A Kent County educator known for going above and beyond for her students – at-risk teens – and providing them with the support that will help them reach graduation and then succeed in life has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Dianna Jones, teaches at the Lighthouse Academy in Grand Rapids. The charter school provides educational instruction, family support casework services, and clinical services to at-risk teens.
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 Jones will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Jones left a successful business career to become an educator. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I wanted to give back to my community and help the youth who may slip through the cracks.”
She said the Lighthouse Academy’s efforts are boosted by the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program, which is affiliated with a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young, at-risk people from dropping out of school.
“This program helps them obtain the soft skills necessary in seeking employment, keeping a job, developing critical thinking and problem solving skills and helping them to be confident in life after high school. It provides them a path and direction that helps them to be successful in the future,” Jones said.
“Another great part of the success of Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates is the year of follow-up support that I provide to my graduates. I continue to support them as far as getting new jobs, applying to colleges, updating their resumes and cover letters, informing them of new trade training opportunities.
“It takes a team to make the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates be effective and that team includes West Michigan Works!, Project NorthStar, the Kent Intermediate School District and of course, the Lighthouse Academy. They all make up a wonderful team that I get to collaborate with every day.”
Jones said her favorite parts of being an educator are “when students accomplish a goal, overcome a barrier hindering their academic success or obtain their first job. And I get to share in their successes.”
She said that her students motivate her to do her best every day. “I simply love helping my students and supporting them in reaching their goals. Whether it be picking up a student for school, providing counseling and serving as a mentor. For displaced students, helping my students may include helping with housing, providing food, communicating with parents and fellow teachers, and more.”
The nomination for the Excellence in Education award described Jones as “born to teach and she does it with gusto. Dianna goes above and beyond for her students. She has played a significant role in helping many students to get to graduation and then helped them get countless jobs.
“Although she’s fairly new to teaching, the impact she has made during her time as a teacher is more congruent with an educator with many years of practice,” the nomination said. “She engages with each student with intense humility and they respect her deeply because of it.”
Jones earned a bachelor of arts degree in business and a master of arts degree in career and technical education. She has been an educator for four years, all with the Lighthouse 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.