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CLASS OF 2023-2024


Vanessa Exum

Grade One

East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy

Ms. Vanessa Exum began her journey as an educator in Mississippi with a background in secondary education. Three years ago, she embraced the challenge and made the transition to teaching first grade at East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy (ECUEA), where she is thriving. She is firm, yet nurturing, and has great relationships with her students, their families and her colleagues. Ms. Exum is a master teacher who loves her students and gives them her all every day. Ms. Exum is always positive and has a smile on her face. Her classroom is a warm and inviting learning environment in which students feel safe to take risks and excel academically. “We are blessed to have her and so proud that her excellence is recognized and acknowledged by her colleagues as well!” said Veronica Eskew, school leader at ECUEA.


Briea Days

Grade One

Joy Preparatory Academy

Ms. Briea Days supports the students and staff at Joy Preparatory Academy (JPA) in any way she can. She has a heart of gold and an abundance of patience for her first graders. The students in her class receive a quality education with high expectations and memorable experiences of kindness. She leads the hospitality committee and always takes pride in helping people feel more connected by calling them by their first name. Ms. Days continues to work hard on developing herself as an educator. She uses that knowledge to build up her students and help them succeed. Every year, she implements something new and exciting for her students to experience. “She consistently looks for ways to reach all of her students. For the past four years, she has been a gift to me and the students alike,” said Adasina Philyaw, school leader at JPA.


Janice Richardson

Grade Three

George Crockett Academy

Ms. Janice Richardson is a passionate and dedicated educator at George Crockett Academy (GCA). She guides her third grade students in rich discussions and works diligently to ensure that all of her students are excited to learn. Ms. Richardson’s loving spirit encourages all students to show pride in their work. Ms. Richardson is the kind of educator that gives every student a sense of belonging. She fosters a classroom environment that encourages learning, collaboration and support among peers. “We are so grateful to have had Ms. Richardson with us at GCA for the past five years! She is truly an asset to our school community,” said DeLon Wills, instructional coach at GCA.


Ralphael Read

Grade Five

Northridge Academy

Mr. Ralphael Read is an outstanding and passionate teacher at Northridge Academy (NA). The relationships he builds with his students empower them to achieve both in and outside the classroom. Not only does Mr. Read encourage his students to reach new heights, he is also a valuable resource and a source of positivity for his fellow teachers. Mr. Read has cultivated a truly transformative learning environment. In his classroom, or as they call it, “The Locker Room,” he instills the understanding that they are a team and that no teammate gets left behind. “Mr. Read’s classroom is a shining example of what can be achieved when love and passion meet education,” said Lisa Casteel, instructional coach at NA.


Pearl Rabideau

Middle School Reading

Hope of Detroit Academy Middle/High

Ms. Rabideau has an immense amount of knowledge in reading and how to help the students at Hope of Detroit Academy Middle/High School (HoDAM/H). She is extremely organized, and this allows her to use all of her time with the students effectively. The relationships she builds with the students helps them to feel comfortable enough to make mistakes, learn all their lessons and push themselves beyond what they thought was possible. She encourages them to become independent readers and become confident in their ability. If you ask anyone, they will speak of Ms. Rabideau's kindness, dedication to students, and her humor. She is committed to making sure that each of her students receives the support he or she deserves, even if that means readjusting her schedule to accommodate additional students. She entertains staff and students with her funny stories and quirky one-liners. “The students she works with rise to the challenges she presents them with by meeting the goals they set to achieve,” said Dr. Susan Estrada, district curriculum director at HoDA.


Lyndsey Sebok

Grade Four Special Education

César Chávez Academy Upper Elementary

Ms. Lyndsey Sebok is a natural leader in the special education department at Cesar Chavez Academy Upper Elementary (CCAUE). Ms. Sebok goes above and beyond to support and connect with every student she sees daily. She takes special care to ensure the emotional well-being of her students and that all of their needs are being met. Ms. Sebok fights for the rights of her students and helps them learn to advocate for themselves both in and outside of the classroom. She builds strong relationships with families and often has students come back to visit and let her know how they are doing. She is active on committees and always gives back to both the students and the school. “Ms. Sebok is an exceptional educator and we are proud to have her at CCAUE,” said Andrew Wright, school leader at CCAUE.


Angela Smith

Middle School Science

Saginaw Preparatory Academy

Ms. Angela Smith is committed to the success of the students at Saginaw Preparatory Academy (SPA). She is dedicated to making sure her students’ learning experience is vibrant and meaningful, both in and out of the classroom. Her lessons are rigorous and engaging which has sparked a greater interest in science at SPA. Ms. Smith is passionate about building relationships with all students, not just the ones she has in class. Students love, respect and look up to her as a trusted mentor. She goes above and beyond by voluntarily attending their extracurricular activities, providing snacks and prizes and encouraging them to be their best selves. Her belief in them never wavers. “We are so lucky to have Ms. Smith as a part of our SPA family,” said Larilyn Burdess, instructional coach at SPA.


Sarah Khansa


Academy for Business and Technology Middle/High

Ms. Sarah Khansa is a widely loved teacher at The Academy for Business Technology Middle/High School (ABT M/H). Whether in or outside of the classroom, you can find Ms. Khansa interacting with students with a smile on her face. Her classroom immerses students in an engaging atmosphere that has reignited a love for learning Spanish. The positive impact that Ms. Khansa has at ABT M/H is immeasurable. She is always willing to assist where needed and often serves as a trusted, listening ear to our students. Ms. Khansa consistently shows kindness and genuine love to everyone she meets. Her passion is not only about her students excelling in Spanish, but in all subjects both inside and outside of the classroom. “We are so fortunate to have Ms. Khansa as a part of the ABT Gator Nation family! Gracias Ms. Khansa for all that you are and all that you do,” said Carmen Willingham, school leader at ABT M/H.


Jacquline Fuller

Grade One

Saginaw Preparatory Academy

Ms. Jacquline Fuller is an exceptional first-grade teacher at Saginaw Preparatory Academy (SPA). Her enthusiasm for teaching makes her classroom a dynamic and engaging environment. Ms. Fuller is always finding new research-based strategies to assist her students in learning everything from phonics to math and many more. She continuously elevates the standards of teaching and inspires others to do the same. Ms. Fuller encourages and supports her fellow educators with her unwavering dedication and passion for teaching. She sets an example by fostering a collaborative environment and motivating others to excel in their teaching roles. “She stands out for her willingness to share a variety of innovative ideas and teaching strategies. Her open-minded approach allows her colleagues to adapt and implement these methods, leading to improved classroom experiences for all students,” said Ashley Thayer, instructional coach at SPA.


Ethan Rule

Grade Seven Social Studies

César Chávez Academy Middle School

Mr. Ethan Rule is an outstanding educator at Cesar Chavez Academy Middle School (CCAM). Serving as both an exceptional athletic director and a passionate teacher, Mr. Rule’s dedication to all things CCAM demonstrates his commitment to the well-rounded success of his students. Mr. Rule’s innovative approach in organizing the first CCAM social studies night showcases his commitment to enhancing the educational experience beyond traditional methods. Mr. Rule's dedication to education is evident in his reflective and student-centric approach. His commitment to improving students' lives goes beyond traditional teaching duties, as he consistently seeks ways to connect with them on a more personal level. “Mr. Rule's selfawareness and continuous efforts to improve make him a valuable asset to the academic community, deserving of recognition and nomination,” said Victoria Adams, instructional coach at CCAM.

Omayra Romero.jpg

Omayra Romero

Grade Two

Hope of Detroit Academy Elementary

Ms. Omayra Romero is a natural leader and an exceptional educator at Hope of Detroit Academy Elementary (HoDAE). Ms. Romero cultivates a positive, strong classroom community that motivates and encourages her students to be successful. Her classroom routines keep students engaged and ensure that students come to school eager to learn. Ms. Romero takes time to build relationships with her students, and their parents, and is constantly advocating for students. She takes extra time to collaborate with her fellow teachers to ensure that students are always receiving quality instruction. "Students often share that they learn a lot from being in her class. One student said he didn't think he could learn, but Ms. Romero showed him that he could,” said Melody Moore, assistant school leader at HoDAE.


Angelica Tibbitts

Grade Five

Pontiac Academy for Excellence

Ms. Angelica Tibbitts is a thriving, fifth grade teacher at Pontiac Academy for Excellence (PAE). She attended PAE as a student from kindergarten through twelfth grade, with strong determination and perseverance, she returned to her PAE community as a teacher to support students in their learning and individual growth. Ms. Tibbitts is an active member of the PAE team. She participates in robotics and works closely with the special education students during after-school tutoring. Ms. Tibbitts builds strong relationships with her colleagues and students as a shining example of how one can overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. “Ms. Tibbitts' ability to persevere, her attitude, and her work ethic, exemplify what our environment needs to succeed in a community where the odds are set against them,” said Latricia Brown, school leader at PAE.


Casandra Black

Grade Three

Discovery Academy

Ms. Casandra Black has been a teacher at Discovery Academy (DA) for over five years and brings a love for education to everything she does at the school. Ms. Black leads the charge in ELA initiatives that includes keeping a love for reading alive through our annual March Madness reading competition. With over ten years experience, she is the "go to" for peer mentorship. Ms. Black's structure, communication, drive and determination to win is powerful. “She is a calm spirit, but a true force to be reckoned with. She is a life changing, dynamic teacher that I would hire over and over again,” said Julie Flowers, school leader at DA.


Sonya Read

Middle School Mathematics

\Northridge Academy

Ms. Sonya Read is a beam of light at Northridge Academy (NA). Her willingness to go above and beyond to support all students is commendable. Ms. Read often serves as a mentor and a listening ear. She has helped cultivate a positive atmosphere that has been amplified by her ability to inspire and motivate those around her. Ms. Read’s dedication to teaching goes far beyond the classroom. Her passion for learning is contagious and makes learning both enjoyable and enlightening for the students. “The students trust, respect and love her like a mother,” says Evelyn Hamlett, school leader at NA.


Lalanie Johansson Mendez

Grade Three

Academy for Business & Technology Elementary

Ms. Lalanie Johansson-Mendez is a remarkably innovative and dedicated teacher at the Academy for Business and Technology Elementary School (ABTE). She seamlessly integrates the required curriculum resources in a way that keeps learning both meaningful and enjoyable. Ms. Johansson-Mendez’s commitment to fostering a love for learning is evident in her dynamic teaching style and genuine enthusiasm for her students’ growth. In her third-grade classroom, Ms. Johansson-Mendez leaves a lasting impact on her students' lives. Through nurturing guidance and personalized instruction, she has helped students grasp academic concepts and develop essential life skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving. "By creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment, she ensures that every student feels valued and motivated to succeed," said Carolyn Tola, instructional coach at ABTE.


Alissa Biebuyck


Francis Reh Academy

Ms. Alissa Biebuyck, affectionately called “Ms. B” by her kindergarten students, is an incredibly gifted teacher at Francis Reh Academy (FRA). She has embraced the many curriculum adjustments made over the past three years and her students are thriving in every way. They are excited to learn and show what they know to anyone who visits their classroom. Ms. B recognizes that students need to move and embraces the flexible seating concept to provide effective ways for students to get their wiggles out and keep learning. When students see Ms. B in the morning, their faces light up. They feel loved and supported, knowing they have a teacher that believes in them. That gift, at the tender age of five and six years old, is life-changing. "We are immensely blessed to have Ms. Biebuyck as a part of our Francis Reh family," said Kate Scheid Weber, school leader at FRA.


Jennifer Blaszczyk

Grade Three

Mildred C. Wells Academy

Ms. Jennifer Blaszczyk is a truly remarkable teacher at Mildred C. Wells Academy (MCWA). She is a beacon of inspiration and positivity that uplifts everyone around her. Ms. Blaszczyk strives to create a nurturing environment where every student feels valued and empowered to succeed. Her teaching methods are effective and engaging, ensuring that each lesson leaves a lasting impression on her students’ academic growth and personal development. Ms. Blaszczyk constantly seeks out new ideas and professional development opportunities to enhance her teaching skills. Her positive attitude and dedication to excellence set the standard for professionalism. “Ms. Blaszczyk always supports positive change within our school. Her passion for teaching, dedication to her students, and commitment to continuous improvement make her an invaluable asset,” said Latrisha Corona, school leader at MCWA.


Clint Prong, PhD

Algebra II, Honors Algebra II, AP Pre-Calculus

César Chávez Academy High School

For nearly two decades, Dr. Clint Prong has taught over 2,500 students at César Chávez Academy High School (CCAH). He is more than just a teacher; he is a mentor, a guide, and a steadfast supporter of his students' dreams. From the first day of class to the moment they step onto the stage at graduation, his commitment to student-focused teaching is unparalleled. He tirelessly devotes himself to ensuring that every individual understands and excels in mathematics. Dr. Prong's impact extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. He is the teacher whom students remember long after they have left the halls. His name is uttered with gratitude at graduation ceremonies year after year. Dr. Prong's willingness to stay late, to offer extra support, and to never give up on a student sets him apart as a true champion of education. "We are incredibly grateful that Dr. Prong continues to teach the students of CCAH and we celebrate his achievements," said Carissa Rusnak, school leader at CCAH.


Corinna Tomazic

Grade One

César Chávez Academy Upper Elementary

Ms. Corinna Tomazic is a dedicated educator at César Chávez Academy Lower Elementary (CCALE) who consistently goes above and beyond to ensure that her students reach their full potential. Teaching first grade is more than just a job; it's a calling. Managing a classroom of first graders requires excellent organizational skills. From lesson planning to keeping track of student progress, Ms. Tomazic has created a structured and dynamic learning environment where success is celebrated. The best teachers never stop learning. Whether through professional development opportunities, peer collaboration, or personal reflection, Ms. Tomazic is committed to continuous improvement and staying current with best practices to ensure that her students are provided with the highest quality education. "Her dedication, service and support during the past eleven years at CCALE are highly appreciated and deeply valued," said Kristen Liss, instructional coach at CCALE.


Samantha Reynolds

English Language Arts

Wildwood Environmental Academy

Ms. Samantha Reynolds has been dedicated to her position at Wildwood Environmental Academy (WEA) for the past three years. Ms. Reynolds is confident, optimistic, composed and passionate about teaching and learning. In addition to teaching high school English Language Arts, she creates lesson plans for the seventh grade and advises the student council. Every morning Ms. Reynolds greets each student with a warm welcome and smile. She works to develop relationships with her students that foster confidence and motivation. "Ms. Reynolds' passion for teaching, willingness to embrace every challenge and imperturbable attitude are crucial to building our positive school community, " said Emily Fitch, academic and behavioral support coordinator at WEA.

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