The award winner, Darci Merillat, is a science teacher at Bay City Western Middle School. The school is part of the Bay City 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 Merillat will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Merillat said a love for learning led her to a career in education.
“My ongoing love for learning and the ability to pass that passion on to students to help them find their niche or their passion in the world are what led me to a career in education.”
She said watching her students grow and being part of their growth are her favorite parts of being an educator.
“My favorite part about being an educator is the satisfaction I feel from seeing my students as mustard seeds when they enter middle school and watching them grow, mature, and make sense of the world around them. My hope is that what I do as an educator inspires a thirst for continuous learning and leads them into a field where they will make a difference in the world.”
A colleague nominated Merillat for the award. The nomination cited her willingness to go above and beyond to provide students with the best science education possible.
“Darci goes above and beyond to give her students the best science education possible. She pours hundreds of dollars into her classroom so her students can experience quality labs to help understand the objectives for the class. She has high expectations for all of her students and creates exciting, hands-on activities to help them understand the content. It is a joy to watch her interact with her students.
Not only does she care about their learning, but she cares about their well-being. She often goes out on weekends to deliver little treats (purchased out of her own pocket) or a note, in person, to her students’ homes just to let them know she is thinking about them.”
Merillat earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Saginaw Valley State University. She has been an educator for 22 years, all with the Bay City Public 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.