A Wayne County educator has won the 2018 Educator of the Year award and a $10,000 prize from the Michigan Lottery’s Excellence in Education program, the Lottery announced today.
The award winner, Kerri Moccio, is a first grade literacy intervention specialist at Bedford Elementary School in Dearborn Heights. The school is part of the Dearborn Heights School District No. 7.
Moccio is known for using her passion for reading and literacy to inspire students and for creating literacy and mentoring programs in her school and the local community and in her hometown, Milan, where she serves as a member of the Board of 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. 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.
Each year, one of the weekly winners is selected as the Educator of the Year and receives a $10,000 cash prize.
The Michigan Lottery surprised Moccio with the big award Wednesday night at the district’s Board of Education meeting.
“I am just stunned. I never dreamed that I would be selected for this award,” Moccio said, adding that her work and accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without the support of her colleagues, school and district administrators and board members, and the support from parents and the community.
“I’m going to buy a lot of books for our students with this prize. And I’m going to be ‘paying it forward’ in the community as a way to thank them and recognize the support they’ve provided over the years for our school and our literacy programs.
“I also want to do something special for my family. I love my job and I love what I do, but it has taken away a lot of family time and I want to make it up a bit by doing something special with my husband and my daughters,” Moccio said.
The principal of Bedford Elementary, Bradley Allen, described Moccio as “an outstanding educator! She has implemented many successful literacy programs at Bedford Elementary and the programs have made a huge impact on students, staff, and families. She is so deserving of this award!”
More than 500 educators from across the state were nominated during the fourth year of the Excellence in Education program and 34, including Moccio, were selected to win a weekly award.
Previous winners of the Educator of the Year award:
- 2017 – Linda Holzwarth, a social studies teacher at Portage West Middle School in Portage.
- 2016 – Daniel Carr, a Spanish and sports marketing teacher at Waverly High School in Lansing.
- 2015 – Michael Craig, a special education teacher at the Charles Drew Transition Center in Detroit.
Moccio said her love of reading led her to a career in education. “I have always been an avid reader and had some wonderful language arts teachers growing up. That love for reading and for books is something that I knew I wanted to instill in others.”
She said her favorite part of being an educator is “putting books into the hands of students who need them and seeing their smiles and excitement. That’s the absolute best!
“Since my students are beginning readers, they have to work very hard at literacy every day. But when that light bulb moment comes and it all finally clicks and they start reading on their own, I am reminded why I love being an educator. I know in my heart that this is what I was meant to do,” she said, adding “Seeing our community come together to support programs to provide books to children is a huge inspiration as well.”
Moccio said her students and her belief in the power of literacy motivate her to do her best every day. “My goal is to level the playing field of literacy for my students and community. Literacy should never be compromised, no matter what a child’s circumstances are. I’m always on the lookout for resources or strategies that will help make my students the best readers, learners and citizens they can be!”
The nomination for the Excellence in Education weekly award described Moccio as “a champion for literacy. In her 25 years as an elementary reading specialist, she has taken children’s literacy development far beyond her classroom walls.”
The nomination said that Moccio’s passion for literacy inspires excellence in her classroom and also has served as a catalyst for the rest of the school, district, and her community.
“As founder of her school’s summer book drive, Kerri collected nearly 20,000 new and used books so that in the last year and a half, students received 28 free books for their own at-home library, a luxury many Bedford Elementary School families are not able to afford,” the nomination said.
“Because of Kerri’s work on this project, she is featured in a new exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Take a Stand Center. The exhibit highlights the social justice work of regular people leading the way for positive change in their community and beyond.
“Kerri also has established several reading programs and community partnerships in her school and district: Books & Bites Under the Lights, Books for a Benefit Literacy Days, Family Reading Nights, Roving Readers, Teacher Feature Summer Storytimes, Reading with Rover (literacy program at local animal shelter), Meet Up, Eat Up & Read Up Summer Meal Program, and three new community Little Free Libraries. She accomplished all this by getting staff to donate their time, rallying and organizing hundreds of volunteers, and applying for thousands of dollars in grants and donations.”
The nomination noted that Moccio also coordinates a mentoring program that “pairs up community and Ford Motor Company literacy volunteers with first graders in her reading class for 23 years now. Those special bonds help students learn to read in a one-to-one setting with a trusted adult. Most mentors have been coming for more than 20 years, a testament to the relationship between Kerri, her students and her volunteers.
“Kerri is also coordinator and co-founder of the school’s Multi-Tier System of Supports program (a framework for providing instruction to students), meeting with classroom teachers monthly to gather data and work collaboratively on instructional plans for the school’s neediest students. Her literacy-based Facebook page for families, The Bedford Bookshelf, provides children’s literature recommendations and helpful reading tips, among other things.
“She doesn’t stop there. In her hometown of Milan, Kerri is a school board member attending classes and conferences, advocating for students throughout Michigan. She also is co-founder (with her daughter, Sophie) of the Book Fairy Pantry Project in Milan, providing free books each month to the children of families who visit the food pantry as well as the Milan Book Fairies founder, hiding books around her community for people to find, read, and then hide again to surprise other Milan residents.
“It’s difficult to grasp the dedication, effort, and expertise that go into these initiatives, but above all that is what Kerri is truly about: heart. When you meet her, it shines through. I think that is why so many people have jumped on board with all her projects! Hearing a student read independently for the first time, seeing a family excitedly visit one of Little Free Libraries she got installed, watching a six-year-old find the perfect books to take home and keep forever, helping a parent figure out how to help their struggling reader at home or finding an unexpected box of donated books on her desk is what this educator and literacy champion lives for.”
Moccio earned a bachelor of science degree in secondary education and English from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and a master of science degree in reading education at Binghamton University. She has been an educator for 25 years, the last 23 with the Dearborn Heights School District No. 7.
The nomination period for the 2018-19 Excellence in Education awards will begin on Aug. 1. All public school employees may be nominated for the awards, which recognize educators who go “above and beyond” to make a difference in the lives of children.
To nominate an outstanding public school educator, go to http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation
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.