A Wayne County educator known for her commitment and creative efforts to help students succeed in the classroom and as individuals has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Katie Benavides, is a seventh grade English language arts teacher at O.W. Best Middle School, in Dearborn Heights. She also serves as the co-chair of the school’s National Junior Honor Society chapter. The school is part of the Dearborn Heights District 7.
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 Benavides will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Benavides said she chose a career in education because of “inspirational teachers in my family and other inspirational teachers that I encountered throughout my education.”
She said her favorite moments of being an educator are “having a direct impact on the success of children and seeing the ‘Ah-ha!’ moments when learning takes place.”
Benavides said her students motivate her to do her best each day. “I know that I can directly impact and create students who are motivated to be lifelong learners. That’s why I go the extra mile to let students know they have someone in their corner.
“I have to meet students where they are at so they can progress forward to make personal growth. Knowing what to teach is not the hard part. How to teach in a meaningful way is what takes creativity and talent. Teaching is so much more than academics and test scores. To me, the biggest rewards are the relationships that are built and the students learning to love their days in school.”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Benavides described her as “a teacher who leaves a lasting impact on every student she comes in contact with. She inspires students on all levels to perform to the best of their ability.”
“Ms. Benavides goes above and beyond to help her students succeed both in and out of the classroom. She uses a plethora of strategies to help her students succeed. She spends numerous hours after school tutoring struggling students,” the nomination said.
“Ms. Benavides’ energy and attitude are contagious and inspire every staff member at O.W. Best Middle School. Whether it is through sharing her creative lesson plans, kicking off our Positive Behavior Assembly, analyzing the school’s test scores, making improvements to our curriculum or simply volunteering to help out in the office, there is no doubt that our school is a better place because of Katie Benavides!”
Benavides earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in reading literacy from Madonna University. She has been an educator for 13 years, the last 11 with the Dearborn Heights District 7.
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.