An Oakland County educator known for her passion for helping students succeed academically and for assisting needy students in a variety of ways, including providing them clothes and meals, has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Dr. Letha Hopkins-Powell, is an assistant principal at Pontiac High School, which is part of the Pontiac 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 Hopkins-Powell will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Hopkins-Powell said she chose a career in education “because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people. I truly believe ALL students can learn when they know someone believes in them and loves them.”
She said her favorite part of being an educator is “coming to work every day and seeing my students grow academically. Another favorite part is telling my students ‘I love you,’ and hearing them respond, ‘Love you more!’”
Hopkins-Powell said the opportunities to help struggling students motivate her to do her best each day. “When I see students who are struggling and are ready to give up and need that that extra push or extra help, I want to be there to help them put forth effort and let them know I’m here for them, because if they believe they can succeed.”
The Excellence in Education nomination for Hopkins-Powell described her as “dedicated in mind, body and soul to the students of the Pontiac School District.”
“She works tirelessly to assess and meet the needs of every student she encounters throughout the school day. She juggles her administrative duties while providing many students with the love and care they need at the moment,” the nomination said. “Anyone who has the chance to be in her presence will feel the love she radiates and will also be moved to do what’s right for all students.”
“She has been known to take hungry students home to have a home-cooked meal. Students often reach out when school is not in session to find out if she is available to ‘hang out,’ keeping these students off the streets and out of trouble. She has provided clothing and coats to help meet some of the basic needs for students in need.”
“She makes student success her personal goal. She is all about removing barriers to education for all students. For example, during the school week, Dr. Hopkins-Powell often stays late to help students complete their homework. She also takes the initiative to make home visits and meet with families to discuss students, their current progress and ways to strengthen the school-home bond,” the nomination added.
“As an educator, I’ve learned that it is imperative to build a positive relationship with not only the students, but the parents, too,” Hopkins-Powell said.
Hopkins-Powell earned a bachelor’s degree in television production, then went on to earn two degrees from Wayne State University: a master’s degree in elementary education and a doctorate in educational administration. She has been an educator for 32 years, all with the Pontiac School District, and has held a number of positions.
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.