A Sanilac County educator known for helping students succeed in the classroom and to grow as individuals through community service projects, including a school Giving Closet and placing American flags on the courthouse lawn to recognize veterans, has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Erin Carlson, teaches English, Enrichment, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses for the seventh, eighth and 11th grades at Sandusky Junior/Senior High School in Sandusky, Mich.
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 Carlson will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Carlson said she was attracted to a career in education because it offered “the opportunity to connect with students on a daily basis and influence them to work to reach their highest potential.”
She said her favorite parts about being an educator are “relationship building and showing students how to be productive members of society. Working with the Key Club and the National Honor Society provides many opportunities to do this beyond the classroom walls.”
Carlson said her students motivate her to do her best each day. “I enjoy the opportunity to make a difference each day. I have been granted so many opportunities in my own life and I want to provide those same opportunities for each of my students.
“I want to make sure all of my students have the opportunity to shine and not just in the classroom setting. Whether it is in one of my Saturday cooking classes or digging flagpole holes on our courthouse lawn, all students need the opportunity to shine.”
A colleague nominated Carlson for the Excellence in Education award nomination, saying “she leads by example. She puts in thousands of hours of community service side-by-side with her students. She shows kids what it is like to give back to the community. Her giving spirit glows amongst the students and staff of our building. She inspires all of us to give back to our community.”
“As a teacher, she puts in hundreds of hours lesson planning, correcting papers, and designing lesson plans. However, the lessons Mrs. Carlson teaches outside the classroom will forever endure in the hearts and minds of our local youth.
“One of the most important projects she runs is the ‘Giving Closet’ out of her own closet in her classroom. Mrs. Carlson and a few of her students started this project five or six years ago and it has helped to supply our less fortunate students with coats, shoes, hats, gloves etc. She also stores cleaning supplies, food, hygiene products, and other clothing to help our students in need.
“Mrs. Carlson leads the National Honor Society chapter and Key Club group with our colleague George Lasecki. Within those organizations, she helps students to find volunteer activities that help to give back to our community. One of the biggest projects she helps oversee is the Flags of Remembrance Project. Every 4th of July, Patriot Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Flag Day, she and a few dozen kids go up to the courthouse to place close to 500 flags and plaques on the lawn. It is a project that started several years ago that honors our local veterans,” the nomination said.
“Once a month, Mrs. Carlson finds time to help students with life skills like cooking. She has partnered with our local library and hosts a free cooking class for our students. In the summer, Mrs. Carlson helped start the Summer Slide Program that has been running the last two summers. Once a week, faculty and high school students volunteer their time to read and tutor elementary-aged children.
“Her current mission right now is helping students become aware of the importance of mental health,” the nomination said. It added the National Honor Society is responsible for the school’s Sweetheart dance and instead of focusing on the popularity of students the week before the dance, the National Honor Society students and “the king and queen candidates are using their platform to shine a light on the importance of mental health.”
Carlson earned a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and a master’s in educational leadership in administration from Saginaw Valley State University. She has been an educator for 15 years, the past six years with the Sandusky 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.