An Eaton County educator known for his dedication to meeting the needs of his students and for his efforts to help them during the school day and after hours has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Erik Meerschaert, is a fifth- through eighth-grade special education teacher at Meadowview School, in Charlotte. The school is part of the Eaton Regional Education Service Agency.
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 Meerschaert 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 Meerschaert with the award at the Breslin Center.
Meerschaert said he choose a career in education because “I had my own educational challenges and had the support of so many people to help me overcome them. I knew that I wanted to be able to provide as much help and support as I could for any children who were working on their own challenges. I wanted a profession where I could go home every day knowing that I had made a difference.”
He said his favorite part of being an educator is “begin able to see the changes in a student’s attitude as they begin to overcome various challenges. I work with a great group of educators who go all out to provide the best possible support to our students.”
Meerschaert said he’s motivated to do his best every day because “I have the greatest job in the world. I know that I am truly blessed and privileged to be able to be in the classroom every day. I get to go to work every day and make an impact on kids’ lives. It is my goal as an educator to provide the best possible support and individualized instruction to each of my students.
“The desire to meet that goal keeps me motivated and put forth as much effort as I can each day,” he said.
Cindy Anderson, the superintendent of the Eaton Regional Education Service Agency, welcomed the award for Meerschaert. “There is not a more deserving teacher of this recognition and award than Erik. He is dedicated to having each of his students reach their potential and creates a positive and engaging learning environment. He is an advocate for students with disabilities and is a great asset to the Eaton Regional Education Service Agency,” she said.
A colleague nominated Meerschaert for the Excellence in Education award, saying “he always goes above and beyond for his students,” who have a variety of learning disabilities.
“It takes a special kind of person to teach special needs children and he’s that kind of person. I’ve never seen a more selfless man,” the nomination said, adding that he establishes a special bond with his students, who call him “Mr. M.”
Meerschaert buys a present for each of his students each Christmas and when a student moves up to the high school program, “we have a barbecue and he lets them choose any food they want and he will grill it or make it,” the nomination said, noting “he’s truly one of a kind.”
Meerschaert earned his bachelor’s degree at Western Michigan University. He has been an educator for eight years, all with the Eaton Regional Education Service Agency.
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.