"I have the privilege of spending every day with little people who have big hearts, endless potential and funny stories to tell." Damia Toyras, recipient of the MRA Educator K-6 Award, shares her passion for literacy in her classroom community every day by making it a priority. Her students are respected, loved and cared for as they celebrate their learning. Damia also creates opportunities for college undergraduates to visit her classroom to observe and participate in literacy best practices. In addition, she has created a professional book study through the Marquette Alger Reading Council. Congratulations Damia!
How would you like to be a part of a classroom where puppies are part of the curriculum? Mary Sinclair has involved her kindergarten students in the training of nine different dogs. She encourages her student's success by finding any means available to inspire them to accomplish more - even puppies. Mary is a leader in her school, district and community through membership in the Marquette-Alger Reading Council and the Upper Peninsula Writing Project. Her work in the Kindergarten Round-Up led her to create a Kindergarten Entry Assessment. Her work to improve parent communication has led to teaching parents about appropriate activities for home. As one parent noted, "Mary has the ability to inspire each and every child in her classroom to accomplish more and find success."
A deep understanding of “the nuts and bolts” of how to teach reading to beginning readers and to share her passion for promoting literacy among students, staff, parents and the community characterizes this year’s co-recipient of the Teacher K-6 Educator Award, Erika Morrison. Erika teaches at Graveraet Elementary in the Marquette Area Public Schools. We all know that expectations for kindergartners’ achievement in their first year in school have changed drastically since most of us were there. A parent shared with us that her twin boys’ experience in Erika’s classroom saw not only academic growth, but the important emotional and social growth that is so important in that first year of school. To help all students in the area look forward to reading and writing, Erika is co-directing the Young Authors’ Conference in Marquette this year. Congratulations to Erika Morrison from the Michigan Reading Association.
Taking the step from a classroom to a reading specialist role takes a master teacher and one who has the respect of the administration and staff. This year’s co-recipient of the Teacher K-6 Educator Award, Natalie Haezebrouck, from Leonard Elementary School, Troy School District took on this role with high expectations and vast knowledge. One parent shared that she could watch her child’s confidence and enthusiasm build after developing strategies with Ms. Haezebrouck over the course of the year. Natalie developed a Guided Reading Academy in her school. This academy brought teachers together to explore strategies that would be used in their classroom. Teachers viewed videos and through coaching and shared experiences, helped the students at Leonard reach new heights. Her unique Hit a Home Run strategy was adopted by the whole district. She blasted it out of the stadium. Congratulations to Natalie Haezebrouck from the Michigan Reading Association.
When one is described as a voracious reader and researcher of literacy practices, you know she is always on the front-line, fighting for students no matter their abilities. Sarah Shoemaker, this year's MRA recipient of the K-6 Educator Award, works with all students at Baldwin Heights Elementary in Greenville. Sarah's successful grant writing ability added $10,000 of non-fiction books to their library. Sarah has been instrumental in managing and inspiring change in her building by serving as the building school improvement chair, whose work entails working with staff on monitoring instruction and measuring student learning. She has gone the extra mile by helping form a community organization leading the charge to have six little free libraries installed around the community. The students at Baldwin Heights have a teacher that helps tailor their instruction to their needs.
The goal for all educators is to build amazing rapport with students by motivating and challenging them at the same time. This year’s recipient of the MRA Educator Award is Belinda Cleary from Summit Academy in Romulus. Belinda is working with 6th graders this year but has had experience with 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th grade students. With this experience, she has shared and brainstormed ideas for working with at-risk students. Her passion has not stopped there; she has presented at MRA, MACUL, and NSTA. She has also worked with ELL adults in the Dearborn community. The Award Committee received many letters from Belinda’s students. One of her quotes, shared by her student, “If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over.” Guadalupe Serrato, a parent, wrote, “An award would probably not be enough to show my thanks towards Mrs. Cleary for impacting my son so positively, but it is a good start.” The Michigan Reading Association agreed it is a good start, and are honored to present Belinda Cleary with the Michigan Reading Association Educator Award this year.
“I have never been as awed by an individual’s work ethic and wisdom as I have been by those of Mrs. Claudette Daniels,” states a colleague of this year recipient of the Teacher Educator K-6 Award, Claudette Daniels of Doherty Elementary in West Bloomfield. She engages students in daily interactive read alouds with multicultural, award winning and relevant text. Claudette shares her knowledge and love of literacy with students at Madonna University and as a role model to both in-service and pre-service teachers. Claudette’s love of poetry is a large part of her life, daily instruction and classroom environment. Parents are delighted to overhear their children reciting poems, in the shower, at sleepovers and driving in the car. As one parent wrote, “one can only hope and pray someone like Mrs. Daniels will touch their child’s life” “I know my child is better for having her in his life.” As a friend, as a colleague, as a teacher and advocate of reading, Claudette is a rare and treasured find.
In his own words, the recipient of the Elementary Administrator's Award "is a product of the Michigan Reading Association." Alexander McNeece, this year's recipient, started attending the conferences at the age of 12 with his mother, Valerie McNeece. His love of reading and writing has continued, and today Alexander is the principal at Douglas Elementary School in Garden City. As curricular leader he has designed and implemented a total literacy program that involves students in reading, writing and presenting newsflashes. These videotapes are shared in his building and on the district's cable station, and they have brought literacy alive for staff, students, and parents. Alexander has authored three books: Sam Iver: Imminent Threat; Ryan and Ruby go to Kindergarten, and Read to Me, Daddy: My First Football Book. His love of teaching brings him back into the classroom to share his personal writing process and his love of reading. As one of his teachers said, "It has been exciting to see the positive changes at Douglas under his passionate leadership."
"If the Pied Piper had the heart and talents of this year's Teacher Educator K-6, he would have led the children of Hamlin down Literacy Lane skipping and singing praises of the wonderful adventures that lay ahead in stories and books." These words are from a colleague of Marsha Page, who is a second grade teacher at Sandy Knoll Elementary in Marquette. She is the Pied Piper at her school, and this year's recipient for the Educator K-6 Award. Story comes alive in a classroom that wears children's stories all over its walls, and through Marsha's marvelous storytelling abilities. The Marquette Literacy Committee, Curriculum Council, and the National Writing Project have benefited from her expert advice on developing a curriculum for schools.
Ann Diller, third grade teacher at Polk School-Dearborn Heights #7, is the Teacher Educator K-6 award recipient for 2008. She is often described creative, dependable, and hardworking. Through her leadership, Ann effectively helps others understand that a changing world requires changing practices in literacy. These changes are evident by a classroom atmosphere that is conducive to learning and an environment where students feel successful. Her principal, observing her classroom, wrote: "Your lesson was outstanding. You scaffold students learning very well and made the learning explicit and fun by visually demonstrating the big idea and details." Ann is a stellar model literacy teacher.
"Lucy has the biggest smile! She brings her enthusiasm for life and learning with her wherever she goes." These words describe this year's recipient of the Educator Award - Teacher K-6. Lucy teaches at Superior Hills Elementary in Marquette. She has been an advocate for literacy for over three decades. One of her most interesting and valuable causes was raising money to establish a library in the town of Tolo, Guinea. This project came about when her students began communicating with her daughter, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tolo. Her students wrote letters to the students in this village, which turned into the wonderful project of raising over $3000 for the first library in this remote village. Lucy has authored two MRA publications. Lucy has touched not only students living in Marquette, but also helped to promote literacy in a small village in Africa. The Michigan Reading Association congratulates Lucy Harrington as the Educator Award - Teacher K-6 recipient for 2007.