Kalamazoo County Teacher Wins Educator of the Year Award and $10,000 Prize from the Michigan Lottery

Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, and Lottery Commissioner, Aric Nesbitt, surprise Educator of the Year, Linda Holzwarth, with a novelty check for $10,000 during a school assembly.

Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, and Lottery Commissioner, Aric Nesbitt, surprise Educator of the Year, Linda Holzwarth, with a novelty check for $10,000 during a school assembly.

A Kalamazoo County teacher has won the 2017 Educator of the Year award and a $10,000 prize from the Michigan Lottery’s Excellence in Education program, the Lottery announced today.

The award winner, Linda Holzwarth, teaches social studies at Portage West Middle School, which is part of the Portage Public Schools.

Holzwarth is known for making her lessons fun and interactive yet demanding and for starting after school clubs to get students involved in new activities, such as knitting hats for those in need.

Tom Izzo, the Michigan State University men’s basketball coach, presented Holzwarth with the $10,000 prize today during a surprise visit to a student assembly at Portage West Middle School. About 700 students, faculty, and staff cheered as Izzo announced that Holzwarth had won the award.

“Linda Holzwarth has had a great impact on your education. You don’t realize it yet, but she’s also had a great impact on your lives,” Izzo told the students.

A stunned Holzwarth told the students that “There is only one reason that I have the honor of receiving this award. Each and every one of you in this school has made me a better person. I get smiles and hugs from you every day and you’re so curious in the classroom. You have a love of learning.”

Holzwarth, who is retiring at the end of this school year, shared one parting thought with the students: “Do small things with great love.”

The principal of Portage West Middle School, Denny Roehm, said that Holzwarth stands out among the school’s strong faculty. “She personifies what it means to be a teacher. She gets students excited about learning. She truly cares about each and every one of her students.”

Roehm noted that Holzwarth is a third generation teacher and both of her daughters are teachers, one of them in the Portage Public Schools 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. More than 500 educators from across the state were nominated for an award and 34, including Holzwarth, were selected to win a weekly award.

Weekly award winners receive a plaque, a $500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district as well as the opportunity to be selected to receive the Educator of the Year award and its $10,000 cash prize.

Each winner also was 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.

Tom Izzo talks with students in Linda Holzwarth's classroom while Lottery Commissioner, Aric Nesbitt (left), looks on.

Tom Izzo talks with students in Linda Holzwarth’s classroom while Lottery Commissioner, Aric Nesbitt (left), looks on.

“I never considered any other career,” Holzwarth said. “I 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.

Holzwarth has been an educator for 25 years, the past 20 with the Portage Public Schools. She earned a bachelor of arts degree after attending Indiana University and Western Michigan University.

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.

The nomination period for the 2017-18 Excellence in Education awards will begin on Aug. 1.

Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award through the Michigan Lottery website, http://www.MichiganLottery.com, 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.

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