An Allegan County educator known for turning students’ frowns upside down has been honored with an Excellence In Education
award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Katherine Dana, is a middle school art teacher at Hopkins Middle School. The school is part of Hopkins 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 Dana will air this evening.
Dana said that being surrounded by young people is the reason she loves being an educator.
“I love being around young people because they have such incredible imaginations filled with creativity. I look forward to seeing my students every day, and they drive me to keep coming back into the classroom.”
Dana said finding unique ways to keep her students engaged is her favorite part of being a teacher.
“I try very hard to make most learning activities in my classroom feel like a competition or a group game about art. This helps middle school students stay actively engaged while learning and having fun at the same time. Teaching this way also gives opportunities that allow for students that struggle with art to thrive and feel successful in class.”
A former student nominated Dana for the award. The nomination cited how much she cares for her students and the welcoming atmosphere she fosters in her classroom.
“Ms. Dana is the kindest most thoughtful and loving teacher I have ever met. She cares so deeply about every one of her students. She makes everyone feel welcome in her classroom regardless of who they are or what they have done. Any time I went to class and didn’t have a smile one my face, Ms. Dana did everything she could to turn my frown into a smile. She always has a smile on her face when you come into class. Even if she is having a hard day, she never lets it show. She lights up the whole room when she walks in. She takes time with each student to make sure they understand the project and helps them as much as she can. I couldn’t wait to go to school each day to see her. She made school much more enjoyable for so many of her students. She is an outstanding role model and a true inspiration.”
Dana earned two bachelor’s degrees from Grand Valley State University. She has been an educator for five years, all five with Hopkins Middle School.
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.