A Huron County educator known for using art to help students develop and expand their creative skills and for helping them develop as individuals has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Ward Donovan, is the art teacher at the Laker Junior High School and Laker High School, both in Pigeon. The schools are part of the Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Lakers 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 Donovan will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, on Thursday in Saginaw, and then on Friday in Detroit.
Donovan said he was attracted to a career in education because “my two loves have been art and helping people. In education, I found a career where I could pursue both.
“Some people think of teaching as a ‘calling.’ I feel it’s a gift and a chance to do what’s right. We see these students every day and it’s our chance to show them that there are caring adults in this world outside of their homes.”
He added that is favorite part of being an educator is “watching students grow and form themselves into unique individuals. Being a teacher of an elective class in both junior high and high school, I often will get the opportunity to have students multiple years in a row. Seeing them transform themselves from children into young adults is a profound and humbling experience. Over the years, my students have become my family and family is everything.”
A colleague nominated Donovan for the Excellence in Education award, saying he “encourages each student to reveal their true gifts and talents as he works beside them.”
“I watch him touch our student’s lives in ways that serve them now and offer them skills that will continue to serve them for decades. Ward has a quiet strength about him that provides support for some of his most vulnerable students yet also provides a role model as he exemplifies the qualities that I so admire,” the nomination said.
“He is tenacious yet gentle. He sets high expectations yet is compassionate and above all has become an important ‘go to’ person for both past and present students. His quiet nature serves as a reminder that one does not have to be boisterous or overbearing to command the attention and dedication of students.
“Ward has exposed the student’s to methods of self- expression and self-discovery in a safe atmosphere where it is OK to make mistakes or to take risks. In a time when our youth are faced with societal norms that don’t always display the male gender as compassionate yet strong, Ward demonstrates his strength and power in the classroom and in his artwork,” the nomination said.
Donovan earned a bachelor’s degree in painting from Michigan State University and an education certificate from Saginaw Valley State University. He has been an educator for 17 years, the past 13 with the Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Lakers 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.