Branch County Educator Wins Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery

Heather Sobek poses for a photo with (left to right) Legg Middle School Assistant Principal, Dianne VandenHout, Legg Middle School Principal, Julie Slusher, and husband, James Sobek, after accepting her Excellence in Education award from Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.

Heather Sobek poses for a photo with (left to right) Legg Middle School Assistant Principal, Dianne VandenHout, Legg Middle School Principal, Julie Slusher, and husband, James Sobek, after accepting her Excellence in Education award from Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.

A Branch County educator known for seeking out new ways to teach her students and for leading efforts to improve students’ educational achievement has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Heather Sobek, teaches sixth-grade English at Legg Middle School in Coldwater, which is part of the Coldwater Community Schools. Sobek also is the adviser for the school’s Youth in Government program and is co-adviser of the school’s student council.

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 Sobek 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 Sobek with the award at the Breslin Center.

Sobek said she chose a career in education because “I love school and I love kids.  Learning is my passion,” adding that her favorite part of being an educator is connecting with her students.

“I believe that the children are our future and that they deserve the best that our society has to offer.  I think that all students deserve access to quality, free education,” she said.  “I work to provide them with rich experiences that will prepare them for their future lives.  I love helping my students to learn and grow.

“In our community, we have many immigrant students and I appreciate the diversity that they bring to my classroom.  I hope to create a sense of global citizenship for all of my students.”

A colleague nominated Sobek for the Excellence in Education award and described her as “an innovative and dedicated teacher. Heather is always willing to do what is best for the students and the school and is the consummate team player.”

Heather Sobek talks with Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, after accepting her Excellence in Education award.

Heather Sobek talks with Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, after accepting her Excellence in Education award.

“Each summer, Heather seeks out professional development – at her own cost and on her own time – that she feels will enhance the learning opportunities for her students.  Last year, Heather participated in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, a year-long professional development program.  As part of this course, Heather completed an online class, participated in a global educator summit in Washington, D.C., and traveled to the Philippines to study the educational system there,” the nomination said.

“Heather’s goal in completing this program is to create a classroom with a global mindset, encouraging her students to learn to see themselves as part of a global society.  She also is a strong teacher-leader in our building.  Last year, she organized and led the staff book study of ‘Teach Like a Pirate,’ and this year she is leading the implementation process for those who participated.  In addition, she also is part of our Achievement Centered Leadership team through Western Michigan University.  This team of teacher leaders works to increase student achievement and build the educational culture in our building.”

Sobek earned a bachelor of arts degree from Michigan State University and a master of arts degree from Spring Arbor University.  She has been an educator for seven years, the last five with the Coldwater Community 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.
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