Kent County Educator Wins Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery

Barbara Cole (right) poses for a photo with her husband, Tom Cole (second from left), principal, Karen Friberg (left) and Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo after accepting her Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery.

Barbara Cole (right) poses for a photo with her husband, Tom Cole (second from left), principal, Karen Friberg (left) and Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo after accepting her Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery.

A Kent County educator known for her dedication to students and the personalized attention she gives them, including providing each student with an end-of-the year photo album and a calendar of summer activities, has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Barbara Cole, is a first-grade teacher at the Townline Elementary School in Kentwood.   The school is part of the Kentwood Public Schools district.

The Michigan Lottery recently established the Excellence in Education awards 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 is 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 Cole will air Tuesday evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing and Thursday evening in Detroit.

Barbara Cole (right) talks with Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo prior to accepting her Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery.

Barbara Cole (right) talks with Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo prior to accepting her Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery.

For the Excellence in Education awards program, the Lottery has teamed up with Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.  Izzo met recently with Cole at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.

Cole said her favorite part of being an educator is “touching so many lives, making a difference! First grade is totally the best.  Reading skills kick in and first-graders still love their teacher!  I learn from them every day.”

Cole said that she knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in the third grade, adding:  “It’s the love of my life!”

She has been an educator for 38 years, all with the Kentwood Public Schools and has been teaching first grade for the past 33 years. Cole said her students motivate her to do her best every day.  “Every day is a new adventure! My students – and all of their smiles – are my motivation.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education from Central Michigan University and master’s degree in elementary reading from Western Michigan University.

The mother of three of Cole’s former students nominated her for the award.  The nomination noted:  “She is dedicated to all her students and really does what she can to make each one successful.” As an example, the parent noted one of her children struggled with reading and staying focused in class.  Cole worked with her and the school counselor to get him the help he needed and he finished the year reading above the first-grade level.

“One amazing thing that she does is that every year she takes photos of her students during special days or events. Then, the last day of each year, each student gets a photo album of their first grade memories and a summer calendar with activities to do each day and her home address so the kids can send her things they have made or done,” the nomination said, adding that Cole also serves on the board of directors for the local student activity center and food pantry.

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 will be 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.
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