A Lapeer County educator known for her tireless and innovative efforts to provide students with experiences and opportunities to excel in the classroom and grow as individuals has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Mary Finnigan, an educator for nearly three decades, is the superintendent for the Dryden Community 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 Finnigan will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Finnigan said she was attracted to a career in education because “I want to work with and help people. I am a first-generation college graduate. I had a group of teacher mentors who helped me and now I want to help others achieve their goals. I am trying to be who I needed when I was younger.”
“My favorite part of being an educator is watching my students learn and grow. I like making a difference in their lives. I love serving my community. I love helping my students and staff succeed,” she said.
Finnigan students the student and her staff members motivate her to do her best every day. “My job is to help make the lives of my students and staff better. I consider the students to be my children and I want the best for them. I work hard to provide them with new experiences and opportunities to learn and grow.”
A member of the Dryden Community Schools Board of Education nominated Finnigan for the Excellence in Education award, saying she “is one of the most, honest, fair, creative, and hard working professionals that I know. Because of her leadership, our school district is thriving!”
“She has worn many hats in our district: teacher, principal, and now superintendent. Mary came to Dryden five years ago and under her leadership, our district has continued to break traditional boundaries in education. We have a Montessori kindergarten and a multiage philosophy that began in the elementary grades and has grown to the high school. Students are able to take classes based on their skill levels, not simply their ages,” the nomination said.
“Mary’s innovative thinking brought the Early College program to our district. She has fostered relationships with Ferris State University, Oakland University, and Baker College, to name a few. Thanks to Mary and her team, our students can graduate from high school with college credits.
“Her leadership and innovation also brought the Summit Learning Platform (an online curriculum service with projects, contents, and assessments) to our school. Mary is protective of her students and teachers and works tirelessly to better our schools. Our student scores continue to be at or among the top scores in our county. Mary inspires those around her to be their best.”
Finnigan earned four degrees from Wayne State University: a bachelor of science degree in education, a master’s degree in clinical and community health education, a master’s degree in counseling, and an educational specialist degree in general education administration and supervision. She also studied at the Specs Howard School of Media Arts. She has been an educator for 27 years, the past five with the Dryden Community Schools.
She has two children attending the Dryden Community Schools, a daughter who is in the seventh grade and a son in the sixth grade.
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.