her remember the information forever. She also teaches beyond those subjects, such as how to be a helpful member of the community and how to be a caring and compassionate friend. She helps the parents feel comfortable with the transition of sending their babies off to kindergarten, while striving to give the kids the confidence to be more and more independent with each passing month. She carries a wonderful routine that the kids expect and love, and has expectations for the children that they rise to everyday. Not only is she a teacher; she’s also a mother, which she shows each day through her teaching as well – caring for each student, looking out for them and having the unconditional love that often comes with being a parent. Mrs. Powers is a fabulous teacher, and we have been lucky to have her as my daughter’s first teacher ever, now that she is an official ‘big kid’ in elementary school. Mrs. Powers is more than deserving to win an award for being the best teacher, and I hope I was able to fully express how wonderful she is, and how fitting this award would be.”

– Rachel, Holly

Bernice Chapel

St. Patrick’s School, Brighton

“Mrs. Chapel’s kind and caring personality allowed me to become open-minded to mathematics. She was a teacher for many years by the time I was her student. Those years of experience provided her with the patience and teaching style that was a constant inspiration for me to want to enthusiastically learn math. Since Mrs. Chapel, no other math teacher has ever come close to helping me grasp the difficult principles of math. I am always thankful that Mrs. Chapel provided me with the fundamental building blocks that allow me to be successful in math today.”

– Julie, Howell

Holly Jenuwine

North Branch Elementary, North Branch

“Mrs. Jenuwine is such a nice and caring teacher. She is so great with her students. My daughter tells me almost every evening (out of the blue) how much she just loves and adores her teacher. She is just the perfect first grade teacher, if you ask me.”

– Laura, North Branch

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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