A Wayne County educator known for helping special needs students develop functional skills through a horticulture program that includes a market selling fresh vegetables and flowers has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Michael Craig, is a special education teacher at the Charles Drew Transition Center in Detroit. The school is part of the Detroit Public Schools and serves about 560 young adults with special needs.
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 Craig 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 Craig at the Breslin Center and presented him with the award.
Craig said his favorite parts of being an educator are “providing opportunities for students to learn and to excel and in being a part of making students’ lives meaningful. Being an educator comes with many rewards, among those the daily interactions with students, parents and fellow teachers.”
With family members working in education, pursuing a career in the field was a natural for Craig. “I grew up in the classroom, helping and observing all that was going on. While teaching children the game of tennis, the bug hit and I decided teaching was what I wanted to do and I delight in doing so every day.”
“I’m motivated each day to provide for my students because I represent the students society often throws away, that being the cognitively impaired,” he said. “I enjoy giving them chances to find their way into achieving functional independence.”
Craig has been an educator for 19 years, the last four at the Charles Drew Transition Center. He earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Eastern Michigan University and master of arts degree in educational administration from Wayne State University. He also holds additional certification in cognitive impairments education from Eastern Michigan University.
He was nominated for the Excellence in Education award by a colleague who wrote that Craig “sets the tone for our school with his professionalism, personal interest in the development of all students, and in his innovation and dedication to bringing the very best of instructional diversity in leading students to obtain knowledge and skill.”
“Mr. Craig has a vision of all special needs students at the Drew Transition Center having access to materials and programs to learn, develop and participate in obtaining the skills of horticulture through the planting, management and sales of vegetables and flowers. Mr. Craig is constantly designing interactive methods and carefully designed lessons centered around students’ disabilities and allowing for maximum involvement and skill acquisition,” the nomination said.
“His selfless dedication to the advancement of student knowledge through actual hands-on skill acquisition help students to gain valuable vocational skills leading to functional independence. I enjoy working alongside Mr. Craig, and in seeing how eager his students arrive for class each day, and in the careful, thoughtful way that he interacts with and encourages his students to perform seeding, transplanting and other related tasks.”
The nomination noted that the produce from the Drew horticulture program ends up on plates in the school’s cafeteria. Last year, the program began offering fresh produce and flowers to parents and the local community through a farmer’s market, dubbed Farmstand.
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.