An Oakland County educator known for using activity-based learning to engage students and for his commitment to building relationships with students to help them grow academically and as individuals has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Adam Vallus, teaches social studies at Lamphere High School, in Madison Heights.
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 news segment featuring Vallus will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
“My favorite part about being an educator, besides continuing to develop and grow in my craft, is being with my students every day. I’m very thankful for every student I’ve had the honor of teaching, helping, and mentoring,” Vallus said.
“Teaching is very fulfilling. It brings a great sense of purpose and value. For me, it is knowing and trusting that my commitment to my students is adding to their journey through life. It is a noble profession.”
Vallus said education is his second career, which he began after working as a civil designer. He said his father, who is a ‘high-capacity teacher,” and especially his late mother encouraged him during high school to become a teacher because she saw his “ability to teach and connect with individuals.”
“During a recession, I was laid off and had that moment in life when I asked myself: ‘What do I want to do for the rest of my life that has meaning?’ Since I always taught in some capacity, tremendously enjoyed my high school experience, am interested in the social sciences, and enjoy being around energetic youth; I knew teaching at the high school level would be a great fit. I believe teaching is my calling,” he said.
“Another favorite part is teaching the subject I’m passionate about, economics. Passion, purpose, clear expectations, and application are key. If you’re fervent about what you teach, the kids buy in. Unfortunately, economics to most sounds uninteresting, but if taught from a perspective of relevance, enthusiasm, and amusement, it’s a fantastic subject to teach and learn. Terminology, technical analysis, and lecturing are important, but it’s also important to provide students opportunities to solidify and apply their new knowledge. So, I use simulations and activities that facilitate student engagement. Students really enjoy the activity-based learning.”
Vallus said his students and his self-competitive nature motivate him to do his best each day in the classroom. “I’m already a high energy person and I like to create a warm, optimistic environment with levity and laughter in my classroom. But it always gives me an extra boost when a student greets me with a big smile on their face and says, ‘Hi, Mr. Vallus!’ or when alumni come back and visit.
“I work with a remarkable group of professionals and educational community at Lamphere Schools. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the past and present administrators and educators, including the social studies department. It’s encouraging to know they’re rooting for you.
“Likewise, they say teachers have an impact on students, but my students have a positive impact on me. They challenge me to grow, yet have given me the gift of contentment. I love what I do because of them. They’re such a blessing. They make my life better each day.”
A parent nominated Vallus for the Excellence in Education award, saying “not only has he been a wonderful teacher academically to our students but also because of his compassion and genuine concern to be what every student needs in that exact moment to reach their goals.
“His solid work ethic, thoughtfulness, ability to connect with the students in a way that is unique to their learning style has built trust and a mutual respect, changing countless lives,” the parent wrote
“I have seen this man show up to sporting events with his head and face painted in school colors, sitting in the student section and building strong relationships while keeping a watchful eye on the young adults of our school. I have also seen him show up to lead students during a candlelight vigil for one of their own who was losing her battle with brain cancer. Mr. Vallus supported their emotional needs, answering the tough questions, simply listening when needed. He made himself available and was a symbol of strength, continuity and stability that the children needed at such a frightening and devastating time in their lives.
“I have three children who have had the benefit of Mr. Vallus’ teaching. Two of my children have a slight learning disability yet they do not have any special education classes. Mr. Vallus ensures that he goes above and beyond to connect with not only my kids but ALL of his students, making sure that they understand the material and find the self-confidence that they need to succeed in school and in life.
“Mr. Vallus is a shining star. He can often be found acting out his lessons, using props to teach, dancing and singing Christmas carols in the Oakland Mall to raise money at Christmas for The Salvation Army or attending any other community service project or event which is going on. He is a stanch supporter of our youth and families.”
Vallus earned a master of arts degree in economics from the University of Detroit Mercy and a master of arts degree in education from Michigan State University. He has been an educator for 14 years, 10 years with the Lamphere Schools and four years with alternative education.
Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation or through the websites of the Lottery’s media partner stations.
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.