A Kalamazoo County educator known for making her lessons fun and interactive yet demanding and starting after school clubs to get students involved in new activities, such as knitting hats for those in need, has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Linda Holzwarth, teaches social studies at Portage West Middle School, which is part of the Portage Public 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 Holzwarth 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 Holzwarth with the award at the Breslin Center.
Holzwarth describes herself as a third generation teacher and said “I never considered any other career.”
“My brothers used to suffer through hours of me being a teacher and them being my students in our basement. I always knew that God called me to work with middle school students, an age group that most people want to avoid. I love every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every month, and every year of my time with kids,” she said.
“I love giving and getting hugs, smiles, high-fives, and positive attitudes with my students. I love it when students get so excited about history that they almost jump out of their seats to participate in discussions.”
Holzwarth said her students motivate her to give her all every day. “My motivation is the chance to come back the next day and do it all over again, laughing, crying exploring, learning, loving, and experimenting with my kids in Room 605. We are a family. Who wouldn’t want to come back to be with your family every day where love, respect and caring are the top priorities?”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Holzwarth described her as “being the best at what she does.
“She has developed a whole new spin on learning in her classroom. The way she teaches lessons makes it so they are fun and interactive and help her students learn a great deal about the subject. She always goes above and beyond in her classroom. Students don’t just sit there and read from a textbook. She helps them learn in new ways,” the nomination said.
“Students and teachers lover her so much that this year, her last year at West Middle School, that the teachers put on a surprise performance for her.”
Holzwarth earned a bachelor of arts degree after attending Indiana University and Western Michigan University. She has been an educator for 25 years, the past 20 with the Portage Public Schools.
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.