The award winner, Chris Kozaczynski, is a second grade gifted and talented teacher at Walker-Winter Elementary. Walker-Winter Elementary is part of the Wayne-Westland Community 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 Kozaczynski will air this evening.
Kozaczynski said a senior service project drew him to a career as an educator.
“I wasn’t the person that knew from a very young age that I would grow up to be a teacher. A senior service project in high school allowed me to work with young children at a daycare for a parent/tot cooking class. I loved the experience and continued my work with children at summer camps and daycare while in college. I realized then that I really enjoyed working with children, was patient and understanding when explaining things to them, and most of all, found it to be incredibly rewarding.”
Kozaczynski said integrating play with learning is one of his favorite activities to share with his students.
“There are so many games we play. The favorites change from year to year with each group of students, but I do notice an overall trend with my second graders: they want the teacher to play the games with them all the time. We love to play games at our math centers and beating the teacher at a strategy game guarantees bragging rights for at least the next week. I try my best, but they are just faster than I am.
“Playing online learning games together and allowing students to teach me how to get better so I don’t keep losing to them is fun for both of us since they sincerely want me to improve. They have the chance to be the expert and guide me.”
The parent of a former student nominated Kozaczynski for the award. The nomination cited his creativity and the ways he engages his students.
“Mr. Kozaczynski uses technology and creativity to engage his students. Students contact all seven continents via Skype. He sends a student-made flag to Antarctica that scientists fly with penguins. Students even contacted a space station via Skype. He teaches the curriculum and way beyond. He hand-makes chocolate dinosaur fossils during their weeks on the prehistoric Era. Students create an entire village to learn about taxes, community issues, pros and cons of industrial buildings, and what sort of shops/services are needed. Every student has that one teacher they will remember for their whole life, for anyone in Westland’s talented and gifted program, it is Mr. Chris.”
Kozaczynski earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree from Marygrove College. He has been an educator for 24 years, the last nine in his current position.
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.