A Wayne County educator known for sharing her love of mathematics with her students and for her dedication to helping them succeed in the classroom and in life has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Michelle Schwendemann, teaches ninth grade mathematics and computer applications at the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine in Detroit. The high school provides a college preparatory curriculum that allows students to explore college courses, work at internships, and engage in community service projects. It is part of the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
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 Schwendemann 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 Schwendemann with the award at the Breslin Center.
Schwendemann said she chose education as her career after discovering her talent for math and teaching as a student. “I was told by numerous people I helped with mathematics that I should become a teacher because I could break math down and explain it so they could understand it easily,” she said.
Helping students reach those “Ah ha!” moments, when they first grasp a concept or understand something new is her favorite part of being an educator, she said, adding those moments also motivate her to do her best each day for her students.
A colleague nominated Schwendemann for the Excellence in Education award, describing her as “the ultimate champion of math and her students. She works tirelessly to ensure her students are on a successful path to excelling both in math and life.”
The nomination noted that Schwendemann develops a customized learning plan for each of her algebra students and then tracks their progress toward meeting their learning objectives throughout the year.
“When you ask her what the biggest roadblock to teaching students math is, her answer is always getting kids to believe in themselves and their abilities, so when she teaches she is both unwavering in her rules and expectations but also dishes out hugs and praise constantly,” the nomination said.
“In addition to her work with students on math, she also teaches a computer applications class in which students learn how to write code and ultimately develop their own mobile app. At the end of last school year, one of her app development teams won a national competition hosted by Lenovo with their app Steps to Success, an app developed to encourage early literacy development.”
Schwendemann earned a bachelor of arts in math, reading, and language arts from Northern Kentucky University and a master of arts in communication, curriculum and technology from the University of Phoenix. She has been an educator for 16 years, the first two years in Kentucky and the remainder with the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
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.