A Jackson County educator known for her dedication to inspiring a love of learning in her students and for challenging herself to become a better teacher has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Sarah Soper, teaches ninth grade English, electives, and Advanced Placement English Literature at Northwest High School, which is part of the Northwest 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 Soper will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Soper said she was attracted to a career in education because “I always loved school myself and loved working with people. But I soon realized education was a lot more than just school.”
She said her favorite part of being an educator is “working with the kids! I love creating new, engaging lessons to get students interested in learning. When graduates come back to tell me how my class has helped them be successful writers in college, lessons they remember, or even fun stories of our classroom, it helps me know that I’m in the right profession and that what I do is having an impact.”
Soper said her students motivate her to do her best each day. “I’m someone who always wants to do my best, but having students I need to do my best for, adds another level. I continue to change my lessons each year to try and improve and keep things fresh. Whether it is teaching a newer, more modern text, using technology such as Flipgrid, or creating tangible objects like ‘tone bottles’ that relate to poetry, my goal is to make instruction engaging but also meaningful. I want students to walk away saying they actually enjoy English class! Or at the very least, enjoyed one of the books we read or something we did.”
A colleague nominated Soper for the Excellence in Education award, describing her as someone who “has never stopped striving for greatness in her classroom.”
“Students in Sarah’s class benefit from her dedication to improving her teaching, her determination to help her students with their future goals, and her commitment to being a role model for the students in her classroom,” the nomination said.
“Over the course of her career, Sarah has worked hard to expand reading offerings so students of a variety of backgrounds are represented in what they read. Using Twitter, she has created a wonderful community of educators that she builds relationships with, helping her to inspire other teachers across the country, as well as to improve her own practices. Sarah used these connections to create a conference presentation, which was accepted last year by the National Council of Teachers of English.”
“Sarah also embraced the opportunity to become a reader for the Advanced Placement English Literature exam, which she teachers, to help her improve her methods with her students, and to ensure their success in getting college credit for the course,” the nomination said. Soper noted that as an exam reader, she was required her to review more than 1,100 papers in one week.
“Sarah also is an outspoken advocate for improving literacy, presenting at NerdCamp in Jackson County, and getting trained in Reading Apprenticeship, which she also presented to our staff.”
Soper earned a bachelor of arts degree in education from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Eastern Michigan University. She has been an educator for 15 years, all with the Northwest Community Schools.
Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation or through the websites of the Lottery’s media partner stations.
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.