A Jackson County educator known for creating curiosity and enthusiasm in her students by using hands-on learning experiences, such as projects in the school greenhouse, has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Heather Patrick, is a kindergarten teacher at Arnold Elementary School in Michigan Center. The school is part of the Michigan Center School 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 Patrick will air Tuesday evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing and Thursday evening 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 Patrick at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.
Patrick said her favorite part of being an educator is that there “is so much joy and energy in kindergarten. Each and every day is a new adventure! I get to see kindergarteners grow socially, emotionally, and academically.
“I believe that kindergarten truly is the most magical year of a child’s education. Children come to school to explore and discover the world around them and then learn from it! We create experiences for them, such as building snowmen as ‘research’ for a ‘how-to’ writing project, or cooking porridge to understand the sequence of a recipe, when we read ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears.’
“I also believe that part of being a teacher is to make my kindergarteners aware of their own potential to have a positive impact on our community and the people in it,” she said, adding that her students made “thank you” cards for local veterans on Veterans Day and “we will be making our annual Christmas caroling trip to local care facilities in December. Every day we have a chance to make the world a little bit better, and in kindergarten, we do!”
Patrick said she choose a career in education because “I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children! Giving them the gift of reading is an amazing opportunity. I can’t imagine any other career that would be more rewarding.”
Patrick earned a bachelor of science degree in education from Central Michigan University and has been an educator for 20 years, all with the Michigan Center School District. She has been teaching kindergarten for the past seven years.
She was nominated for the Excellence in Education award by the mother of a former colleague who described her as a “teacher leader and a mentor teacher” who participates in school improvements, such as the committee that planned and developed the school’s greenhouse. The nomination noted Patrick sparks “a great amount of curiosity and enthusiasm” in students through hands on activities that correlate with classroom work and using activities, such as in the greenhouse as “a springboard for young minds.”
Patrick said of the greenhouse: “We grow beans, squash and geraniums and minds and memories and imaginations out there!”
The nomination also pointed out that she continually is updating her teaching methods and “brings enthusiasm, imagination and excitement to the learning process of her students, and that will be with them throughout their education.”
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.