A Shiawassee County educator known for sparking creativity in her students with hands-on exercises, such as having them write a book, as part of her effort to help them advance academically and mature as individuals has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Cynthia Richmond, is a second grade teacher at Elsa Meyer Elementary School, which is part of the Corunna 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 Richmond will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Richmond said she was attracted to a career in education because “I love to help children and I especially wanted to make a difference for the kids who find that learning is hard. Learning was difficult for me, so I want to help the children who are like I was.”
She said her favorite part of being an educator is “when the children are excited about learning. I love those moments when they can’t wait to share their excitement with me. I love helping them grow and letting them know that I care about them.”
Richmond said her students motivate her to do her best. “Every day, I have the opportunity to help our children grow emotionally and educationally. I enjoy making reading books for nightly reading folders and staying late with other staff members to decorate the building for young authors day. I get to see the excitement in the students’ eyes when the see the building transformed into a theme. And it’s exciting to see them grow as readers after they work hard to do their nightly reading homework. It’s also the smiles and hugs after we decorate our Festival of Trees for the community.
“It’s important for me to make that extra effort so I reach every child social, emotionally, and academically. It is very rewarding to be part of my students’ lives outside of the classroom,” she said, adding “my family and I are part of the community.”
A former student nominated Richmond for the Excellence in Education award, saying she “has gone above and beyond teaching to provide a safe space for children who come from all walks of life, broken homes or kids that may need an escape from the outside world. Her classroom is a temple for learning and growth.
“Helping kids grow intellectually is her job, but her passion is to help them grow as people and work with them as they mature.”
The nomination said that Richmond has brought chicken eggs into her classroom so her students could “study and monitor the process as the eggs went through incubation and hatched into chicks. This is just one of the many things she does to go above and beyond to help kids not only learn, but to have experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
With Richmond’s “young authors” program, she works with her students to help them write and publish their own books, and then read them out loud to parents and friends, the nomination said, adding that “sparking creative energy in her classroom” is important to her.
Richmond said that one of her students lost his father and “his young authors day book was an opportunity to have him write about all the special things he did with his Dad, so he would always have those memories to hold close to his heart. When he finished it, he told me he wanted to leave it by his father’s grave, so everyone could read about his great Dad. My heart hurt for him so much and I warned anyone who was about to read his book to be ready to cry.”
Richmond, whose son is a two-time cancer survivor, said her family bought a Spartan teddy bear to the funeral home to comfort him. “When it was time for him to return to school, I left him small gifts on his desk to hold onto during the day and notes of encouragement and love in his locker and on his desk. I wanted him to know that people at school cared about him and I would always be there to listen, cry with him and hold him close to my heart. I still leave notes of encouragement in his locker. No child should have to suffer the loss that my student did and any little smile or moment of happiness that I could bring to him meant the world to me.”
Richmond earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan-Flint and a master’s degree in teaching from Marygrove College. She has been an educator for 21 years, all with the Corunna 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.