An Ingham County educator known for her care and compassion for special education students has been honored with an Excellence In Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Eileen Prihoda, is the Senior Director of Special Education for the Lansing School District.
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 $2,000 cash prize. At the end of the school year, one of the weekly award winners will be selected to receive the Lottery’s Educator of the Year award 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, WNEM-TV in Saginaw, and WWTV-TV in Traverse City. The news segment featuring Prihoda will air this evening.
Prihoda says she was drawn to education because of her desire to watch students learn and grow.
“I truly enjoy the privilege of working with students and watching them learn and grow. I feel strongly that every student can learn. Finding a method that works for students who may not learn in a traditional format is very rewarding. What also drives me is the opportunity to work with educators at every level and to learn from each other while growing together. Finally, working with families and students in Lansing has provided me with an incredible experience in learning about the community. The relationships with families are very meaningful and help me navigate how the work that is being done in the Special Education Department is being perceived by parents and students. It helps me learn what is working and what needs to be changed.”
Prihoda says there is more to education than many people realize.
“I wish people outside the profession knew more about the incredible work that teachers do every day and the skills that they bring to the classroom to work with students. They truly have a passion for what they do. I also wish more people knew about all of the different roles in special education. Not only are there teachers, but the special education department also includes school psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers and speech and language pathologists. Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are very comprehensive teams to meet the needs of students.”
Prihoda was nominated for the award by a colleague.
“When Eileen Prihoda was named the Director of Special Education in the Lansing School District, the District had a 48% Special Education Compliance Rate. By the end of the 2021-2022 school year, Lansing had achieved a 100% compliance rate. This kind of work and support of special education in Lansing was unheard of before Eileen became the Director of Special Education. Her care and compassion to serve the Special Education population is unparalleled.”
Prihoda earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, a master’s degree from Ball State University, and an administrator certificate from Eastern Michigan University. She has been an educator for 21 years, the last five with the Lansing School District.
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.