A Wayne County educator known for valuing and encouraging inquisitiveness has been honored with an Excellence In Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Tracy Ortiz, is a sixth-grade science teacher with 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 Ortiz will air this evening.
Ortiz credits a high school teacher for inspiring her to pursue a career in education.
“A teacher I had in high school inspired me to become a teacher. She was a teacher that I looked up to, and who always encouraged me to do my best. I was able to participate in a variety of activities with her encouragement and support. This teacher looked out for me and many other students, and we knew that she truly cared about each one of us. Our teacher set an example by genuinely caring for us. This teacher made a difference in my life, and in turn, I would like to pay it forward. My students keep me going.”
Ortiz says using project-based learning is one of her favorite activities to do with students.
“In my class my students are offered many opportunities to engage in several challenging projects throughout the school year. Project-based learning also allows students to demonstrate leadership and perseverance within the classroom, and in all the extra-curricular activities that we participate in outside of class. Taking students outdoors to learn and having our schoolyard pollinator garden that they planted as the center of our outdoor classroom offers numerous learning experiences for my students. I have also trained students in water quality testing through the Rouge Education Project while making connections with content in the science curriculum. This project works with schools to engage students in the stewardship of the Rouge River which is a river that runs through the watershed in which our school is located. Students gather water samples from the Rouge River to measure water quality using scientific assessments. After applying authentic testing techniques, students gather and record data identifying variable chemical changes in the water quality of the collected samples. Students identify and classify benthic macro-invertebrates as they sort through creatures harvested from the river bottom. This hands-on experience opens a new world of awareness and scientific inquiry on the health of local rivers. Outdoor and environmental education provides the opportunity for children to learn by doing.”
A colleague nominated Ortiz for the award. The nomination cited her dedication and enthusiasm for science education.
“Tracy Ortiz is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic science educators that I know. She has made it her mission to ensure that every one of her students enjoys an authentic, three-dimensional learning experience in her classroom, where their inquisitiveness is not only valued, but encouraged. Mrs. Ortiz motivates her students to become independent and innovative thinkers, while allowing them to explore their natural world and begin solving the problems of tomorrow. Mrs. Ortiz has a sincere passion for educating and inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and citizens who will change the world. She coaches, manages, and facilitates award-winning teams in STEM enrichment programs such as SeaPerch Underwater Robotics, Destination Imagination, Metro Detroit Science and Engineering Fair (DAPCEP), and Ecoworks. It is her goal is to extend learning beyond the classroom and provide experiences that will shape the future of her students. Not only does Tracy inspire her students, but she also motivates her colleagues to make the necessary pedagogical shifts towards creating NGSS aligned, three-dimensional learning environments across our District. Tracy regularly assists the DPSCD Office of Science in promoting the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards by participating in curriculum initiatives, co-facilitating professional developments, and serving as a mentor to other science teachers.”
Ortiz earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Detroit and a master’s degree from Wayne State University. She has been an educator for 23 years, 19 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.