A Wayne County educator known for her tireless efforts to improve science education for students and encourage their interest in science through hands-on projects has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Holly Hereau, teaches biology and environmental science at Thurston High School, in Redford. The school is part of the South Redford School District. Hereau also coaches the cheerleading team and serves as the advisor for the National Honor Society. Additionally, she is the teacher sponsor for Thurston High School’s SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Acceptance) group.
Hereau recently was chosen to join the Achieve Science Peer Review Panel, which evaluates science curriculum material designed for the Next Generation Science Standards. The national panel’s work will help teachers easily identify quality materials to use with their students and support efforts to provide all students with access to a quality science education.
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 Hereau will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Hereau originally planned to be a scientific researcher, then discovered a love of teaching that led her to a career in education. “I’ve always loved science and nature and originally pursued a career in research. However, I found myself caring more about the undergraduate classes that I was teaching than my research when I was in graduate school at Michigan State University.”
She added that her favorite part of being an educator are “the moments when I see students figuring out how something works or why something happens. Those are magical moments. It’s also wonderful when students get excited about a project and they realize the work they are doing can really make a difference in their community.”
Hereau said her personal commitment to help her students succeed in school and outside the classroom motivates her to give her best each day.
“I didn’t have the easiest childhood. I was usually the kid who couldn’t afford whatever the latest cool thing was. Much of my ‘free’ time is spent investigating new opportunities for my students or sources of funding. The time that I spend doing that is worth it when it provides opportunities and experiences that my students wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said.
The Excellence in Education nomination for Hereau said she “never stops working for her students.”
“Holly constantly seeks out training from the best sources to ensure her students are getting the best science education possible. She spent more than three weeks of her summer at workshops to improve her abilities to serve her students better,” the nomination said. “She spends a week each summer scoring Advanced Placement Biology exams to help her understand how best to help her students score well on their exams.”
“She is currently implementing a project with her Advanced Placement Environmental Science students that will remove a patch of invasive phragmites and replace it with a rain/pollinator garden. Students who participate in this environmental stewardship project are inspired to do more to help their environment and community,” the nomination said.
“Long-term, this garden will also serve as an outdoor education lab where other schools in the district can come for field trips that will be led by her students. In this outdoor lab, students will also be able to set up observational or investigative experiments, and people from the community can sit in a relaxing place and enjoy watching birds at the feeders and simply sit and enjoy nature. Since this project is incredibly expensive, she has been spending nights and weekends finding every possible funding source and writing grants.”
The nomination noted that Hereau recently was awarded the Dan Wolz Clean Water Education Grant, which is provided by the Michigan Science Teachers Association and the Michigan Water Environment Association.
Hereau said funding and other support for the invasive species project and other hands-on learning experiences has been provided by: the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education, the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Planet Stewards Education Project, the Friends of the Rouge, and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
Hereau earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from Grand Valley State University and studied entomology with a specialization in ecology, evolutionary biology and behavior at Michigan State University and then earned a master of arts degree in education from the University of Michigan. She has been an educator for 13 years, all with the South Redford 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.