An Eaton County educator known for challenging students to excel and inspiring them to set and reach goals to improve their lives has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Malia Koger, teaches English, American literature, speech, and theatre at Olivet High School, where she also serves as the head of the theatre department. The school is part of the Olivet Community Schools.
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 Koger 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 Koger with the award at the Breslin Center.
Koger said both her parents were educators and she was attracted to the teaching profession by the opportunity “to make a difference, even if it is only for one individual. I grew up seeing the difference that educators and education can make in lives.
“The environment I have been able to work in at Olivet Community Schools is truly inspiring. The staff, teachers, and support staff are exceptional and truly care about each student, their education, and their path in life.”
She said her favorite parts of being an educator are “watching students grow, seeing them discover who they truly are and seeing them grow and succeed beyond their own expectations. Every person has a story that defines their lives. We need to discover it, help them to find that path, and watch as their journey unfolds.”
A student nominated Koger for the Excellence in Education award, describing her as “a truly inspiring person. She is one of a kind. She has pushed all of us to do our best. We’ve accomplished some great things because she was behind us 110 percent.”
The student provided several examples about how Koger’s caring, supportive, and persistent assistance helped her and other students to improve academically, cope with the loss of a sibling, and help another student overcome body image problems and develop enough as a performer to earn a scholarship.
The nomination noted that Koger worked with a shy student to develop his acting talent and become a top competitor in solo and ensemble competitions.
Koger earned two degrees from Michigan State University: a bachelor of arts degree in English and Theatre and a master of arts in Theatre Administration with an emphasis in education. She has been an educator for 23 years, the last 21 with the Olivet Community Schools.
Koger has received a number of awards during her career. She is a two-time recipient of the Theatre Teacher of the Year award from the Michigan Youth Arts Council and also was first person to receive The Bob Koger Theatre Teacher of the Year award from the Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association. Criteria for that award include innovation, commitment, and contributions to the profession.
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.