A Jackson County educator known for connecting with young students and helping them adjust to school and for her leadership, including mentoring other teachers, has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Colleen Anderson, teaches Young Fives at the Ezra Eby Elementary School, which is part of the Napoleon 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 Anderson will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Anderson said she was attracted to a career in education because several of her family members – including her husband – work in education. She said she initially worked in education as a paraprofessional, then went back to school so she could be a teacher.
She said her favorite part of being an educator is that “I enjoy the excitement students have for learning and for everyday life.”
Anderson said that she’s motivated to do her best “knowing I can influence the lives of my students in a positive way each and every day.”
A colleague and the mother of one of Anderson’s students nominated her for the Excellence in Education award, saying “she exemplifies a model primary teacher. Her leadership in and out of the classroom is amazing. She has taken so many young teachers, including myself, under her wing to help develop highly effective strategies that will reach students at the same time support parents and develop a community of health.
“Colleen helps set the tone for these students’ education and plants a seed for loving school There were several occasions where school was canceled and my daughter cried because she wanted to be in that classroom with her loving, kind, encouraging, supportive teacher, Mrs. Anderson,” the nomination said.
“Not only are her lessons presented with excitement and preciseness, but her instructions are delivered in a magical way that allows these young developing minds to connect with. Having volunteered in the classroom I witnessed firsthand how the students responded to her teaching.
“They were respectful and calm, listening attentively to her instructions. The students who presented challenges were quietly and respectfully redirected until expectations were met. Mrs. Anderson never raises her voice with her students. Her patience far exceeds most.
“Another way I witnessed her flawless best practices was when she put on a Young Fives graduation on the stage with music and moves to songs. If it wasn’t for their size, these 5-year-olds could have been mistaken for third graders because of how well they behaved and performed on stage. It was nearly seamless. Watching the students, including my daughter, respond out of trust and respect for their teacher was amazing. These boys and girls wanted to please and enjoyed themselves as their smiles and excitement were evident.
In addition to teaching she has made huge impacts on the entire school by raising money for various projects such as a Buddy Bench for students to use on the playground. This is a place where students can sit when they don’t have anyone to play with and others will see this and be able to invite them to play. She has raised money for an outdoor canopy with picnic tables in the courtyard to give teachers an alternate place to teach and read with their classes. This has become a meeting place for many including parents in the community. There are many other contributions she has made and because of this she is highly respected by the entire community.”
Anderson earned a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from Spring Arbor University and a master’s degree in educational leadership with an endorsement in early childhood education from Eastern Michigan University. She has been an educator for 18 years, all with the Napoleon Community 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.