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

Danielle Drumm holding $1,500 Excellence in Education checkA Kent County educator known for supporting and challenging her students has been honored with an Excellence In Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Danielle Drumm, is a special education teacher at Highlands Middle School. The school is part of Northview 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 Drumm will air this evening.

Drumm says her passion for special education was ignited after an experience in college.

“My passion for special education began when I worked for Hope Network in college. I was frustrated at how many people didn’t value our individuals of unique populations and I wanted to change that. I desired to equip students with the skills that they need to become their best, no matter at what level that may be. I always enjoyed working with children and helping them become their best selves, overcoming obstacles that are thrown in their paths. I am driven by the relationships I develop with my students and the belief that they can be empowered to make a difference in the world and grow in confidence and skills through the education I provide.”

Drumm says building relationships with her students is most rewarding.

“We play Blookets online a lot, focusing on various content area vocabulary, have Tenzi tournaments, and use various themed timers to try and beat our class score when working with content activities. We also started “gratitude” time in the mornings. Students pick a name and have to share something they are thankful for about the person they chose. My favorite time is when students have a break and we can chat about life. Getting to know my students and build relationships is very rewarding.”

A parent of a student nominated Drumm for the award. The nomination cited the way Drumm effectively cares for and challenges each of her students.

“Danni is the Rockstar resource teacher who works with students with special needs at Highlands Middle School, and she is also our family’s hero. She teaches my 11-year-old daughter who has a cognitive impairment. It’s not an easy task but Danni always finds a way to give the right amount of love and support while, at the same time, giving kids a gentle nudge to fly from the nest. She works closely with parents, general education teachers, and other staff to truly get to know and understand the needs and strengths of her students. She individualizes everything just for them, while still giving them a “normal” middle school experience. Danni uses adapted texts so that her students are still able to read and enjoy classic books that otherwise would be out of their reach. She organizes field trips to the botanical gardens, and even fast-food restaurants, to help students build their life skills out in the real world while still under her watchful care. There are so many challenges and heartaches when it comes to being the parent of a special needs child but teachers like Danni help our daughter to be the best she can be and help us as parents to celebrate her successes. Danni is an important member of our team and bright light in our journey. Day in and day out she is doing life-changing work for students and families.”

Drumm earned a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University. She has been an educator for 11 years, including the last three years 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.
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