An Oakland County educator known for her dedication to help students explore new opportunities to develop their abilities and build confidence in themselves has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Mary Hulliberger, is the director of bands at Walled Lake Northern High School, which is part of the Walled Lake Consolidated 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 Hulliberger will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Hulliberger said she was attracted to a career in education because “from an early age, I liked music. I had a dynamic middle school and high school teacher. I knew music education was for me!”
She said her favorite parts of being an educator are “the ‘Ah-ha!’ moments when students get it! And on stage, after the work and process and we are sharing all our work in concert.”
Hulliberger said she’s motivated to do her best because “I know that I make a difference each day! Each kid is worth the extra effort! It is a joy for me to go to school every day!”
A student nominated Hulliberger for the Excellence in Education award, saying that “she goes out of her way to provide opportunities to help her students grow.”
“In the four years that I’ve had her as a teacher, she’s offered me endless opportunities and encouraged me to improve,” the nomination said. “For my senior year, she provided me leadership opportunities that gave me the chance to grow. She made me a section leader in marching band, gave me the chance to lead a jazz ensemble, and provided me the opportunity to help direct the freshman concert band. I am planning to continue playing in a jazz band in college!
“Our bands have scored high at all of our competitions under her leadership. She has taken her students to England to march in a New Year’s parade and to Disneyworld to perform there.
“Mrs. Hulliberger makes a point to get to know all of her students. She has a great sense of humor and provides a welcoming environment for everyone from freshman to senior year, even people outside the band program. Anyone in the school who needs help can go to her door, and she’ll do her best to help them. If you walk into class upset, she pulls you aside and asks in a humorous way: ‘Who do I need to beat up?’ and then offers you a chance to talk about the situation. When I got into a car accident before school, she let me in her office to cry. When the class was over, she let me talk about my ordeal.”
Hulliberger earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University – where she was the first female drum major for the school’s marching band – and a master’s degree in conducting from Southern Oregon University. She has been an educator for 21 years, the past 11 with the Walled Lake Consolidated 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.