Stateside on Michigan Radio

I had the opportunity to appear on Stateside with Lester Graham on Michigan Radio WUOM 91.7 FM to discuss the funding crisis facing Detroit Public Schools and the need for equitable access to excellent educators. Thank you, Michigan Radio, for affording me the opportunity to share my thoughts and add to the conversation.

The Legendary Carlie

I have told the story of Carlie many times this year. Whether in keynote speeches or private conversations, Carlie Suris remains a powerful inspiration for me. The notion that we all have different points of entry for maintaining a growth mindset is a key component of building an effective community of learning. Carlie reminds me not to overlook the importance of small gestures and how sometimes the little things are big. Carlie is always ready with a winning smile Carlie sits in a regular classroom chair... ...because she can

Have you Ever Considered Teaching?

I had the opportunity to ask students at U of D Jesuit High School and Academy this question as part of their annual Career Fair. My hope was to perhaps plant a seed, a wondering, a question in these young people's minds. Regardless of the political realities, challenges or dysfunctions, we will always need excellent educators who care about equitable access. It may begin here.


My greatest challenge as Michigan Teacher of the Year is to be relevant. To make a difference. To do something that matters to someone somewhere. Ideally, I can serve as a catalyst for change and help bring successful models to scale in ways that are sustainable. Somedays, I just need to show up. This was the case when I heard that the Rev. Jesse Jackson would be marching and speaking in Flint to address the Water Crisis. As this emergency has serious impacts for education, I wanted the people of Flint to know that I care about them. I wanted them to know that I stand with them today and as long as it takes until not only their water is safe to drink, but that all students in the city have e

Western Rising From the InsideOut

Student voices matter. I was thrilled on a recent visit to Western International High School, a Detroit Public School close to the Ambassador Bridge to Canada, when I had the opportunity to witness a poetry reading by students who had been part of the legendary InsideOut Literary Arts Project. As is clearly demonstrated on their Facebook page, InsideOut empowers students throughout Detroit by affording them a vehicle to express their thoughts and feelings in creative and unfettered ways. The work dispels despair and replaces it with hope. Students read, recited and performed their poetry in Western's black box theatre. Poems spoke of the reality of growing up amidst the challenges of adolesc

Geniuses - Each and Every One

Genius is extraordinary intelligence...this definition describes each and every one of you. This "genius" quote from The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco is a cornerstone of my philosophy as an educator. It is a message that I share throughout the state, in every school I visit from Marquette to Monroe. When I was afforded the opportunity to read The Junkyard Wonders aloud to Kellie Bahri and Marta Babinchak's 4th graders at Quarton Elementary School in Birmingham, I was excited. One of my favorite things to do as an educator and human being is to read aloud. Educational benefits aside, reading aloud makes me smile. It gives me chills. I become the book. It's fun. I have to admit, howeve

Great Things Happening in Greenville

Greenville, a community of over 8,000 people located 35 minutes northeast of Grand Rapids, was once known as the Refrigerator Capital of the World. While manufacturing jobs have dwindled - following state and national trends - the commitment in Greenville to quality public education has never been stronger. In fact, one of the ways that Greenville is reinventing itself is its embrace of Chinese language and culture through a dynamic Chinese immersion program at Walnut Hills Elementary School. Beginning in kindergarten, kids spend half their day with a Chinese-speaking teacher and half their day with an English-speaking teacher. The results are astounding. As a bilingual/ELL teacher myself, i

Early College of Macomb County

The Early College of Macomb County provides a powerful opportunity to motivated students to begin work at the university level while still in high school. They may earn up to the 62 college credits required for their associate’s degree or technical certificate. These credits may also be transferred to a four year college program. They have the option to begin work immediately in their chosen field, or continue with their education a year ahead of their peers toward a Bachelor’s degree. Students attend school through Grade 13, after which they may transfer to a four-year university having already earned an associate's degree. These young people take classes at both the ECMC and their home hig

Sharing Success - So Central

Each month at the Michigan State Board of Education meetings, different educators from around the state take five minutes to share snippets of the powerful experiences they practice with their students. Oftentimes, members of the State Board, consultants from the Michigan Department of Education and legislators from the Michigan State House and Senate, do not have the opportunity to witness the dynamic practices that happen around the state. When teachers come to the State Board table and tell their stories of successful practices, we are all reminded of the where our focus must always remain - squarely in the classroom with teachers, students and their learning. Luke Wilcox, math teacher fr

The Brilliance of Nova Now

The brilliance of Nova Now rests in the student-driven nature of the experience. The fact that the kids from Kent Innovation High School play a critical role in sharing the successes of a project-based learning approach speak volumes about the power of student voice and choice. After listening to these dynamic young people talk about their experience not only as students at KIH but as active participants in their learning reminds all visitors that project-based learning motivates and engages learners in ways that cannot occur in any other learning modality. Brilliant. Kent Innovation High students eagerly serve as ambassadors for Project-Based Learning at Nova Now. So many causes create so m

Amazing Montabella

I began my day in Montabella Schools - near Mt. Pleasant - knowing that this was a small, rural school district. What I could not have anticipated was the amazing spirit of togetherness that only intensified as my day progressed. I left feeling a profound sense of respect for districts like Montabella who continue to serve students well in the face of diminished resources. Montabella thrives on the passionate dedication of its staff and the clear commitment they display for the students they serve. There is a strength of community here that sustains students, families and staff. Everyone works together for the benefit of all. It clearly shows. I began my day at the Middle/High School with a

Detroit Achievement Academy Reaches Higher

Kyle Smitley sets the tone immediately. Upon meeting the founder and director of the Detroit Achievement Academy on the northwest side of the city, Kyle makes it very clear that their expeditionary learning model works. With a combination of a deep commitment to establishing a compassionate culture and climate and the primacy of a project-based learning approach, students feel part of a community where they are both valued and empowered. This is a school where teachers invest a significant amount of time at the beginning of the school year building their classroom environments one child at a time. Students at the DAA know that expectations are high for both how they treat each other and how