A Kent County educator known for impacting students’ lives as a teacher and coach has been honored with an Excellence In Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Veronica VanWagoner, is a seventh-grade history teacher with Caledonia Community 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 VanWagoner will air this evening.
VanWagoner says her second-grade teacher inspired her to be an educator.
“When I was a child, I remember playing school and anytime I was asked what I wanted to be, the answer was always the same: a teacher. In second grade, I had a fantastic teacher named Mrs. Brown and that solidified my choice!”
VanWagoner says building relationships with her students is one of her favorite things about being an educator.
“Having real conversations with my students and getting to know them outside of classroom is one of my favorite things about my job. I get to see kids in class have a-ha moments when they are learning and see their accomplishments in sports. Seeing those two sides of the students is special and helps me build a unique bond with them.”
VanWagoner was nominated by a family member. The nomination cited her dedication to helping provide students with access to books when her former school district’s library closed.
“When her previous school no longer had a library, she created her own, using her own money and grants from the school’s Education Foundation to create a library of nearly 2,000 books in her classroom. She also began walking her students to the local Kent District Library two blocks away from the middle school and getting her students library cards. The librarians then noticed these students’ parents were coming and getting library cards too and many had never had one before. The school team continued to follow the example she established there even after switching school districts. Her method of teaching reading skills has achieved very high standards of excellence among her students in both school systems. She has received accolades from several parents stating that prior to her teaching they could not get their child engaged in reading. Her philosophy is to get the child to enjoy reading utilizing book trailers (similar to movie trailers) and book talks and reading books that align with their individual interests. She has utilized debate in her classrooms to engage the students in public speaking and understanding the materials taught in social studies to be able to argue their positions. She also utilizes current event discussions to align with ancient history for greater understanding.”
VanWagoner earned a bachelor’s degree from the Oakland University and a master’s degree from Grand Valley State University. She has been an educator for 17 years, the last five 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.