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CLASS OF 2022-2023


Trisha Nowak

Grade 4 Reading, Writing & Social Studies

East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy

Ms. Trisha Nowak joined East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy (ECUEA) at the onset of her educational career and has grown into a true leader in the building. She is a mentor to new teachers, giving them valuable insights on how to attain success in the classroom. This year, Ms. Nowak went from teaching first-grade, to teaching fourth-grade and the transition has been seamless. Additionally, she has coached the Girls on the Run team at ECUEA for the past five years and will continue this spring. Ms. Nowak is a patient, compassionate and caring teacher. Her students know that she loves and respects them. She works tirelessly to seek out resources that are engaging and motivating. “Ms. Nowak is a teacher that I can rely on to follow through, to initiate innovative ideas and lead others in our building,” said Amy Rummel, instructional coach at ECUEA.


Jillian Howard

Grades 6-8 ELA & RTI

César Chávez Academy Middle School

Mrs. Jillian Howard has been working at César Chávez Academy Middle (CCAM) since her career began in 2009, showing a dedication to the belief that their students can, and will become game changers. Her classes are always engaging because she uses a plethora of methods to keep the children interested and active. During Mrs. Howard’s time as an educator at CCAM, she has displayed incredible talent in managing her classroom, teaching concepts to all learning styles and developing a genuine love of learning in her students. “Mrs. Howard is a joy to work with because of her positive attitude and ability to never give up on a child. She is always flexible and willing to learn new programs that help to increase student achievement to ensure students are reaching both personal and academic goals,” said Victoria Adams and Brittiany Romero, instructional coach and assistant school leader at CCAM.


Alvino Dickson

Grade 5 Teacher

Saginaw Preparatory Academy

Mr. Alvino Dickson joined the team at Saginaw Preparatory Academy (SPA) as a paraeducator and then moved into a teaching role after completing his certification. He builds positive relationships with his students and teaches with enthusiasm. Mr. Dickson’s lessons are engaging and get the students up and moving with learning at the center of everything they do. His students know what is expected of them, what they are learning, and their teacher cares about their academics and about them as an individuals. Additionally, Mr. Dickson takes it upon himself to share engagement strategies and resources, he finds or creates, with his colleagues to make the whole team stronger. “Mr. Dickson is a great asset to SPA and our students, we are fortunate that he chose us as his teaching home,” said Lari Burdess, instructional coach at SPA.


Julie McLaughlin

Grade 6 Mathematics & Science Teacher

Discovery Academy

Ms. Julie McLaughlin comes into Discovery Academy (DA) each day with the mindset that the students come first and everything else comes second. She strives to give them experiences they haven’t had, support they have never received and love that is immeasurable. Ms. McLaughlin led the school with 80% of students meeting growth goals for NWEA and an average growth of 162% for the year. She wants to see every student performing at or above grade level, regardless of where they started the year. She works tirelessly to make that happen and to show her students that they are capable of anything. “Ms. McLaughlin is an amazing educator whose love for her students is as high as her expectations for them,” said Noah Campbell, school leader at DA.


Olisa Philyaw

Kindergarten Teacher

Joy Preparatory Academy

​Ms. Olisa Philyaw quickly became a pivotal member of the Joy Preparatory Academy (JPA) team from the moment she walked into the building. She was instrumental in launching a very successful Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) system that gives all students something to look forward to every month. Ms. Philyaw goes the extra mile to make sure that each of her students gets the best educational experience in their first year of school. Her consistency in the classroom helps to drive instruction and creates an environment where her students know exactly what is expected of them, leading to their overall success. Ms. Philyaw creates lesson plans that keep the students engaged and wanting to learn more. “She is a consummate professional. Her students are always working and moving through the building as a cohesive unit. She meets and excels at every expectation that we have for our teachers,” said Joshua Pippin, instructional coach at JPA.


Talana Gaskin-Butler

Grades 9-12 Business Teacher

Academy for Business & Technology Middle/High

Ms. Talana Gaskin-Butler is a teacher who goes the extra mile to assist the Academy for Business & Technology Middle/High (ABTM/H) community as a whole. She is heavily involved in various groups and initiatives throughout the building, including the Youth Entrepreneurship program, robotics team, and hosts a mentoring program for high school girls called Girl Talk. Her passion for making sure that her students achieve academic and social-emotional success is inspirational. “Ms. Gaskin-Butler works tirelessly to ensure that students make positive, real world connections with business content both inside and outside of the classroom. ABT is fortunate to have her as part of our Gator Nation Family!” said Carmen Willingham, school leader at ABTM/H.


Shirley Davis

Grade 5 Special Education

César Chávez Academy Upper Elementary

Ms. Shirley Davis is a leader in special education at César Chávez Academy Upper Elementary (CCAUE). She leads by example, continually researching and looking for better ways to reach her students. Her positive example empowers her students to achieve their fullest potential. She holds her students to the highest of expectations and teaches them that whatever they put their minds to they can accomplish. Ms. Davis is held in high regard by the staff, students and parents at CCAUE. She has helped implement training for the staff so that they can better understand the special education process and is a true example of how to properly accommodate all levels of students. “Ms. Davis is an amazing educator and advocates for her students. They are very lucky to have her fighting for their futures,” said Andrew Wright, school leader at CCAUE.


Patty Salinas

Grades K-2 ELL Teacher & Interventionist

César Chávez Academy Lower Elementary

Ms. Patty Salinas has been dedicated, for over twenty years, to improving the language and literacy of all of the students that she services at César Chávez Academy Lower Elementary (CCALE) for over twenty years. She has taken an active lead in overseeing testing for English Language Learners (ELL) and provided training on instructional practices for those students. Her support with after-school clubs and summer school is valued and appreciated. Ms. Salinas’ students feel comfortable sharing their journey with her because she interacts with them with empathy, love and support. She uses real-life examples to support engagement and to strengthen the students’ associations between words and the objects themselves. She focuses on the quality of education she delivers by making learning fun and engaging with lively and creative lessons. “We are grateful to have Ms. Salinas on our team, and we appreciate her continued support and dedication,” said Kristen Liss, instructional coach at CCALE.


Teresa Lucas

Grades 6-8 Special Education

Northridge Academy

Ms. Teresa Lucas is passionate about positively impacting the lives of the students with exceptional learning needs that she services at Northridge Academy (NA). Her support impacts not only the students, but all of the staff members as well. She equips teachers with strategies, understanding and knowledge to differentiate within their classroom to enable student success. Leading special education at NA, Ms. Lucas works tirelessly to bring in resources from our community to benefit the staff and students. Her passion and efforts have built relationships with the Bobby Crim Foundation and the local Genesee Intermediate School District. These partnerships allow for a variety of afterschool programs to be offered at no cost to the academy. “As a new school leader, I am delighted to have Ms. Lucas on my team,” said Evelyn Hamlett, school leader at NA.


Brandon Fitch

Grades 9-12 Mathematics

Wildwood Environmental Academy

Mr. Brandon Fitch is a key member of the staff at Wildwood Environmental Academy (WEA). He facilitates the high school team meetings, works with the social media committee, sponsors WEA’s National Honor Society and has become a valued member of the building leadership team. He has worked hard to strengthen the high school team by supporting new teachers and building bonds with his colleagues. Mr. Fitch is a trusted and reliable mentor. His knowledge of mathematics, paired with his passion for teaching others how to use the concepts themselves, makes him an excellent teacher. The standards and expectations he has for his students initiate a sense of accountability and responsibility pushing them to raise their own bar. “Mr. Fitch’s willingness to participate in so many areas along with his determination to always be improving our students and staff makes him an invaluable part of WEA,” said Susan Brimmer, assistant school leader at WEA.


Tina Fuller

Kindergarten Teacher

Northridge Academy

Ms. Tina Fuller’s genuine love for her kindergarten students at Northridge Academy (NA) is evident in everything she does. She is patient, positive and her work ethic is exceptional. She is always seeking new ways to engage her students in learning and making everything relevant, which motivates them to exceed expectations. Ms. Fuller has impacted the lives of many students. Her gentle spirit evokes a caring and supportive environment that students are excited to learn in every day. She teaches her class to show kindness and compassion for their peers. “Her enthusiasm shines bright. She is one of our shining stars!” said Evelyn Hamlett, school leader at NA.


Angela Steele

Grades K-4 Reading Interventionist

George Crockett Academy

Ms. Angela Steele is a stellar educator who provides reading intervention for students in grades k-4 at George Crockett Academy (GCA). This is her first year stepping into this role, after previously being a classroom teacher in various grades k-5. Ms. Steele leads with passion and intention each day when serving her students. She has memorable and effective lessons that keep her students engaged. Ms. Steele excels at closing achievement gaps in a time that is so critical for our young readers. In addition to working diligently with students, she volunteers her time to mentor teachers and plan events for the school. This year, she coordinated a reading committee, planned a fun reading challenge for reading month and a literacy night for families. “We are honored to have Ms. Steele as a part of our team, as she is truly an asset to our learning community,” said Shawn Schwartz, instructional coach at GCA.


Luis-Antonio Ramos-Trujilo

Grade 1 Teacher

Academy for Business & Technology Elementary

Mr. Luis-Antonio Ramos-Trujillo goes above and beyond when it comes to connecting with his first grade students at Academy for Business & Technology Elementary (ABTE). He takes pride in building relationships with his students by spending time with them oneon-one. Mr. Trujillo spends countless hours planning engaging and meaningful lessons to make sure they are relevant, meet his students’ needs and are connected to core content. He uses data to drive instruction by planning small group interventions and because of his dedication, his students have shown improvement. Mr. Trujillo is very strategic and wants to ensure that everything connects to the students’ lives. “Parents speak highly of Mr. Trujillo and many of them request him as their child's teacher. This is all due to his dedication, commitment and passion toward his students,” said Pamela Shaffer, instructional coach at ABTE.


Ashley Philips

Grade 4 Teacher

Francis Reh Academy

Ms. Ashley Phillips has accepted the challenge and embraced the curriculum changes that Francis Reh Academy (FRA) has implemented over the past two years; because of this, her students have grown by leaps and bounds. She is always seeking new strategies and reflects on what is working and what is not working in her classroom. Through it all, the growth of her students is her main mission. The positive environment that Ms. Phillips has created helps to cultivate a rigorous learning experience. As her students make connections in reading fluency, comprehension and challenging math concepts, they ask to be pushed harder and to learn more. “Confidence breeds more confidence and we see that taking root in Ms. Phillips’ classroom daily. The engagement is simply beautiful,” said Kate Scheid Weber, school leader at FRA.


Arthur Ray

Grades K-4 Music Teacher

Hope of Detroit Academy Elementary

Mr. Arthur Ray is a tremendous musician and teaches all of the students at Hope of Detroit Academy Elementary (HoDAE) how to connect with and learn through music. He builds the students up by teaching them the fundamentals of music as well as how to sing. He works hard every day and brings positivity to the culture and climate of the school. He has demonstrated exemplary work by coordinating school plays, concerts and recording a new school song in a recording studio. Mr. Ray shows excellence in his performances by engaging students to operate behind the scenes and on stage. Additionally, he helped a student to be cast and prepare for a Netflix movie. “Mr. Ray always places the students first and aims to expose them to excellence and opportunities to grow in the arts. He is a mentor to students and newer staff. Mr. Ray is an inspiration to all of us,” said Ali Abdel, school leader at HoDAE.


Katreliah Johnson

Grades K-8 Special Education

East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy

Ms. Katreliah Johnson is a kind, compassionate and silent leader at East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy (ECUEA). While she is soft-spoken, she advocates for all students and her team to ensure that students with disabilities are given equitable opportunities to experience success both in and out of the classroom. She has built great relationships with her students, their families and her colleagues. Ms. Johnson does not hesitate to jump in and help when a need arises. Her calming demeanor contributes to the positive environment that the ECUEA staff cultivates for their future leaders. “I am proud and honored to have watched Ms. Johnson grow as a teacher and find her niche. She cares for students as her own and always looks out for their best interest,” said Veronica Eskew, school leader at ECUEA.


Mary Kohrman

Grades 6-12 Science Teacher

Smith Academy For Excellence

Ms. Mary Kohrman works hard to make science relevant and hands-on for her students at Smith Academy for Excellence (SAFE). Even with limited resources, she manages to conduct engaging labs with all of her classes, which generates excitement from all of her students. She takes great pride in the work that she does and often goes beyond the call of duty as she strives to support the students and colleagues around her. Ms. Kohrman has helped the administration by taking initiative on various school-wide efforts including our after-school program, document maintenance and the school's social media. “In the classroom, Ms. Kohrman spends a great deal of time and effort to provide the highest quality educational experience possible for all of her students. She is an advocate for her students and they know that she cares about them as individuals,” said Corey Smith, school leader at SAFE.


Natalia Chacin

Grades 9-12 Spanish, AP Spanish, Latin American Studies, & Foundations of Education

César Chávez Academy High

Ms. Natalia Chacin is a dedicated and experienced teacher who has been working in César Chávez Academy schools for over twenty years. She has a positive rapport with her students at César Chávez Academy High (CCAH) and continues to encourage them daily to reach their postsecondary goals. Her classroom is always full of vibrant colors, engaging activities and explicit language instruction. Ms. Chacin's passion for education motivated her to take on a dual enrollment course for our high schoolers, Foundations for Education, which encourages students to pursue educational careers. Not only is Ms. Chacin a passionate and dedicated teacher, she exemplifies the meaning of a colleague. She is always willing to lend a smile or kind words to other staff members. “Ms. Chacin is always excited to try a new strategy or idea in her classroom and then willing to reflect. She is a master teacher in every sense of the word and we appreciate her dedication to education over the last twenty-four years,” said Carissa Rusnak, assistant school leader at CCAH.


Roshanda Scates

Grade 1 Teacher

Mildred C. Wells Academy

Ms. Roshonda Scates is a dedicated and passionate teacher and a valued asset at Mildred C. Wells Academy (MCWA). Her energetic nature sets a positive tone in her classroom. She works very hard to ensure all her students are learning. Her personality shines optimism throughout the building as she collaborates not only with her colleagues but also with her students and their parents. Through her engaging lessons and experiments, Ms. Scates builds strong relationships with her students. She teaches students in small groups and helps students grow academically, emotionally and socially. “She is always concerned about the well-being of all students at MCWA, and she truly believes that all students can be successful if they are given the opportunity, encouragement, and the right tools to succeed,” said Latrisha Corona, school leader at MCWA.


Bethany Williams

Grades 2&3 Teacher

Victory Academy of Toledo

Ms. Bethany Williams is, first and foremost, an advocate for her students at Victory Academy of Toledo (VAT). She studies their strengths and opportunities for growth, tirelessly providing the individualized support they need. Her lessons are engaging and rigorous. She's taught her students to approach challenges with a positive attitude, grit and the belief that they can do hard things. Her second and third graders understand that they alone are responsible for the choices they make and when mistakes are made, they need to make it right. Ms. Williams volunteers her time twice each week to tutor her students after school so that they will master literacy concepts and be prepared for the next grade level. “Bethany Williams has a gift. Seldom have I met an educator who has such an innate talent and love for teaching,” said Andrea Foote, school leader at VAT.


Cynthia Burris

Grade 5 Teacher

Pontiac Academy for Excellence

Ms. Cynthia Burris has been instrumental in rallying the support of teachers and staff to embrace the leadership changes and initiatives that have been implemented at Pontiac Academy for Excellence (PAE) this year. In addition, she has tackled data analysis for grades k-12, which is a task that is new to the PAE team. Ms. Burris has accepted the responsibility of managing the school’s key data and compliance. Ms. Burris' influence is obvious in the building. She reaches out to students across grade levels, reminding them with a firm but gentle tone and demeanor, about the positive behavior and academic standard expectations. “She is always the first to volunteer her time and expertise to any need that arises. The love and respect our students have for Ms. Burris is evident throughout the entire building,” said Latricia Brown, school leader at PAE.


Sarah Porter

Grade 6 Teacher

Hope of Detroit Academy Middle/High

Ms. Sarah Porter has been a positive influence in the lives of her students at Hope of Detroit Academy Middle/High (HoDAH). She engages her students on a daily basis by incorporating hands-on and group activities in all subject areas. The smiles on the students’ faces and participation in learning show how much they enjoy being in her class. Ms. Porter has been a wonderful teacher and colleague. She is a true team player and is always willing to go above and beyond for the staff and students. She builds her colleagues up and is always sharing ideas. “She builds relationships with her students and their families. She has high expectations of them and motivates them to do their best,” said Ali Abdel, school leader at HoDAH.


Alicia Accapezzato

Grades 9-12 Special Education

Detroit Public Safety Academy

Ms. Alicia Accapezzato has made a tremendous impact on the students and the climate and culture at Detroit Public Safety Academy (DPSA). The students have built great relationships with her, as made evident in their social and academic growth and development. Her willingness to do whatever it takes to contribute to the success of the students, staff and DPSA as a whole does not go unnoticed. Ms. Accapezzato is constantly seeking opportunities to help improve the school and the school experience. She has sought out private funding for field trips and organized partnerships with corporations. Additionally, she has joined the continuous improvement planning team and completely revamped the special education program to ensure that students have access to the services they need. “She is a great leader, team player, professional and someone that our school is lucky to have on staff,” said Cody Lown, school leader at DPSA.


Alma Shebib

Grades 9-12 Science Teacher

Achieve Career Preparatory Academy

Ms. Alma Shebib works tirelessly to prepare, plan and provide rigorous lessons and handson labs for her students at Achieve Career Preparatory Academy (ACPA). She takes the time to create meaningful relationships with the students and cares for them beyond their academics. She is always looking for new and innovative ways to teach science, incorporate technology and hands-on projects to enhance the learning experience. Ms. Shebib creates a supportive and encouraging learning environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and exploring new ideas. She is a friend to many on staff and is always seen as a person of positivity. “It has been my pleasure and I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know Ms. Shebib and witness the smiles, care and compassion she shares daily,” said Elizabeth Lewin, core team leader of ACPA.

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