A Washtenaw County educator known for building relationships with her students and helping them understand the importance of hard work, integrity, and treating others with respect has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Kristen Schwartzenberger, teaches sixth grade reading, math, and science at Saline Middle School, which is part of the Saline Area Schools.
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 Schwartzenberger will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Schwartzenberger said her favorite parts of being an educator are “building relationships with my students, seeing students have the ‘Ah-ha!’ moments, and helping students achieve more than they thought was possible.” She added that it’s always special for her when former students “come back and share parts of their lives with me.”
She said education is her second career and she became a teacher because “I wanted to be able to help others and make a difference that matters.”
Schwartzenberger said her students and colleagues motivate her every day. “I know each student is coming to me from a different place, with different needs, and I need to be a safe place for them, emotionally and academically. I work with some of the most amazing people who inspire me every day to be a better teacher. We all work hard to make a difference in the lives of our students.”
A colleague nominated Schwartzenberger for the Excellence in Education award, describing her as “THE model for teacher success in our district. Her values and beliefs are that hard work and treating people right are the most important things any one individual can do.”
The nomination noted that Schwartzenberger taught second grade for most of her career then moved to the sixth grade four years ago. “No matter her position, Kristen has stepped up and taken a leadership role. She was a phenomenal teacher leader as a second grade teacher, leading math nights and assisting families with teaching positive schools at home. She has continued these educational practices in middle school and volunteers for many activities.”
“Her dedication to creating a positive environment for her students is unmatched and something that all teachers should aspire to. She has been instrumental in teaching our students in Saline about hard work, integrity, collaboration, and most importantly, how to create lasting relationships in an educational environment.”
The nomination went on to say that Schwartzenberger “has influenced so many students, probably more than she will ever know.”
Schwartzenberger earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from the University of Michigan and a master of science degree in land use planning from Eastern Michigan University. She also earned her teaching certificate at Eastern Michigan and a master of science degree in education with a reading concentration from Walden University. She has been an educator for 15 years, all with the Saline Area Schools.
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.