An Oakland County educator known for using competitions and real-life challenges to inspire her students and for encouraging females to enter the engineering design field has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Sharon Spencer, teaches architecture and engineering computer aided drafting and design (CADD) at Waterford Mott High School. The school is part of the Waterford 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 Spencer 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 Spencer at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.
Spencer said she was attracted to a career in education because of the opportunities it offered to “share my enthusiasm for architecture and engineering CADD with students. As a female in a non-traditional field, I’m happy to be able to promote engineering CADD, especially to younger female students to show them that girls can do anything they want.
“I love to share my passion for CADD with my students. My favorite part of being an educator is seeing the excitement in my students as they are working on projects,” she said. “My students motivate me to go the extra mile, especially the students who are so excited and enthusiastic about learning.”
Spencer has been an educator for 16 years, the last nine with the Waterford Schools District. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in interior design from Michigan State University and received her teaching certificate from Wayne State University and Ursuline College and Lansing Community College.
The Excellence in Education award nomination described Spencer as “a minority female who has developed an excellent program in a male-dominated area of high school teaching. She has increased the number of female students in the program and works tirelessly to give her students outside experiences, even on weekends.”
The nomination noted that the students in Spencer’s classes for engineering and architecture computer aided design, robotics and animation participate in many competitions. “She also has given them opportunities to interact with the community, such as when she has the local fire department bring its hook and ladder truck so the students can test the containers they have designed by dropping an egg in them from the top of the fire truck ladder! They also make cardboard boats and have boat races.”
One of Spencer’s students, Nilam Patel, said she “has inspired me to reach above and beyond in the engineering field by encouraging me to challenge myself as a female student in a male-dominated classroom. If it hadn’t been for her enthusiasm and encouragement, I don’t think I would have advanced so far into the drafting classes. I’ve accomplished so much thanks to Ms. Spencer, such as winning the cardboard boat races two years in a row as the only female in her engineering class.”
Another student, Tyler Duff, described Spencer as “an inspiration to me not only in the classroom but also outside it, too.” He said working with Spencer at a variety of robotic competitions had helped him grow academically and personally. “Without Ms. Spencer and what she has offered me as a person, I would not be where I am today.”
Senior Kyle Kennedy said Spencer has been his mentor throughout his high school career and allows him to “work freely on projects that pique my interest, such as designing my own custom chess set or reverse engineering my gaming controller. Yet, if I ever need any help or reassurance, she is always right there, offering her knowledge or her motivational words.” Kennedy added that being involved in different robotics programs with Spencer “has given me experience in team work and mechanics that I will have for a lifetime and I have Ms. Spencer to thank for it.”
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.