An Allegan County educator known for inspiring students to learn and using special programs and public service projects to help them become leaders in their school and community has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Jake Knash, is a reading teacher at the Otsego Middle School, which is part of the Otsego Public Schools. Knash also leads a leadership program for students and coaches several athletic teams.
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 Knash will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
“I love that I get the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people and inspire them to do their best. It is so rewarding to see kids find success,” he said.
“I had many wonderful teachers growing up who really attracted me to a career in education. Two of those teachers, Lori Dirkse and Andrew Vandenburg, really inspired me to be a teacher. They taught me that education is about building relationships. I believe if you build a relationship with kids and show them you care, kids will give you their best effort.”
Knash said the opportunity to help young people realize their potential motivates him to do his best every day. “I feel that I owe it to our students, our school, and our community to give our students my best efforts every day. Each do is a chance to make a difference and possibly help a student to become motivated and to be successful. I am fortunate that I work on an awesome team at Otsego Middle School.”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Knash described him as having “the ability to inspire every student.”
“He works in a classroom that is filled with middle school students who are eager to learn because of his empowering teaching skills. Jake teaches a reading program for children who aren’t reading at the normal reading level. This class helps to provide these students with the tools and resources they need to gain the confidence and knowledge they need to succeed,” the nomination said.
“Jake initiated a leadership class that helps his students become leaders among their peers and in their community. Jake has taken the members of this class to volunteer at homeless shelters, helped to raise funds for animal shelters and to volunteer at local elementary schools.”
Knash also leads a youth program – “Young Men Keeping It Real” – at the Otsego Middle School, the nomination said, adding that “he inspires these young men to use their potential to be model citizens in their community.”
Additionally, Knash travels around Michigan and to other states during the summer to provide training, “Capturing Kids’ Hearts,” to other educators. The purpose of the training is to help teachers become better leaders in their classrooms and in their personal lives, the nomination said.
Knash earned a bachelor’s degree in education with a focus on English and physical education from Grand Valley State University. He’s been an educator for 11 years, all with the Otsego 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.