A Calhoun County educator known for her ability to make learning fun for her students has been honored with an Excellence In Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Virginia Platek, is a ninth grade English and AP language and composition teacher at Battle Creek Central High School. The school is part of Battle Creek 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 Platek will air this evening.
Platek said she has always known she wanted to be a teacher.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher. I struggled with mental health problems when I was a student and I noticed that my teachers would pretend the problem wasn’t there. I didn’t want someone else to go through what I did. As a teacher, I do my best to know my students and recognize when they are struggling. I don’t ignore their struggles. I want them to know there is hope and despite any mental health issues, they can still be successful.”
Platek’s favorite activity to do with students is read Romeo and Juliet.
“I love reading Romeo and Juliet with my students. I divide the class in two, the Montagues and the Capulets, and they earn points for positive behavior throughout the unit. At the end, the ‘family’ with the most points earns a reward. Another favorite activity our school did was a parade to support students that graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the students couldn’t come together to celebrate, school staff decorated their cars and formed a caravan that drove past every graduating senior’s house in the district. We blared music and whooped and hollered. It was such a joyful moment.”
Platek’s nomination cited her ability to make learning fun and interesting for her students.
“Virginia has always been able to relate to middle school and high school students. She has a way of making learning fun and interesting. When her students start to read some of the required books, she finds a way to present them that makes the students want to read them.
“Before her current position, she worked at high schools with problem students. She would talk to and work with the students until they started doing the work and they always ended up passing their classes at the end of the year. Every year she has students come up to her and say: ‘you are the best teacher we ever had.’ She always takes on extra classes if they are short teachers and signs up for extracurricular activities with the students. She has also worked summer school and signed up to teach a college course this summer. Virginia was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis two years ago and despite the challenges she faces, she remains dedicated to her students every day.”
Platek earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and master’s degree from Grand Valley State University. She has been an educator for 9 years, the last 5 in her current position.
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.