A Midland County educator known for using music and other innovative approaches to encourage her students to engage in math and linking math challenges to their everyday lives has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Elaine Mahabir, is a special education teacher who co-teaches in freshman level algebra and junior level advanced algebra classes at Midland High School, which is part of the Midland 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 Mahabir will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Mahabir said she chose a career in education because “I strongly feel life is all about learning and growing. I wanted to help motivate students to feel privileged to get an education and want more.”
“I love seeing kids overcome obstacles and find out what success feels like. I love to see students smile in my classroom,” Mahabir said.
“I am motivated each day to help students and let them know that it’s OK to have fun in school and enjoy getting an education. Not all students love going to school and not all students are told education is important. I try to be that person for my students. I laugh with them, I care about them, and I want them to know I care. I want all my students to succeed and believe that they can succeed.
“I try to be the positive person in each of my students’ day. I want them to want to come to my class!”
The nomination for the Excellence in Education award described Mahabir as a selfless, dedicated educator “who truly makes math come alive for all of her students.”
“Her teaching style is as eclectic as her playlist. She is famous for her lively music, vertical math lessons, and encouraging students to ‘marinate’ in math problems using collaboration to figure out complex math story problems,” the nomination said.
“She is continually looking for ways to get her students up, moving, walking, talking, and problem solving higher order math story problems and equations. Her goal is to help cure the ‘death by desk’ syndrome which has afflicted so many of her students and they love her for this!”
The nomination noted that Mahabir’s students “have many needs ranging from being at-risk, special education, learning disabilities, low-level reading skills, and the list goes on. Elaine meets every student right where they’re at and engages them in some form of math discussion that affects their lives directly.
“With her music, energy, passion, and poise, she brings magic to a math classroom each and every day to all the students in her integrated classes. It doesn’t take long for students to engage in math in a new way.”
“Elaine’s commitment to educating our most at-risk students was evident when she traded in a study skills class of 10 students so she could co-teach another freshman algebra integrated class of 30 with her colleague,” the nomination said.
Mahabir earned two degrees from Central Michigan University: a bachelor of science degree in education with a double major in special education and physical education and a masters degree in athletic administration. She has been an educator for 17 years, all with the Midland Public Schools.
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.