A Tuscola County educator known for using hands on activities, such as nature walks, and creating an outdoor classroom and nature playground to engage and challenge her students has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Terie Elbers, is a Great Start Readiness Program lead teacher for preschool students at Reese Elementary School, which is part of the Reese 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 Elbers will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Elbers said she was attracted to a career in education because “I love to learn and I truly enjoy teaching my students.”
She said working with her students is her favorite part of being an educator and that she’s motivated to do her best each day “knowing that I will make a difference in a child’s life each and every day.”
Elbers said creating the outdoor classroom and nature playground was a labor of love for her and enhances her ongoing efforts to provide special, interactive experiences for her students.
“My superintendent supported the idea, so I developed the concept, presented it to our school board and then wrote all the grants to fund the project. I planned it, then picked out and purchased the materials and worked with the contractors. I laid every stone on the climbing section of the hill and watered the grass every evening during the summer of 2017,” she said, adding the results were worth all the hard work and effort: “My students and I LOVE it!”
A parent nominated Elbers for the Excellence in Education award nomination, saying “all of the kids are blessed to have her.”
“She emphasizes hands on learning and teaching these young minds to their highest ability. Her dedication and curriculum far surpass ‘meeting’ objects and are extraordinary. She makes sure all kids are treated equally and have opportunities, such as an outdoor classroom, which she helped create. She applied for grants and raised funds for the outdoor classroom so kids could have a special place to challenge their creativity,” the nomination said.
“She challenges normal expectations and breaks the mold for her students in a professional way. She goes above and beyond to teach these little minds. She helps them understand choices and empowers them to make decisions and challenge themselves.
“She is constantly taking the children on walks to look at bugs, other parts of nature, or just to move around. Kids aren’t stationed at desks but are active and encouraged to think outside the box. They are collaborating and problem solving while having fun. They are engaged and involved and love to learn.
“She is an asset to the community and an example of why teachers are so special and make such profound impacts on the children they teach,” the nomination said.
Elbers earned an educational specialist degree with an emphasis on brain research from Nova Southeastern University and a master’s degree in early childhood education from Saginaw Valley State University. Elbers has been an educator for 27 years, the last 16 with the Reese Public Schools.
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.