An Oakland County educator known for helping students succeed academically and outside of the classroom and for engaging students with music and other innovative approaches has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Loni Vargas, teaches Spanish at Troy High School, which is part of the Troy School District.
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 Vargas will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Vargas said she chose a career in education because “a high school teacher of mine inspired me and I decided that I wanted to have the same positive effect on students.”
She said her favorite part of being an educator is “connecting with my students and having positive relationships with them. My goal is to make my classroom a welcoming, fun community for students to learn in.”
Vargas said her students motivate her to do her best every day. “I have very highly motivated students. I’m passionate about teaching them Spanish and I love seeing them flourish and watch their knowledge of the language and the culture grow.”
A student nominated Vargas for the Excellence in Education award, describing her as “loved and appreciated by all of her students. She makes everyone feel important. Ms. Vargas makes learning fun.”
“We do videos in Spanish using learned vocabulary, rap songs practicing verbs and have even put on a fashion show in Spanish, naming all articles of clothing in Spanish. Everyone always looks forward to her class,” the nomination says.
“Ms. Vargas is very dedicated. She is willing to come in early or give up her preparation hour to help struggling students. Some students just come to her to talk about ‘life’ and get her personal opinion on issues they may be confronted with, both in and out of school.
“Ms. Vargas has trust and confidence in all of her students and helps each and every one develop their self-esteem and confidence. Her motto is ‘fair but firm’. Students who are in college now come back to thank Ms. Vargas for the wonderful foundation she has given them and helped prepare them to succeed.”
Vargas earned two degrees from Michigan State University: A bachelor’s degree in secondary education Spanish and a master’s degree in curriculum and teaching. She has been an educator for 12 years, the last eight with the Troy School District.
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.