Gratiot County Educator Wins Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery

Lisa Yoder (center) poses for a photo with Michigan Lottery Commissioner, Aric Nesbitt, and colleague, Wendy Giles, after accepting her Excellence in Education Award.

Lisa Yoder (center) poses for a photo with Michigan Lottery Commissioner, Aric Nesbitt, and colleague, Wendy Giles, after accepting her Excellence in Education Award.

A Gratiot County educator known for her dedication to her students and community and for incorporating local history and public service projects into her lessons has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Lisa Yoder, teaches fifth grade at Ithaca North Elementary School, which is part of Ithaca 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 segment featuring Yoder will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.

Yoder said her favorite part of being an educator is “bridging the space between the school and the resources and possibilities in the larger community.  I owe so much to the individuals, businesses, and organizations around Ithaca who are willing to open their space and share their time so that we can incorporate their expertise to help engage and excite students.”

Her home – once a one-room country school – even serves as a teaching tool for her students.  “That connections is thanks to access to early 20th century records at the Regional Education Service District office in Ithaca as well as personal stories from neighbors who began their education at the school that now is my home,” she said.

Yoder said this wide base of support allows her to connect with her students and that she agrees with Albert Einstein’s oft-quoted view:  “Education is experience.  Everything else is information.”

She added that she’s also “honored to work among so many accomplished colleagues whose dedication makes a difference in the lives of their students and the community.”

Lisa Yoder is interviewed after being presented with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

Lisa Yoder is interviewed after being presented with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

She said she chose to pursue a career in education because “I enjoy learning and had a wonderful example in my mentor, John Kemler, who now is retired.  Mr. Kemler was instrumental in helping me develop a teaching approach that engages students where they are and builds on their personal interests.”

Yoder said she’s motivated to do her best every day by her students “and the way they appreciate all the interesting stories and details that I work into the lessons” and that she let her students vote on how to spend the grant that comes with the Excellence in Education Award.

“I was thrilled when they decided to use it to help others, voting to adopt two military K-9 units through a local outreach, ‘We Love Our Troops,’ as well as to provide some holiday treats to local veterans for the Christmas season,” she said.

The Excellence in Education award nomination for Yoder described her as “the consummate educator, who puts not only her students first, but also her community.  She understands and exemplifies all the attributes of being a lifetime learner and teacher.  Her commitment to education never wavers.”

“Lisa Yoder knew at an early age the only way to attend college was through hard work and academic achievement.  Now in her 21st year as an educator, that knowledge motivates her to help her fifth grade students,” the nomination said.  “Lisa starts her work day extra early so she’s available to help students seeking help before school starts.”

The nomination noted that measures of student growth and achievement for her classes “consistently show this dedication makes a difference.  This performance may be attributed to the extra time she spends with students as well as the personal time that she dedicates to professional pursuits.

“Her love and appreciation of her local community has led to students participating in a variety of projects:  fundraising to relocate and restore a log cabin, thanking veterans during the county’s Veterans Day ceremony, producing a brochure promoting various locations around Ithaca, and writing a book about the experience of the county’s World War II veterans.

“Her home was once a one-room country school and this fact makes it an inspiring teaching tool.  Her students study primary source documents about the school that have been unearthed at the Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District.  They visit the local genealogical library and county historical museum and read widely to build a portfolio of information about this topic,” the nomination said.

“The Ithaca Public Schools and the greater Gratiot community are indeed fortunate to have Lisa Yoder as one of their own.”

Yoder earned a bachelor of arts degree from Alma College and a master of arts degree from Marygrove College.  She has been an educator for 21 years, 20 as a fifth-grade teacher, and the last 16 years with the Ithaca Public Schools.

Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at 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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