The award winner, Jason Applegate, is a sixth through 12 grade theater teacher at Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy. The school is part of the Saginaw 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 Applegate will air this evening.
Applegate said the opportunity to change young lives led him to a career in education.
“I was attracted to education because of the opportunity to change young lives. Whether it’s helping a student understand their character’s motivation or understand more about themselves and who they want to become as young adults, there is nothing like knowing that you have made a different in someone’s life.”
Applegate said his favorite activities to do with his students are ones that focus on social and emotional well-being.
“Starting last year and carrying into this year, my students and I have really focused on social and emotional well-being. We celebrate Affirmation Day by writing positive messages on the glass doors and sidewalks, handing out nametags with positive labels, and posting sticky notes with uplifting statements on students’ lockers. We also have a social emotional board where students can check in every day with how they are feeling currently, and they can share why if they choose.”
Applegate’s wife nominated him for the award. The nomination cited his passion and leadership along with the culture of inclusion and excellence he has created in for his students.
“Mr. Applegate has created a culture of inclusion and excellence for his students. His class is a safe space for students who may not fit in elsewhere and functions more like a family room than a classroom. While his curriculum has always been dynamic, this past year has given him many challenges as he attempted to teach theater during a pandemic. He creatively swapped his performance-based curriculum for something more friendly to a virtual platform, while still keeping his students engaged.
In addition to his classroom duties, Mr. Applegate spends much of his time outside the classroom helping students put on shows for the public. This means late nights and weekends holding rehearsals, hanging lights, designing, and building sets, and taking his students on trips to see live theater or perform at state-wide conferences/festivals. While this all keeps plate full, he also has taken on being SASA’s ‘Affirmation’, cheerleader by leading affirmation days where he uplifts students throughout the school with positive words and actions. He is devoted, passionate, kind, and is a great leader for his students.”
Applegate earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado and two master’s degrees from Marygrove College. He has been an educator for 18 years, the last seven 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.