A Wayne County educator known for her dedication to help students develop academically and personally and for serving as a mentor to help them succeed in the future has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Sirrita Darby, teaches humanities at the middle school of the Detroit Leadership Academy, which is a free public charter school academy. It has nearly 600 students from pre-kindergarten through high school.
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 Darby 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 presented Darby with the award at the Breslin Center.
Darby said she was attracted to a career in education by her passion “to help in the fight to close our nation’s achievement gap. Education builds bridges and close gaps that have for far too long stood in the way of our country’s advancement.”
She said her favorite part of being an educator is “building impactful relationships with my students and empowering them to use education as a means of liberation and personal growth and achievement.”
Darby said she’s motivated to do her best in the classroom every day “for my kids. I know going that extra mile for my kids will directly support their academic and personal growth.”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Darby described her as making “a lasting impact on her students since the moment she set foot on the campus of the Detroit Leadership Academy.”
The nomination noted that she helps run the school’s after-school program, the parent engagement center, and foregoes her classroom preparation time to serve as a mentor to an all-boys group and help them develop the tools they need to be successful in the future.
“She has a great rapport with her students and the culture within her classroom is welcoming and communal. In just one semester, her students gained an average of 1.5 years in reading skills,” it said.
“But Ms. Darby is committed to teaching her students not just academics but character as well. She frequently rewards students for being the best they can be. Ms. Darby is fully committed to closing our nation’s achievement gap and making a change in public education in America and first she wants to start with the city that made her who she is today, Detroit.
“She believes all children should be encouraged by their teachers regardless of the area code in which they live and she feels called to return the privilege that was afforded to her by her education. Ms. Darby’s students are growing in their increased access to pathways, relationships, and resources that are important to their pursuit of their futures.”
Darby earned a bachelor’s degree in social relations and policy from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in educational studies from the University of Michigan. She has been an educator for three years, the last two at the Detroit Leadership Academy.
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.