top of page


CLASS OF 2019-2020


Angelita Baker

2nd Grade Mathematics & Science Teacher,
East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy

Ms. Angelita Baker’s creativity and passion is demonstrated every day in her second grade classroom at East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy (ECUEA). She has used generous funding from Donors Choose grants to develop her classroom into a warm and welcoming learning environment for her students. Ms. Baker has been able to integrate technology, unique furniture for flexible seating and innovative resources to bring math and science to life for her students. 

Second graders in Ms. Baker’s classroom take part in hands on experiments that ignite the students love for learning. “Ms. Baker goes above and beyond for her students as well as her colleagues. She is a mentor teacher who is always willing to give assistance to anyone in need,” said Veronica Eskew, school leader at ECUEA. 

Thank you for all that you do for the ECUEA family, Ms. Baker!


John Hinkle

6th Grade ELA & Social Studies Teacher,
Discovery Academy

Mr. John Hinkle goes above and beyond for his sixth grade students at Discovery Academy. He celebrates every success and personally helps his students work through every struggle until they too become successful. When you walk into his classroom, you would never know that it is a sixth grade class. There is a mutual respect and students are the driving force behind their learning.

Not only does Mr. Hinkle do all that he can for his students, but for the staff at Discovery Academy as well. “He cares about every staff member in the building, and goes out of his way to tell them how much they are appreciated,” said Noah Campbell, school leader at Discovery Academy.

We appreciate all that you do, Mr. Hinkle!


Sarah Snyder

Kindergarten Teacher,
Hope of Detroit Academy Elementary

Ms. Sarah Snyder has been an integral part of the Hope of Detroit Academy family for nearly 20 years. During her tenure she has taught various grades, but for the last 12 years kindergarten has been her home. Ms. Snyder’s patience combined with her high expectations for her students contributes to the overall culture and climate in her classroom. She is motivated by preparing herself for the students and preparing the students for success. 

She is the lead teacher for kindergarten through second grade where she is constantly assisting and mentoring her team. “Ms. Snyder is committed to the students, families, and staff. She has been a cornerstone for nearly two decades,” said Ali Abdel, school leader at Hope of Detroit Academy.

Thank you for your commitment to our students and families, Ms. Snyder!


William McDonald

Middle School ELA Teacher,
Francis Reh Public School Academy

Mr. William McDonald has been a great addition to the Francis Reh Academy team! His students respect him and strive to do well not just for themselves, but for their teacher. Mr. McDonald is always calm, cool and patient which sets the positive tone of his classroom and creates a wonderful learning environment. 

One of Mr. McDonald’s greatest impacts is that he takes the time to build positive relationships with his students and their families. They know that he cares and wants the best for all of his students. “He takes the time to connect with them while allowing students to still be themselves while being successful in their learning,” said Crystal Mills, instructional coach at Francis Reh Academy.

Thank you for always encouraging students to strive for success, Mr. McDonald!


Larilyn Burdess

5th Grade Teacher,
Saginaw Preparatory Academy

Ms. Larilyn Burdess has completely transformed her classroom at Saginaw Preparatory Academy (SPA) into a second home for her fifth grade students. This has had a positive impact on the relationships she has built between her students and their families. She even had portraits of each of her students made, that are proudly on display in her classroom. 

Ms. Burdess is always looking for creative ways to engage her students and get them more involved in their learning. Recently, she and her fifth grade class completed an experiment on observing particle motion using candy and various liquids. “Her positivity and can-do attitude helps make SPA a great place!” said James Kenney, school leader at SPA.

Thank you for always making your students feel special, Ms. Burdess!


Mahmoud Badih

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

Mr. Mahmoud Badih has been with Hope of Detroit Academy (HoDA) for nearly 15 years. He began his journey with the school as a paraeducator with special education students. He continued on to get his mathematics certification where he has been teaching for the past 10 years. 

Mr. Badih has a calming effect on the students which has helped him build lasting relationships. He has done a wonderful job leading the high school math team at HoDA for the past three years. “Mr. Badih has such a big heart and is not just a colleague but also a friend,” said Ali Abdel, school leader at HoDA. 

Keep up the great work, Mr. Badih!


Megan Hinojosa

3rd Grade Teacher,
Discovery Academy

Ms. Megan Hinojosa has been a phenomenal educator at Discovery Academy for many years. She works hard to build lasting relationships with not only her students and their families, but also with the Discovery team. These lasting relationships are the building blocks for everything that goes into her room, which is a shrine to her expectations and the achievements of her students. 

Ms. Hinojosa’s students love their classroom, “They come into her room every day with smiles on their faces, ready to exceed the lofty bar she sets for them,” said Noah Campbell, school leader at Discovery Academy. 

Thank you for helping your students achieve their goals, Ms. Hinojosa!


Jenna Rudy

Biology Teacher,
César Chávez Academy High School

Ms. Jenna Ruby is a dedicated, energetic, and passionate educator at César Chávez Academy High School (CCAHS). She delivers engaging, yet rigorous instruction in her Biology classroom. Ms. Ruby is never afraid of new ideas, or to challenge her students. She creates long lasting and necessary relationships with students to help propel their academic success. Her innovative approach to teaching is commendable. 

Ms. Ruby is an active member on CCAHS’s School Improvement team, as well as a class moderator. “Her growth mindset is refreshing; she regularly shares ideas with colleagues and collaborators and she brings an energy and passion to all that she does at CCAHS!” said Carissa Rusnak, instructional coach at CCAHS. 

Thank you for going above and beyond for your students, Ms. Ruby!


Cynthia King

2nd Grade Teacher,
Academy for Business & Technology Elementary School

Ms. Cynthia King has been with Academy for Business & Technology Elementary (ABTE) for two years, and in those two years she has proven how truly invested she is in our school and our students. She knows each and every one of her students and works hard to meet their needs. She is loving and has high expectations for her classroom in both academics and behavior. 

From basketball games to science fairs, Ms. King is always one of the first to volunteer for any event that is being held at the school. “She is always willing to help, even if we don’t ask. Ms. King adds a lot of positivity to our school culture” said Silvia Vargas, instructional coach at ABTE. 

Thank you for always making our students and staff smile Ms. King!


Heidi Laleman

2nd Grade Teacher,
Francis Reh Public School Academy

Ms. Heidi Laleman of Francis Reh Academy (FRA) goes above and beyond to create an environment that allows for students to love learning in her classroom. From rigorous lesson plans that challenge her students to also creating a trauma-sensitive environment, her classroom has it all. Her preparedness, effective communication skills and outside of the box ideas make her a phenomenal teacher. She communicates well with her fellow teachers and helps them in any way that she can.

Ms. Laleman’s patience and caring nature has made an impact on her students' lives and has helped to build lasting relationships with them. “Her high expectations for learning with her students allows for her to have a positive classroom culture and impeccable relationships with her students and their families” said Jessica Cronk, instructional coach at FRA.

Thank you for working hard to build lasting relationships Ms. Laleman!


Christy Thomas

6th Grades Science Teacher,
César Chávez Academy Middle School

Ms. Christy Thomas of Cesar Chavez Academy Middle School (CCAMS) is a true teacher leader. From the moment you walk into her classroom it is clear to see that she is a teacher who is detail-oriented, vibrant, engaging and passionate. Her classroom is organized and creates an environment where our students can not only thrive, but also focus on science based learning. As a result, students leave sixth grade with a strong scientific foundation which prepares them for critical thinking in the future. 

Ms. Thomas challenges those she works with to make decisions that are in the best interest of our students, that are innovative, and decisions that are effective. “She not only identifies areas of growth, but brings solutions to the table so that everyone can do their absolute best” said Brittiany Romero, instructional coach at CCAMS.

Thank you for your leadership Ms. Thomas!


Jessica Reed

Kindergarten Teacher,
Northridge Academy

Ms. Jessica Reed is a kindergarten teacher at Northridge Academy who builds and fosters meaningful relationships with her students and their families. Her classroom is a caring and safe environment that she effectively runs which yields academic growth of her students. Outside of her normal classroom responsibilities, she spearheads construction and operations of all of Northridge Academy’s social media outlets. Ms. Reed does her best to meet deadlines and compliance goals.

Her leadership is visible throughout the building at NA. “Her influence with suggestions and feedback helps the growth and development of our academy,” said Latricia Brown, school leader at Northridge Academy. 

Thank you for going above and beyond for NA, Ms. Reed!


MaryEllen Bolger

HS ELA Teacher,
Achieve Career Preparatory Academy

Ms. MaryEllen Bolger has been a staple at Achieve Career Preparatory Academy (ACPA) as their high school ELA teacher since its inception 10 years ago. She has been listed as the most improved teacher noted by ACPA’s sponsor, Buckeye Community Hope Foundation. The test scores for Ms. Bolger’s classes have seen a significant increase in proficiency on the Ohio State End of Course Exams. She has worked very hard to create data driven lesson plans for all four of her high school classes to enhance student achievement.

“Ms. Bolger constantly has a smile on her face and is always one to encourage others in our building,” said Julie Flowers, school leader at ACPA. She encourages everyone to visit her room and welcomes anyone who enters. She is a member of ACPA’s Community School Leadership and School Improvement teams. 

Thank you for all you do for the students & staff at ACPA, Ms. Bolger!


MaryRose Shotwell

Kindergarten Teacher,
Wildwood Environmental Academy

Ms. MaryRose Shotwell has made many heartwarming connections with her kindergarten students and their families at Wildwood Environmental Academy (WEA). She is always very positive and supportive in her interactions with parents, putting them at ease and allowing them to feel safe enough to be vulnerable with her to work together to improve the students' educational experiences.

Ms. Shotwell continuously steps up to help in all areas. She never misses a chance to fill a need and support all of her fellow teachers. She keeps a calendar in the staff lounge listing all of the due dates, testing, specials schedules, etc. to keep all of the information in one place for her colleagues. “Her students feel loved and supported. She has endless patience and will do whatever is needed for those around her, students and adults alike,” said Susan Brimmer, assistant school leader at WEA.

Thank you for your constant support, Ms. Shotwell!


Taja Green

Special Education Teacher (gr 6-8),
George Crockett Academy

Taja Green is a dedicated and enthusiastic special education teacher at George Crockett Academy who has had a positive impact on her students. In the classroom Ms. Green employs a variety of activities and strategies to increase the proficiency level of her students. She also incorporates technology so that students can connect with content and topics in their core classrooms.

She continually challenges her students to meet their targets and to use the information they learned in various real life scenarios. Students writing to support Ms. Green’s nomination say she deserves this award for the way she appreciates her students and for the support and encouragement she provides to them when they need it. A student stated, "Ms. Green pushes us when we feel like we can’t do the work.” The student explained further,  "Ms. Green has hugely influenced our confidence when completing our grade level assignments and encouraging us to believe we are smart enough.”

Thank you for encouraging your students, Ms. Green!


Cristina Rodriguez

Kindergarten Teacher,
César Chávez Academy Lower Elementary

Ms. Cristina Rodriguez, kindergarten teacher at Cesar Chavez Academy Lower Elementary (CCALE), is passionate in a way that inspires others. Her positive, calm and cheerful demeanor captivates those around her. She is a true natural at teaching and also has a growth mindset that not only creates a love of learning for her students, but also for herself. Ms. Rodriguez is innovative in her craft and is always seeking out creative and engaging ways to meet the needs of her students. 

Ms. Rodriguez has been a lead on the school social committee to support in maintaining positive relationships among staff through fun and creative social gatherings, staff games, and message boards. “Her willingness to share and support those around her does not go without notice and is greatly appreciated by many,” said Kristen Liss, instructional coach at CCALE.

Thank you for your dedication to CCALE, Ms. Rodriguez!


Todd Zamora

Grade 5 Teacher,
César Chávez Academy Upper Elementary

Mr. Todd Zamora has been a fifth grade teacher at Cesar Chavez Academy Upper Elementary (CCAUE) for the past decade. During this time, he has made a positive impact on all of his students. Mr. Zamora takes the time to figure out what interests and motivates each student to help ensure their success. He has also had the highest growth percentile in M-Step testing for the past 4 years. 

Mr. Zamora makes sure to build strong relationships with each of his students and their families. “He teachers students in small groups after each lesson and helps students grow not only academically, but emotionally,” said Andrea Walley, school leader at CCAUE. He is truly changing lives and improving the well-being of his students by showing them he cares and believes in them.

We appreciate all that you do at CCAUE, Mr. Zamora!


Rhonda Milard

School Social Worker,
Mildred C. Wells Academy

Ms. Rhonda Milard is a dedicated and passionate social worker at Mildred C. Wells Academy (MCWA) and is a valued asset at the school. Her calm and caring nature is beneficial not only to the students, but also to the staff. She works to build sincere relationships with all staff, students and their families. Ms. Milard always promotes a positive culture and climate at MCWA. 

Ms. Milard notices when students, staff and parents need her assistance and quickly works with them without having to be asked. She is kind, compassionate and very flexible with her schedule to meet the needs of everyone at MCWA. “She always has a positive attitude and her smile is contagious. Our students and staff love Ms. Milard,” said Latrisha Corona, school leader at MCWA.

Thank you for supporting the students and staff at MCWA, Ms. Milard!


Andrea Valleleunga

School Social Worker,
Detroit Public Safety Academy

Ms. Andrea Valleleunga is in her first year as the social worker at Detroit Public Safety Academy (DPSA). She came in the door championing the needs of the students and bonded with them in a way that is unparalleled. Not only has Ms. Valleleunga established a school food pantry, she has also gotten a washer and dryer donated to the school for student use. She has garnered the support of the community to meet the social and emotional needs of the students at DPSA. 

“Ms. Valleleunga has been a constant source of inspiration to me and the entire DPSA family. She fights fearlessly for our students and has a passion in making each person at DPSA feel loved, supported and heard. She knows what it is to be a DPSA eagle...not just because she soars but because she gives herself to ensuring that others fly high,” said Isaiah Pettway, school leader at DPSA. 

Thank you for giving your all to DPSA, Ms. Valleleunga!


Tywanda Dennison

Special Education Grades 9-12,
Academy for Business & Technology High School

Mrs. Tywanda Dennison is a special education teacher at the Academy for Business and Technology High (ABTH). She consistently plans for student success and growth in unique and creative ways. Students thrive under her watchful eye and appreciate the challenge her teaching affords them. In her reading and math classes, her students create scaffolded projects that reinforce content which transfers into improved class grades and higher benchmark scores.

Mrs. Dennison is always sharing new techniques, resources and lessons with her colleagues. She collaborates with the teachers to make sure that the students have every opportunity for success in their classes. “Dedicated, hardworking, creative, and affable are words that totally describe Tywanda Dennison. She is a team player with a smile that lights up the room,” said Carmen Willingham, school leader at ABTH.

Thank you for all you do for the students of ABTH, Mrs. Dennison!

bottom of page