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

A Kent County educator known for making a difference in her students’ lives has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Winona Tinholt, is a fourth grade and technology teacher at Wealthy Elementary School. The school is part of the East Grand Rapids 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 Tinholt will air this evening.

Tinholt said her aunt and uncle who were teachers inspired her to become a teacher.

“Growing up, I had the most incredible aunt and uncle who were both teachers. They loved being teachers and would tell me stories about their students and the projects they were doing in class. They were so passionate about their work, and I found it to be inspiring. When I decided to pursue a career in education, they offered me so much support.”

Tinholt said her students and designing lessons that are meaningful to students are her favorite things about being a teacher.

“Aside from my students, designing lessons that are engaging and meaningful to students is my favorite part about teaching. I want school to be fun and for students to be excited about our lessons. I use a lot of gameful learning, practices, and simulations. One of my favorite activities to do with my students is a fantasy game I designed where students move around a land and battle for zones while reading fantasy novels.”

A colleague nominated Tinholt for the award. The nomination cited her dedication and the difference she makes in her students lives.

“Can you say, ‘fun’? Mrs. Tinholt has been a long time fourth grade teacher at Wealthy Elementary changing lives and making a difference every day. She takes learning to a new level by making lessons come to life. She plans a market day at the end of her economics unit, takes her students to Mackinac Island to learn more about Michigan history, and teaches math with vigor and individualizes it. She will individualize teaching, pushing gifted students with mini lessons and working with those who need a little extra help. She treats everyone with kindness and respect.

“She is a mentor teacher to me and to other new teachers who she works with at school. When I was moved to the fourth grade classroom last minute due to budget cuts in the district where I taught, she supported me and spent time teaching me everything I needed to know for fourth grade. She continues to work with me and check on me. She is a leader in her school and helps out whenever she is needed. She is so dedicated to her students and their learning progress. This is a teacher who goes above and beyond. She is amazing and the district is lucky to have her.”

Tinholt earned a bachelor’s degree from Calvin University and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She has been an educator for 28 years, the last 21 years with East Grand Rapids 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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