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CLASS OF 2018-2019


Elizabeth Hooten

2nd Grade Teacher,
Academy for Business & Technology Elementary

Ms. Elizabeth Hooten is a second grade teacher who has dedicated many years of her life to Academy for Business & Technology Elementary (ABTE) and the students. She took the lead on a summer enrichment program, creating schedules, prioritizing standards, and making sure the program ran smoothly for all involved. "She always has a smile on her face and gives us encouraging words," said Silvia Vargas, instructional coach at ABTE.

When you enter Ms. Hooten's classroom it is easy to see that she is making a difference in the students' lives on a daily basis, ensuring each student knows she cares about them and their education. Her expectations for her students are high and they work hard to meet them. Students support each other while collaboratively learning and celebrate their successes when standards are mastered.

Thank you for your kindness and positivity, Ms. Hooten!​


Kimberly Kelly

ELA Grades 7-8 Teacher,
East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy

East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy (ECUEA) has been fortunate enough to have Ms. Kimberly Kelly as a part of their family for nine years. Beginning her journey as a Media Specialist, she excelled at her instruction and rose to the challenge even further when a middle school ELA teacher was needed part way through the school year. Not only has she tutored countless students, she has become a mentor that works closely with new teachers to assist in acclimating them to ECUEA's middle school program. Colleagues seek her advice and value her input.

"Ms. Kelly's tireless efforts to reach her students, to give her all to them everyday and to ensure they are receiving the best education she can give them is remarkable," said Amy Rummel, instructional coach at ECUEA. She has high expectations for her students, and that is why year after year they do well with testing. Her students are so grateful they have been given the tools they need to go on to be successful in high school.

You are truly valued and appreciated by all, Ms. Kelly!


Kimberly Cecil

1st Grade Teacher,
George Crockett Academy

Ms. Kimberly Cecil makes an impact in the lives of her first grade students daily at George Crockett Academy (GCA). The magnitude of the K-3 literacy law inspired her to move from teaching third grade to first grade. She embraced the change in grade levels, immediately making an impact for GCA students by showing student growth. She is always ready to help in any way she can, without hesitation.

Ms. Cecil has been the recipient of several Donors Choose campaigns, one of which provided flexible seating options for her students. Her students enjoy being in her warm, safe classroom environment each day. "Ms. Cecil is a valuable asset to GCA. Her teacher style and loving personality makes a huge difference in first grade and throughout the school," said Carolyn Williams, instructional coach at GCA.

Thank you for your dedication to your students and to GCA, Ms. Cecil!


Patrick Baxter

8th Grade Math Teacher,
Cesar Chavez Academy Middle School

Mr. Patrick Baxter started with César Chávez Academy Middle School (CCAMS) in 2016 and has become an increasingly valuable team member. He has become a leader for mathematics instruction and has taken on a leadership role in his department. Mr. Baxter assists with the recruitment and acquisition of high quality candidates that will make a positive impact in the school.

Mr. Baxter's classroom is warm and inviting, creating an environment where students are comfortable being challenged. His rapport with his students enables him to push them beyond their comfort level and engage meaningfully with content. He helps his students understand their data and use it to set personal goals for learning. “Already an excellent teacher, he continuously sets goals for his instructional growth and pushes himself to improve current practices, try out new practices, and adjust his teaching to meet the needs of all students," said Brittiany Romero, instructional coach at CCAMS.

Thank you for continuously making a positive impact at CCAMS, Mr. Baxter!


Erin Fought

3rd Grade Teacher,
Francis Reh Public School Academy

Ms. Erin Fought, third grade teacher at Francis Reh Academy (FRA) goes above and beyond for her students and their families. Ms. Fought dedicates time daily before and after school to help her students overcome their academic hurdles. She has been an integral part of the FRA team for several years and her data continues to show growth and improvement.

Ms. Fought’s dependability makes her valued by all, including her students, their parents, her fellow teachers, and the FRA administration team. “She makes herself available, no matter what is needed. She is a great teammate and is always lending a helping hand inside and outside the classroom,” said Crystal Mills, instructional coach at FRA.

Thank you for your commitment to FRA, Ms. Fought!


Jenise Stanley

3rd Grade Teacher,
Reach Academy

Ms. Jenise Stanley cares deeply about each and every one of her third grade students at REACH Academy (RA). The caring environment that she creates in her classroom helps build lasting connections with students both past and present. Recently, Ms. Stanley noticed that a former student from her third grade class was having a bad day. She took it upon herself to reach out to the student and invite them to join her for lunch. The conversation was valued by both Ms. Stanley and her student.

“She goes out of her way to make sure that they know that they are loved and important,” said Dawn Milner, school leader at RA.

Keep up the good work, Ms. Stanley!


Callie Brandt

High School Math Teacher,
Wildwood Environmental Academy

Ms. Callie Brandt has been a supporting member of the Wildwood Environmental Academy (WEA) team for many years. She is always willing to take on a new idea or try a new approach to help her students. This year she has taken on the challenge of a new curriculum that requires a new approach to teaching her high school math students. Ms. Brandt has stepped up to support teachers in the lower grades as they transition to the material and has been a tremendous help.

Ms. Brandt encourages her students and helps keep them focused on the goal of graduation. One way she does this is through a project that involves both her students and their parents. The students score their project on a rubric that the parents also use to score the project. Ms. Brandt then scores the project using the common rubric which allows all parties to see any discrepancies in expectation and rigor, so that they all work together collaboratively to contribute to the success of the students. “The project successfully causes students to become more aware of the math they see in their lives. This connection leads to a greater desire to understand math and builds confidence to use math to solve problems in their everyday lives,” said Susan Brimmer, assistant school leader at WEA.

Thank you for helping our students be successful, Ms. Brandt!


Shari Laviolette

4th Grade Teacher,
Discovery Academy

Ms. Shari Laviolette has been a great addition to the Discovery Academy (DA) team. She teaches her fourth grade students with enthusiasm and they consistently rise up to meet her expectations. The positive climate and culture in Ms. Laviolette’s classroom is due in large part to the unlimited love and respect she has for her students. She strives to keep her students in the classroom and learning.

Ms. Laviolette is a wonderful example for other teachers and staff. “She impresses me and makes my life easier each and every day with how she runs her classroom. I am so happy we were able to bring her into the Discovery family,” said Noah Campbell, school leader at DA. It is easy to tell when you enter her classroom how much every student loves being there.

Keep up the great work, Ms. Laviolette!


Aileen Campbell

6th-8th Grade Mathematics Teacher,
Academy for Business & Technology Middle/High School

Ms. Aileen Campbell is always leading her middle school mathematics students at Academy for Business and Technology Middle/High School (ABTHS) toward excellence. She maintains high expectations for learning and supports her students in their pursuit of academic achievement. Ms. Campbell actively engages all of her students in the learning process through movement, discussion, and games.

Not only has Ms.Campbell made an impact at ABTHS as a teacher, she also lends her hand to extra curricular activities. She provides tutoring to students, runs the ABTHS Commit to Fit program for the staff, mentors students, and runs the ABTHS DECA Program. “Ms. Campbell is always the first person to volunteer to help out and is an important asset to our school,” said Elizabeth Clinton, instructional coach at ABTHS.

Thank you for all that you do for the ABTHS community, Ms. Campbell!


Constance Stewart

1st Grade Teacher,
Hope of Detroit Academy Elementary

Ms. Constance Stewart is a passionate first grade teacher at Hope of Detroit Academy Elementary (HoDA E). She cares deeply about her students, which is evident in all that she does. She is constantly pushing herself to provide meaningful academic and life experiences for her students. It is common to see Ms. Stewart’s first grade students working on projects or going on field trips to enhance their learning.

Ms. Stewart’s passion both in and out of the classroom has made her invaluable as a mentor teacher and has made her a cornerstone in the HoDA school district. Other staff regularly turn to Ms. Stewart for guidance or advice. Recently, the special education team was asked to select one teacher with whom they work well to begin co-teaching with, and it is no surprise that Ms. Stewart was selected. “Ms. Stewart is a calming person and many staff look up to and admire her,” said Ali Abdel, school leader at HoDA E.

Your passion and mentorship are much appreciate, Ms. Stewart!


Sherri Menifee

Grades 6 & 7 ELA Teacher,
George Crockett Academy

Ms. Sherri Menifee joined the George Crockett Academy (GCA) family as a sixth and seventh grade ELA teacher last year and has been an excellent addition to the team. She has made a wonderful impact on not only the students, but on the climate and culture of GCA as well. Ms. Menifee’s room is a comfortable, student friendly work environment that is set up for her students to interact with one another. Technology is used to enhance the learning for her students where they enjoy working on a variety of engaging and rigorous websites.

Instruction in Ms. Menifee’s classroom is fun and inviting. Students are able to learn in a safe environment where they are encouraged to explore their learning. She has a willingness to help everyone that does not go unnoticed. “Ms. Menifee is here early every day and stays late to prepare her room for the next day. She constantly says, ‘My room has to be ready for my students. It’s their space and it must be inviting,’” said Carolyn Williams, instructional coach at GCA.

Thank you for creating a caring space for your students, Ms. Menifee!


Kristina Yoder

Kindergarten Teacher,
East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy

Ms. Kristina Yoder has been a valued part of the East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy (ECUEA) family since the school’s inception in 2005. She is a valued mentor, and her years of experience have given her a chance to help so many of the teachers at ECUEA. She makes a point of welcoming new staff and goes out of her way to lend a helping hand. It is clear when entering her classroom that she is a master teacher. She challenges her students to meet high academic and behavioral expectations daily. Not only does Ms. Yoder teach kindergarten, but she also heads up the Jumpstart program over the summer to ensure incoming students are ready to start the school year. Additionally, she coordinates the Leader of the Month committee that honors a student from every class each month.

Ms. Yoder is always quick to volunteer to assist with school events such as ECUEA’s annual Family Day and after school dances. “It is truly a pleasure to see the genuine love and concern that she gives to her students. To this day, former students, now adults, come and tell her what a difference she made in their lives,” said Amy Rummel, instructional coach at ECUEA.

Thank you for being a positive influence on students and staff at ECUEA, Ms. Yoder!


Susan Wonch

9th-12th Grade Teacher,
Hope of Detroit Academy High School

Ms. Susan Wonch goes above and beyond for the students at Hope of Detroit High School (HoDA). She teaches many specialty classes such as Computers, STEM, and Business Law and Etiquette. Students are excited to attend her class each day because of her commitment to making the content applicable to their lives. Her passion for preparing students to be successful on their college or career path is evident in all that she does.

Ms. Wonch’s support for the students does not end the classroom, she also coaches the Cross Country, Soccer and Volleyball teams at HoDA. Additionally, she serves as the Senior Class Advisor and is a huge asset to the HoDA team. “She is an inspiration to us all because she is so dedicated to the school and students,” said Ali Abdel, school leader at HoDA.

Your commitment and enthusiasm are appreciated, Ms. Wonch!


Thelma Nsownu

Kindergarten Teacher
Highland Park Renaissance Academy

Ms. Thelma Nsownu began her journey at Highland Park Renaissance Academy (HPRA) as a paraprofessional. At that time, she was a retired teacher who still wished to continue to educate young children. When HPRA had a change with their kindergarten classroom, they knew that she was a perfect fit for the students. Since Ms. Nsownu stepped up to leading the classroom, she has completely transformed the space. It is obvious when you walk into her classroom that she does whatever is necessary for her students to learn.

Ms. Nsownu is great at assessing the needs of students. This is evident from the moment you enter her classroom, as she is never sitting at her desk, but you can find her sitting with a small group or floating table to table to meet the needs of all of her students. “Increasing student achievement is the most important thing to her and she shows this through the love and attention that she gives her students,” said Kionna Williams, instructional coach at HPRA. The kindergarten classroom has endured a lot of change, but the only thing that has remained constant for the students was Ms. Nsownu.

Thank you for always rising to the occasion, Ms. Nsownu!


Chelsea Bayly

Kindergarten Teacher
Saginaw Preparatory Academy

Ms. Chelsea Bayly always goes above and beyond for the students in her classroom and also for everyone at Saginaw Preparatory Academy (SPA). The countless hours spent preparing and planning for her classroom is evident the moment you walk into the room because her students do a fantastic job following the routines and procedures. It is clear that her passion and care for her students is genuine.

Ms. Bayly creates rich and engaging learning opportunities for her students both inside and outside of school. This year, she hosted an event that taught parents how to read and understand the standards based report card. The positive impact on her students is shown through her data consistently growing each year. “She is a team player who is always willing to help support others or our school wide initiatives,” said James Kenney, school leader at SPA.

Keep up the tremendous work, Ms. Bayly!


James Woods

Spanish Teacher (Grades K-8)
Northridge Academy

Mr. James Woods has proven himself to be committed to the students of Northridge Academy (NA). He is certified to teach Spanish, which he loves, but when NA suddenly found themselves without a science teacher, Mr. Woods stepped up to accept the challenge to fill in until a science teacher is found.

Mr. Woods is consistently doing what is best for the students and for the school. “Mr. Woods’ actions inspire me to continue fighting the fight of educating our children even when teachers and students give up,” said Latricia Brown, school leader at NA.

Thank you for your commitment to our students, Mr. Woods!


Grace Tesfae

Grades 10-12 Economics Teacher
César Chávez​ Academy High School

From day one, Ms. Grace Tesfae has performed at the highest level for César Chávez Academy High School (CCAHS). She possesses all of the critical characteristics necessary for effective teaching. Ms. Tesfae has stepped up in many ways and finds resources that expose CCAHS students to incredible experiences, including organizing a trip to see the Broadway musical Hamilton at the Fisher Theater. She serves as lead Robotics moderator, School Improvement Co-Chair, tutor, credit recovery teacher, and sports coach. Ms. Tesfae has also sought out professional development opportunities that have taken her across the United States and even abroad.

Her preparation and organizational skills play a huge part in the content mastery of her students because they are always in an environment that has them ready to learn. “Ms. Tesfae is an example of what I know exists and for what I believe every student needs and deserves in school,” said Juan Martinez, school leader at CCAHS.

Thank you for always being what the students and staff at CCAHS need, Ms. Tesfae!


Jennifer Abela

Kindergarten Teacher,
César Chávez Academy Lower Elementary

Ms. Jennifer Abela is a 15-year veteran teacher at César Chávez Academy Lower Elementary (CCALE) and has embraced the mission of the school by providing a safe and nurturing environment for her first grade students. She has built strong and lasting relationships with her students and their families. Ms. Abela meets students where they are and will try a variety of strategies to support their needs and ensure that her students are successful.

Ms. Abela is often observed building and sustaining relationships with students from other classes as well as former students. “Her approach is holding students to high expectations while providing lots of humor, love, and guidance along the way,” said Gabriela Jaime, school leader at CCALE.

Thank you for providing a nurturing environment for our students, Ms. Abela.


Emily Asmus

1st Grade Teacher,
Mildred C. Wells​ Academy

Ms. Emily Asmus is a valued team member at Mildred C. Wells Academy (MCWA). Her first grade students arrive at school each day with enthusiasm and they are always ready to learn. She shows each student that they can succeed academically and that they are a valued member of the MCWA family. Ms. Asmus’ hard work is evident as her students’ NWEA scores continue to improve significantly.

Ms. Asmus spends her time tutoring students after school and she is always willing to use her free time to lend a helping hand to whomever may need it. “She sets high behavioral expectations for her students that are consistently met as they strive to meet their academic goals,” said Latrisha Corona, school leader at MCWA.

Thank you for being dedicated to your students, Ms. Asmus!


Felicia Sheets-Fails

3rd Grade Teacher,
Joy Preparatory Academy

Mrs. Felicia Sheets-Fails is a team player that goes above and beyond at Joy Preparatory Academy (JPA). She fosters relationships with her students and their families that lead to greater student success in the classroom. Her genuine care for the students is evident in the warm classroom environment she creates. Mrs. Sheets-Fails works collaboratively with her colleagues and is welcoming to anyone who enters her classroom.

Mrs. Sheets-Fails is eager to learn and always trying new activities to engage her students in learning rigorous content. “Mrs. Sheets-Fails often takes initiative and tackles projects that create a love of learning and leadership in urban youth,” said Adasina Philyaw, school leader at JPA.

Thank you for your hard work and initiative Mrs. Sheets-Fails!


Claudia Garza

4th Grade Teacher,
César Chávez​ Academy Upper Elementary

Ms. Claudia Garza has been teaching at César Chávez Academy Upper Elementary (CCAUE) for over 13 years and has built lasting relationships with her students and their families. Her positive support for CCAUE, her fourth grade team, and her students goes above and beyond what is expected. Ms. Garza has extensive knowledge in mathematics and next generation science standards.

Ms. Garza works hard to create interesting science lessons for the 4th grade team. In her classroom, students are often working in groups and conducting science experiments. She also uses small groups to consistently support her special education students and English learners. “Ms. Garza always advocates for what is best for her students and makes sure they are receiving the support that they need,” said Andrea Walley, instructional coach at CCAUE.

Thank you for all that you do, Ms. Garza!


Brandon Beverly

Kindergarten Teacher,
Detroit Public Safety Academy

Mr. Brandon Beverly has become a constant for the students at Detroit Public Safety Academy (DPSA). He loves his students and makes it his personal mission to ensure that they are learning, building character and becoming better people. Mr. Beverly is creative with his approach to liven the content and is unyielding in his effort to make it relevant and accessible for students.

The connection he has with students has made a significant impact in many of their lives. “He gives of his time, resources, and energy to ensure that his students know they have an advocate in him. His students, and DPSA as a whole are extremely fortunate to have him as a teacher,” said Isaiah Pettway, school leader at DPSA.

Thank you for your creativity and dedication Mr. Beverly!


Brittany Gibson

Intervention Specialist,
Achieve Career Preparatory​ Academy

Mrs. Brittany Gibson is a truly dedicated team member at Achieve Career Preparatory Academy (ACPA). She has a wonderful rapport with students, parents and staff. She shows a sincere interest in them as individuals and consistently communicates how much she cares about them. She searches for ways to make her teaching more interesting and informative. Mrs. Gibson's passion for academic excellence is truly shown through her knowledge of data analysis and effective test taking strategies.

Mrs. Gibson is on several committees and works hard with the struggling teachers to give them a helping hand. She frequently volunteers to assist in whatever endeavor needed. “Her hand is definitely apparent in the cohesiveness and pulse of our school culture and we would be lost without her,” said Julieta Flowers, school leader at ACPA.

Thank you for dedication and willingness to lend a hand Mrs. Gibson!

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