An Oakland County educator known for her passion for providing new experiences and opportunities for her students and encouraging them to challenge themselves academically and as individuals has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Sylvia Sturgis, teaches sixth and seventh grade English language arts at the Pontiac International Technology Academy, which is part of the School District of the City of Pontiac. She also coaches boys and girls basketball and soccer at the academy.
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 Sturgis will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Sturgis said she chose a career in education because of her lifelong love of education. “My love for education came naturally, because I wanted all children to have a love for school and reading.”
She said her favorite part of being an educator is “when I can see the ‘light bulb’ come on, when a student learns something new.”
Sturgis said the students motivate her to do her best each day. “I want to be the biggest cheerleader for my students and let them know they can accomplish anything that they put their minds to. I work to help them succeed by exposing them to opportunities such as hands on learning, and encouraging them to enter spelling and speaking contests.
“I know that I would not be the educator I am today if it had not been for the wonderful students entrusted to me by their parents. My scholars are destined to be great leaders of tomorrow!”
The Excellence in Education award for Sturgis, described her as “a phenomenal teacher,” who was an at-risk student from a disadvantaged area and the first in her family to graduate from college.
“Ms. Sturgis is passionate about teaching and assisting students to be life-long learners. She is a motivator and innovator, and encourages every child to dream big, set goals, and reach for the stars!” the nomination said. “She goes above and beyond and gives her personal time and money to make sure her students have the tools to be successful. She is making a difference in the classroom every day and changing lives.”
This school year, Sturgis co-chaired the first middle school student exchange program for the district and Oakland County. Sturgis travelled with 11 middle school students to Japan, where they were immersed in the Japanese culture by living with host families and attending school there.
The nomination noted that Sturgis volunteers with a student speech program sponsored by a local Optimist Club.
Sturgis also served as a presenter for Michigan Reading Association Conference and spoke to teachers from across the state about Culturally Responsive Teaching.
“In addition to school activities, Ms. Sturgis volunteers for a non-profit organization, ‘Kicks 4 Kids,’ a nonprofit organization that provides tennis shoes for disadvantaged youth,” the nomination said.
Sturgis earned a master of science degree in curriculum and instruction at Concordia University and an education specialist degree in leadership at Oakland University. She has been an educator for 15 years, all with the School District of the City of Pontiac.
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.