An Ottawa County educator known for his tireless efforts to seek out grants and resources to help provide hands-on learning experiences and create opportunities and experiences for his students – most from lower-income homes – has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Bill Boerman, is a sixth and eighth grade science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teacher at Holland Middle School, which is part of the Holland Public 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 Boerman will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Boerman said he was attracted to a career in education by his “desire to have a long-term impact on youth and their families and which comes from my faith in Christ. I love what I do.”
He said that his favorite part of being an educator is that “I love being able to provide opportunities for underserved students who normally would not have them.”
“My faith motivates me to give extra effort on a daily basis,” Boerman said. “Seeing students who sometimes have very little get excited about opportunities is truly a gift. Teaching STEM provides numerous opportunities to make an impact.
“For example, tying in nutrition and STEM has made an impact. Through support from Aldi and SpartanNash, we have been able to provide infused water to students twice a week. Using herbs grown on our hydroponic grow tower and fruit, students create their own water designs,” he said. “In the process, they learn the benefits of staying hydrated and healthy. Whether it be designing their own water, creating smoothies, or growing herbs, students are getting healthier and learning at the same time.”
A colleague nominated Boerman for the Excellence in Education award nomination, describing him as “instrumental in the development of STEM at Holland Public Schools.”
“Students in Bill’s classroom are introduced early to the expectations and skills they have to master to earn their ‘STEM License.’ To get that license, students have to master and model measurement, graphing, and organizational skills. From there, they start working toward their ‘Advanced STEM License.’ The skills they must demonstrate to earn this advanced license relate to higher level problem solving, visualization, and modeling. Once achieved, these students are offered different privileges (hot cocoa is an example!) as well as challenges (designing a motor, infusing water, and 3D printing extensions),” the nomination said.
“Bill spends countless hours in the summer looking for grants and funding for his classroom. About 75 percent of the students at Holland Middle School are on free and reduced lunch, and therefore have not had the range of experiences that other students may have had. One student was unable to identify a strawberry and multiple students had never tasted a blueberry!
“In the past year, Bill has gotten a grant for four grow towers for the STEM program (to grow lettuce and herbs and teach about nutrition), a 3D printer, and multiple other hands-on tools to help students build and design. He is in the process of trying to gain support for building a greenhouse at the school that will allow students to grow their own vegetables.
“He also dedicates much of his own time to working with students. Last year, he took a group of students to a woodshop on a Saturday so they could learn how to use a lathe. They used mathematics and engineering to design their own baseball bats.”
The Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum in Kalamazoo honored Boerman last year for his innovation in teaching, the nomination said. “Bill took time to raise funds for three students to join him at the awards ceremony. He even teamed up with staff members to get the students free apparel to dress up for the affair. One student mentioned that she had never left Holland before that evening. His work truly inspires students to reach beyond what they are used to.”
The nomination added that Boerman’s “leadership and effectiveness are second to none. Along with researching and guiding the development of STEM curriculum for kindergarten through eighth graders in the Holland Public Schools, Bill has tutored third graders (whose MSTEP scores were the highest in the district), expanded the school safety program from six students to 35 students, served on the School Improvement Team, and developed business partnerships with multiple local businesses.”
Boerman earned a bachelor of arts degree from Hope College and a master of arts degree from Colorado College. He has been an educator for 20 years, the past four with the Holland Public 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.