A Lapeer County educator known for using robotics and special projects to get his students excited about science and biology and working on projects with them on weekends has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Donald P. Heeke, is a science and biology teacher at Imlay City High School, which is part of the Imlay City Community Schools.
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 Heeke will air this 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 Heeke at the Breslin Center and presented him with the award.
Heeke said his favorite part about being an educator is “seeing that “Ah ha!” moment happen for a student.”
He added that the opportunity to help students succeed attracted him to career in education and motivates him every day. “You do what you have to do to make sure students get what they need to succeed. It’s what you do.”
Heeke founded and coaches a robotics team at Imlay City High School as a new way to help students learn and succeed. Since he founded the robotics team last school year, the team has competed in FIRST Robotics competitions, getting to the quarterfinals in each competition and also reaching the state finals. At one competition, the team won the Rookie All-Star Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by a first-year team, and it also won the Rookie Inspiration award at another competition.
“FIRST Robotics allows kids to take knowledge they obtain in a classroom setting about science, technology, engineering and math and put it to work in a functioning robot they create. It’s hands on real world problem solving at its best,” Heeke said.
Heeke earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan-Flint and a master’s degree from Saginaw Valley State University. He has been teaching in the Imlay City Community Schools District for the past 17 years and in his current position for two years.
His nomination for the Excellence in Education award noted: “Don is everything an educator should be and more. He puts himself into everything he teaches. He wants to see every opportunity extended to every child. He is kind and goes the extra mile for everyone and he gets excited about his work. He makes learning easy and kids want to learn in his class. He will meet with the kids on Saturdays and spend much of his summer preparing for the next school year. And he uses a chunk of his income to provide the supplies necessary to complete projects. The kids who I have spoken with tell me that Mr. Heeke is the teacher who made a difference in their lives.”
The nomination also noted that Heeke is active in the community. He has served as a Cub Scout leader and now is a Boy Scout committee member.
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.