An Ottawa County educator known for teaching students how to think like scientists and for her leadership in advancing science education in her school district and elsewhere in the state has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Susan Ghysels, teaches seventh-grade science at Baldwin Street Middle School in Hudsonville. The school is part of the Hudsonville 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 Ghysels 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 Ghysels at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.
Ghysels said the students are her favorite part of being an educator. “I love the energy that the kids bring to class. They are full of curiosity and want to experiment,” she said, adding, “I also enjoy the collaborative environment at my school.”
Deciding to become an educator came early in life for Ghysels. “I can’t remember a time that I wanted to be anything except a teacher. Then, I had some fabulous science teachers in high school who set me on the path to specializing in science education.”
Ghysels said the opportunity to help students inspires her to give her best every day. “My motivation each day is my students and knowing that the skills they develop in my class will help them be successful in the future,” she said. “It is essential for students to be able to analyze data, to read and communicate effectively about science, and to think critically to solve problems. Science is a great way to build these abilities so I try to give my students many opportunities to experiment and apply these important skills.”
Ghysels has been teaching seventh-grade science with the Hudsonville Public Schools for the past 23 years. She earned a bachelor of arts in biology from Grand Valley State University and also earned a master’s degree in the art of the practice of teaching from Western Michigan University.
Ghysels was nominated for the Excellence in Education award by a colleague, who described her as “the kind of teacher who cares deeply about her students and she works to teach with a variety of approaches to ensure that all students have a shot at success. Her high standards show how much she cares for her students.
“Mrs. Ghysels brings science alive each day for her seventh graders. Her cutting-edge leadership work with the Van Andel Institute has brought a new model of teaching science to Hudsonville. She works tirelessly to update lab experiences to allow students to practice actual science by testing out hypothesis, working to support claims, and considering how the science they know supports or refutes their findings. She is creating students who are critical thinkers, aware of their own processes. Through a method of inquiry-based instruction, students begin to think and behave like scientists because of the power she instills in them with her methods of teaching.”
The nomination added: “Mrs. Ghysels incorporates cross-curricular ideas, since she knows that reading and writing about science helps students to express what they think and show why they think it. She builds a literacy-rich classroom, always striving to incorporate reading and writing in her daily classroom work. She works closely with other teachers to support the work of other classrooms through her science content.
“Not only does she shine in the classroom and as a building leader, her model of leading the entire district’s science department is inspirational, instilling in all members a desire to tackle the new curriculum demands. In addition to all of the work she does in her classroom with students and all the work she does as a building-level leader, she is a formative assessment coach, a cognitive coach and a master teacher, allowing her to share her game-changing ideas with many teachers through state and local presentations at conferences and professional development opportunities.”
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.