An Ottawa County educator known for setting high expectations and standards for students and herself and inspiring students and colleagues to excel has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Michelle U’Ren, is a fifth-grade teacher at the Pinewood Elementary School in Jenison. The school is part of the Jenison 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 U’Ren 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 U’Ren at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.
U’Ren said that the opportunities to help students succeed attracted her to a career in education. “I love the idea that I can play a role in shaping a student’s academic, personal and social life. Knowing I can make a difference is empowering.”
“The relationships that I make are my favorite part about being an educator. It’s wonderful to be able to create lasting relationships with students, collaborative relationships with parents, and partnerships with my colleagues,” she said, adding that her students motivate her to do her best every day in the classroom.
“I love seeing smiles on kids’ faces, seeing their eyes light up with excitement, hearing shouts of excitement when they are successful. I go above and beyond to ensure my students have the very best experiences possible.”
U’Ren has been an educator for 13 years, the last 10 teaching fifth grade with the Jenison Public Schools. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Alma College and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University.
U’Ren was nominated for the Excellence in Education award by a colleague, who described her as “one of those truly exceptional teachers who makes us all a little better for having just known her. Michelle U’Ren is someone who changes lives and inspires students and teachers to do great things. We’ve all had that one teacher who helped shape our lives and helped us believe that we could be something more. For many people that teacher is Michelle U’Ren.
“Michelle is an inspirational teacher who can ignite the thrill of learning and also build a strong foundation of trust and relationships with her students and teachers. Michelle is always going above and beyond to stay current in her teaching skills by going to conferences, joining webinars, and sharing ideas with teachers, and using these new ideas with her students. She is not loud or outspoken, but leads through quiet confidence. The activities that she does with her class are new and innovative, but also demonstrate a high level of expectations and knowledge of the curriculum. She really pushes students to their highest potential. She takes troubled students under her wing providing them with tough love,” the nomination said.
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.