A Detroit educator known for her commitment to help students prepare for college and for expanding and creating internships and programs to encourage them to go on to college has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Lisa Phillips, is the principal at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. The school is part of the Detroit Public Schools District.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education award program in 2014 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 will be 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 Phillips will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing and then on Thursday 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 Phillips at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.
She said her favorite part of being an educator is the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of her students. “I consider myself a ‘dream maker’ for students and I am so proud to be able to make my students feel like they can conquer the world,” she said, adding that she was drawn to a career in education by “my passion and love to make sure our students are given as many opportunities as possible in school in order for them to succeed in life and to be productive citizens of society.”
Phillips said her students motivate her to do her best each day. “I simply want to remove all the boundaries or obstacles they face daily, such as poverty and low self-esteem. When I discover my students are in need or hurting, I go to work and remove those obstacles so they can focus on their school work and their education. When I remove obstacles for students, they know I care and want them to succeed in life. Seeing them smile makes me go the extra mile every day.”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Phillips noted that she has improved the academic offerings and student performance at Cass Tech during her tenure. For example, she led the effort to make Cass Tech the first high school in Detroit and Wayne County to become an international baccalaureate high school, providing students with a competitive global education.
She also worked with the University of Michigan medical school to establish a program that allows students to receive hands-on experience in the various departments of the medical school on a monthly basis. Each student in the program also has a medical school mentor throughout high school.
“She also established partnerships with companies such as the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Little Caesars, and the Fox Theatre to provide students with jobs in areas such as accounting, public relations, food quality control, and security. These paid internships help students prepare for college and for careers in the future,” the nomination said. It also noted that Cass Tech has a 98 percent graduation rate and nearly all of its graduates go on to attend college and have earned more than $100 million in scholarships and grants.
Additionally, 22 of the students who graduated from Cass Tech in 2015 already had earned associate degrees, so they started college as juniors.
Phillips has been with the Detroit Public Schools District for 26 years. She has served as the principal of Cass Tech for six years.
She earned a bachelor of science degree from Alabama State University and a master of arts degree from Wayne State University. She also has taken courses in education reform at Harvard University and interactive education at the University of Oxford.
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.