A Kent County educator known for her leadership in the classroom and her school and her commitment to finding new ways to help students succeed has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Yamaka Bracey, teaches a combined fourth-fifth grade class at Campus Elementary School in Grand Rapids. The school is part of the Grand Rapids 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 Bracey 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 Bracey at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.
Bracey said her favorite part of being an educator is that “every day in education has its own journey. I love being able to inspire, help, guide and speak and teach about life to all I have been given the chance to encounter. My goal is that every student and parent should feel my passion and know I am an advocate to help all students be successful in life.”
She said education has been a passion for her since childhood. “I am a family person and love working with people. I believe everyone can be successful, we all just have to find our own way to that success. I want to be a part of the change that is happening with our students. I want to give my students what I needed in my school days and what helped me be successful.”
She said her students motivate her to do her best each day. “I don’t see it as doing anything extra, but simply what I do and who I am. My students motivate me every day. They all come from different walks of life. My students need me to help them navigate through various circumstances in life. The Grand Rapids Public Schools district has served as a catalyst that has room for every child, parent and adult to make a difference the best way they can.
“My motivation is giving hope to the hopeless and bringing life to the future that I see possible for all my students. In my classroom, we are family and we are one and we are constantly making a difference in each other’s lives.”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Bracey noted that she serves as a lead teacher and mentors other teachers, serves as a facilitator for professional learning communities, and has worked with colleagues on classroom enrichment techniques. She also serves as a member of the instructional leadership team.
The nomination also pointed out that Bracey has increased parental involvement by launching a “lunch bunch” program that offers parents opportunities to be with their children at school and learn about, and involve them, with the students’ classroom work.
Bracey also provides after school sessions to teach parents skills and strategies to use at home to help their children with their studies.
Among other volunteer projects at the school, she created and coordinated the annual Black History Month celebration and helps lead fundraisers to support special events and activities for students. She also coordinated a water drive through the school that brought families, staff, and communities together to provide more than 1,000 bottles of water for the residents of Flint.
Bracey has been an educator for seven years, the past three in her current position at Campus Elementary. She earned an associate degree at Grand Rapids Community College, and then a bachelor degree in education from Aquinas College. She is in the process of completing course work for a master’s degree in urban education from Davenport University.
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.