Berrien County Educator Wins Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery

A Berrien County educator known for her commitment to the students in her room and her work outside the classroom to help Ballard Elementary and the district constantly improve and evolve has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Kelly Westgate, is a K-3 Emotional Impairment Instructor at Ballard Elementary. Ballard Elementary is part of Niles 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 Westgate will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.

Westgate said she was attracted to a career in education because she loves learning and loved her time as a student.

“I wanted to provide that opportunity to experience a love of education to students,” she said. “Each group of students has taught me something new about how we learn, how we live, and how we love.”

She said her favorite part of being an educator is the students and the relationships she develops with them.

“I am fortunate that I have the majority of my students for multiple years, and their families become part of my family,” she said. “I love seeing the gains they make academically and socially.”

Westgate was nominated for the award by Donna Roark, Curriculum and Personnel Assistant Superintendent. The nomination cited her dedication to improving the school and the district, and her involvement in activities outside of her classroom.

“Kelly’s actions inside of the classroom show a commitment to the students in her room, but it’s her work outside the classroom that shows that she wants Ballard Elementary and Niles Community Schools to constantly improve and evolve. Kelly not only advises with special education but is a resource for general education teachers with reading intervention as her building’s Implementation Facilitator. She also is developing a sensory room at Ballard.”

Westgate earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Ball State University. She has been an educator for 27 years, the last five with Niles Community Schools.

Outstanding public-school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at 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.
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