Courtney Valentine poses for a photo with her husband, Kojak, and son, Kojak Jr., after accepting her Excellence in Education award from Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.
A Detroit educator known for her dedication to her students and encouraging them to excel academically and to overcome difficult personal situations outside the classroom has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Courtney Valentine, teaches sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade mathematics at the Detroit International Academy for Young Women. The academy, which is part of the Detroit Public Schools district, offers an all-girls kindergarten-through-12th grade program.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education award program in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year.
Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Each winner also will be featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations: WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, and FOX 47 in Lansing. The news segment featuring Valentine will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing and then on Thursday in Detroit.
For the Excellence in Education awards program, the Lottery has teamed up with Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo. Izzo met recently with Valentine at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.
She said her favorite part of being a teacher is “being a role model for the young ladies I teach. Although I love teaching math, I realize that my job requires much more.”
Valentine has been an educator for 14 years, all with the Detroit Public Schools district. A volunteer stint at a school led Valentine, who then was working for the U.S. Postal Service, to a career in education. “I volunteered at a school and I loved it. The principal was so impressed, he offered me a job. I left the post office, went back to school, and have not looked back,” she said.
Valentine said being able to help students motivates her to do her best each day. “My girls need me. Times are tough in the city and my girls often have the weight of the world on them. My goal is to provide a safe, loving environment where they can thrive. Students need to feel cared for and confident to achieve success,” she said.
Courtney Valentine talks with Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, after accepting her Excellence in Education award.
The nomination for Valentine described her as “an amazing teacher! She challenges her students to rise above their circumstances and do their best every day. She is extremely dedicated to her students and always goes the extra mile which is why she is loved by students, parents, and colleagues alike.
“As chess coach, Mrs. Valentine traveled with her girls to Nashville, Tenn., where they won second place even though they had been playing for only one year. Mrs. Valentine also traveled with a group of girls to Washington, D.C., to witness the historic unveiling of the Martin Luther King Monument and tour Howard University. Inside of the classroom, Mrs. Valentine takes time to ensure that all students are able to find success and learn according to their personal styles.
“She happily sacrifices her own lunch period to tutor struggling students several days per week. She even takes time in the evening to tutor students via phone who have moved on to high school. Recently, Mrs. Valentine was visited by a former student who is attending Spelman College as a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar. The young lady wanted to make sure that Mrs. Valentine knew what an important role she played in her success,” the nomination said.
Valentine earned a business degree from Davenport University and master’s degree in education from Wayne State University.
Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation or through the websites of the Lottery’s media partner stations.
Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
- Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
- Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
- Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
- Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts
- Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.