The award winner, Jennifer Harris, is a second-grade teacher at Allen Elementary, which is part of Ann Arbor Public 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 Harris will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Harris said her love of working with children and making a difference in their lives drew her to a career in education.
“I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I love working with children and I have always known I wanted to make a difference in children’s lives. I simply could not imagine doing any other job. Becoming a teacher is what I feel I was meant to do.”
She said the endless rewarding feeling she gets from students is her favorite part of being an educator.
“I have taught kindergarten through fourth grade, and no matter which grade I am teaching, there are endless rewarding aspects to working with each age group. I love watching children in my class learn to read and write. It is exciting to witness their mathematical reasoning and thinking as the year unfolds. I have the great opportunity to lead, teach, and witness a group of learners where friendships are forming, students are working together and learning to solve problems together, and a class community is forming in front of my eyes. Second grade is a pivotal year where students begin as early elementary learners and transition into upper elementary learners. This age group of children grows and matures in so many ways during their second-grade experience. My ultimate favorite thing about being an educator is knowing I have the privilege to play a role in and be a part of my students’ learning and growth.”
A family member who has been an educator for 38 years nominated Harris for the award. The nomination cited her willingness to make personal sacrifices for her school and students.
“Jennifer Harris has consistently strived to be the best she can be. She sets high standards for herself and works tirelessly to provide outstanding lessons, accommodations for every type of learner and exceptional care and kindness for each student. She is regularly requested by parents whose children she has had in the past and is known for going above and beyond in building positive teacher/parent relationships. Her creativity is inspiring to her colleagues and she is a model of a ‘team player’.
She has been selected to teach in summer programs due to her strong work ethic and a reputation for being dependable and highly committed. Her students know that Mrs. Harris will do whatever is needed to make their academic experience a memorable one. Her colleagues know that there is no one who is more dedicated to helping the staff and school reach their goals than Jennifer. Throughout her career, she has made personal sacrifices to assure that Allen School, with its diverse population, is looked upon favorably in the Ann Arbor community.”
Harris earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. She has been an educator for 27 years, all with Ann Arbor 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.