A Wayne County educator known for strengthening the love of learning in her students through a variety of methods, such as robotics and reading clubs, has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Kathleen McNulty, teaches third grade at Miller Elementary School in Canton Township. The school is part of the Plymouth-Canton Community 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 McNulty 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 McNulty at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.
McNulty said her favorite part of being an educator is “teaching my students new things in a fun way! It is really important to me that they are not only learning, but also that they are happy in school.”
She said she’s motivated to do her best each day because “I want to do whatever I can to help students reach the high expectations that are set for them each day. We have quite a diverse population in our school and I know for some of my students, being at school gives them the opportunity to really show off their creativity.”
McNulty said she had always thought about teaching but initially pursued another career. Then a breast cancer diagnosis in 1997, followed by a leukemia diagnosis for her husband in 1999, made her realize that “life is too short not to do what you want to do. So I went back to school to become a teacher.”
The mother of some former students nominated McNulty for the Excellence in Education award, describing her as “always going above and beyond for her students.”
“She runs a walking club, reading club, and science club for her class. She also volunteered to coordinate the robotics club. She does this all on her own time and to help strengthen her students’ love of learning. She is always inspiring her kids to do their best. At the school’s open house, she gives each of her students a plant (grown from one of her own) and tells them ‘This is the first thing for your dorm in college.’ My kids still have all of their plants,” the nomination said.
“She changed careers later in life after an illness because she knew life was too short not to do what she loved. She proves every day she made the right choice and my kids were lucky to have her as a teacher.”
McNulty has been an educator for 13 years, all with the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools district. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Eastern Michigan University, where she also earned her teacher certification. She went on to earn a master of arts degree in education, with a focus on reading, from Eastern Michigan.
Before becoming a teacher, McNulty was a social worker and administrator working with neglected, abused and delinquent teenage girls at a residential treatment center for more than 19 years. She also worked in the Eastern Michigan University human resources department for about eight years.
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.