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

A Kent County educator known for providing support for students and families after they leave her class has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Caitlin Doan, is a kindergarten through fifth-grade special education teacher at Lincoln Developmental Center. Lincoln Development Center is part of the Kent Intermediate School District.

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 Doan will air this evening.

Doan said a family member with special needs drew her to a career in special education.

“A variety of things attracted me to education, but the most significant was spending time with my cousin with Severe Multiple Impairments at my grandparents’ house. I loved spending time and interacting with him. It led me to volunteering in his classroom and from then on I knew I wanted to teach students with special needs.”

Doan said her morning circle time with students is her favorite part of the day.

“One of my favorite activities during the school day is morning circle. It allows my students to greet each other by waving, verbally saying ‘hi,’ or using devices to interact with each other. My students are given the opportunity to make choices when they have such limited control over their worlds. They help pick the songs for the circle time and let us know if they want to get up and move during the songs. We also work on the academics of calendar: days of the week, the month, and date. Overall, morning circle is a great way to get the kids moving and ready to learn for the day.”

The parent of a former student nominated Doan for the award. The nomination cited how she cares for students even after they have left her classroom.

“Caitlin is amazing beyond words. She teaches children with severe and complex disabilities, but her real gift is helping the families of her students, sometimes even after they move on. My daughter has Cerebral Palsy, and a cognitive impairment, and did not fit into a classroom typically designed for these children. She was moved to Caitlin’s class, and it was life changing. Caitlin figured out how to best help Anji learn, and how to best deal with the complex behaviors, which had interfered with her learning in her previous class. She has remained in close contact with our family, even coming to sit with us during a major surgery and helping with our other children during Anji’s hospital stay.”

Doan earned a bachelor’s degree from Calvin University. She has been an educator for 12 years, the last two with the Kent Intermediate School District.

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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