A Bay County educator known for her commitment to help students succeed and for her leadership to expand and enrich the academic offerings at her school has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Paula Holland, teaches fourth- and fifth-graders in a split classroom at the State Street Academy in Bay City. The public school academy offers preschool through fifth grade programs and a special education program for students with special needs.
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 $1,500 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, FOX 47 in Lansing, and WNEM-TV in Saginaw. The news segment featuring Holland will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Holland said her favorite part of being an educator is helping to put students on a path to success in school. “I truly believe that I am capable of improving students’ lives. Every school year, it is my personal goal to instill confidence and motivation into my students. I love it when former students come back and tell me that I’m the reason that they’re trying hard and doing their best in middle school!”
She added that her own struggles as a young student and the difference teachers made in her life led her to a career in education. “When I was a young child in elementary school, learning was very hard for me. Reading was impossible until I had the teacher support that I needed. I never want students to feel incapable of learning, which is how I felt. I want them to know exactly what it feels like to ‘be smart.’ I know I am that teacher who can make that happen for them.”
Holland added that “the love that I have for each and every one of my students” motivates her to do her best every day. “I want my students to have fun learning and gain the excitement of knowledge. I treat my students the way I would want my own children to be treated in a classroom.”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Holland described her as a dedicated educator who works tirelessly “to instill a love for lifelong learning in her students.”
“She starts her day at 5 a.m. to be in her classroom by 6:30 a.m. and stays until 5 p.m. every day. She also comes in to school on weekends on a fairly regular basis to make sure that learning is not just effective for her students, but fun!” the nomination said. “She has a website for parents and students and posts videos daily of the next day lessons plans for her students to help them get a head start on their work.”
The nomination noted that testing shows nearly all of Holland’s students achieve academic growth of more than a year while in her classroom.
“She constantly shows her leadership by taking on a variety of roles, for example, organizing and directing a Christmas program two years ago for the third through fifth grades. She also volunteers her time to help out at every dance, holiday party, and school event. She has put on poetry nights and also established and leads the Peer to Peer program for the entire school,” the nomination said. Peer to Peer programs link general education students with students who have special needs to provide support for those students throughout the school day.
The nomination added that Holland also seeks out and pursues grants to support activities, such as field trips, to expand educational opportunities for students. “Paula helps raise funds through numerous fundraisers every year so no child is left out of any field trip because of their family’s finances. She has even bought pajamas for students she knows won’t have them for Pajama Day.”
In addition, Holland has helped start an Imagination Library for Huron County, where she lives. Imagination Library is a nationwide effort that is based on community members starting local programs and raising funds and applying for grants. The goal of Imagination Library is to keep books in the homes of young children to instill in them the love of reading before they enter school. “Reading is definitely my passion because of my own struggles when I was young,” Holland said.
Holland earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saginaw Valley State University. She has been an educator for eight years, all with the State Street Academy.
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.