A Tuscola County educator known for helping students grow academically and personally through first-hand experiences, such as field trips and community projects, has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Beth Rittenberg, teaches sixth- and seventh-grade science and coaches the robotics team at Vassar Junior High School, which is part of the Vassar 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 $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 Rittenberg will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Rittenberg said her favorite part of being an educator is “watching students get that ‘Aha!’ moment and feeling successful. I love watching students grow with confidence.”
She said a simple act by her third-grade teacher led her to a career in education. “He made me a wizard’s hat for learning my multiplication tables and I was hooked! I wanted to be a teacher just like him!”
Rittenberg said her students motivate her to do her best every day. “I want to instill in them the love of books, the love of nature and exploring the great outdoors and make them excited for learning. I’m motivated by their smiles, hugs, and handshakes.
“I’m motivated by students who are willing to help others. The most rewarding gift of teaching is watching – and sometimes working with – former students who have grown up to be the most amazing young people. It’s rewarding to work with kids. I’ve been very blessed to have that for a career for 30 years.”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Rittenberg described her as “going above and beyond for her students” throughout her three-decade career.
“Beth has inspired many of her students and fellow staff members by going ‘all in’ with everything she is involved with. No matter if it is helping a student with homework after school or staying late to set up for a robotics competition, Beth always has a positive attitude and is there for her students. She always encourages her students to perform to the best of their ability,” the nomination said.
“Students and staff see Beth as an elite role model in the district. She commits to many activities in order to improve the educational environment for her students. Many look to her for advice and rely on her for help on curriculum writing, and organizing events for the students. Her leadership roles within the district are incomparable.
“Throughout her years of teaching, Beth has shown consistent dedication to all of her students inside and outside of the classroom. She has helped run a successful district-wide Relay for Life event, assisted with the theatre department, has volunteered on behalf of the Vulcaneer Gleaners, and has organized sixth grade trips to Washington D.C. and the Hartley Outdoor Education Center.”
Rittenberg, who lost a son to brain cancer six years ago, teamed up with a former student, Kimberlee Ward, to bring a Field Day for Life event to her school. Over the past five years, that fundraiser has grown into a districtwide event and last year included the entire town. The school and community events have raised more than $35,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Rittenberg earned a bachelor of arts degree from Saginaw Valley State University and a master of arts degree from Marygrove College. She also holds education certifications from Michigan Tech in global climate change, forestry, and Great Lakes ecology. She has been an educator for 30 years, the past 28 with the Vassar Public Schools.
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.