A Wayne County educator known for teaching her students life skills has been honored with an Excellence In Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Kimberly Matthews, is a post-secondary teacher who specializes in teaching students with autism. She teaches at the Charles R. Drew Transition Center, which is part of Detroit 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 Matthews will air this evening.
Matthews credits a neighbor she had when she was a child for her interest in being an educator.
“As a young girl, my neighbor Mrs. Rice would hold study time during our summer vacation in her backyard. For us kids in the neighborhood to partake in her weekly grilled hot dogs, baked beans, and potato salad we had to join her for weekly lessons. Little did I know she knew how important it was for inner-city kids to continue school even if for only one day a week during the summer. She asked me to lead the lessons when she had to step away for a minute. I was always very nervous but also excited. That’s when I knew I loved teaching. I love helping people be the best they can be.”
Matthews says helping her students find confidence is her favorite part of being an educator.
“My students ages range from 18 to 26 years-old, and our focus is preparing them for life after leaving our program. We have a Flower shop, snack store, clothing store, and a coffee shop in our building. We also have a carpentry shop along with a full-blown horticulture department along with a bank and post office. I get to work with my students and their parents to find what would best suit their child’s vocational interests and once we have our students working and feeling confident seeing their smiles is something that touches my heart.”
A family member nominated Matthews for the award. The nomination cited her dedication to her students and their success after leaving the Charles R. Drew Transition Center.
“Starting a new career after retiring from the Detroit post office in her 40s, Kim went on to get two master’s degrees in education and autism from Wayne State University. In the past two decades she has taught countless students on all ends of the autism spectrum, taking a special interest in the most severe cases. Parents continue to request her every year at Charles R. Drew Transition Center. She teaches academics but also life skills, helped create a horticulture program and so much more.”
Matthews earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wayne State University. She has been an educator for 20 years, including 15 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.