A Clinton County educator known for sharing her love of music with students and using it to help them grow both academically and personally has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Shirley Ries, teaches music to about 700 students at three elementary schools in the St. Johns Public Schools district. She also serves as the grade level chairperson for the elementary music, art, and physical education staff.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards 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 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 Ries 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, who recently presented Ries with the award at the Breslin Center.
In turn, Ries performed the Michigan State fight song on her ukulele for Izzo. “He said that was the first time that he’d heard it played on a ukulele,” she said with a laugh.
Ries said she chose a career in education at a young age because “I’ve always loved helping others learn. My elementary music teacher enthralled me and I wanted to grow up to be like her.”
She said she’s motivated to give her best every day because of her students and the strong work ethic instilled in her by her parents. “My parents taught me that ‘if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.’ And it’s wonderful to watch my students gain confidence in their new skills.”
Ries was nominated for the Excellence in Education award by a colleague, who also is the parent of one of her students. The nomination described her as “a treasure and a dynamo” who focuses on providing students a quality music education and “is highly active in other aspects of our school community, preparing students for concerts, helping with talent shows, mileage clubs, and wherever help is needed to make our learning community the best it can be for the students of St. Johns.”
“At every school, she provides students with opportunities to shine while playing instruments, singing, moving and creating. She holds concerts every year for every grade level in every school where she teaches,” the nomination said.
“I have watched her go above and beyond by making sure all students have an instrument to play, working with students outside of the regular school hours with private lessons or to work on talent show performances. She recently secured a donation of 30 ukuleles to bring a new tool to the classroom for student learning.”
Ries earned a bachelor degree in music education from Wartburg College, in Waverly, Iowa, and master’s degree from Marygrove College. She has been an educator for 22 years, the past 17 with the St. Johns Public Schools.
Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation or through the websites of the Lottery’s media partner stations.
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.