2017-2018 MTLAC Cohort

            MTLAC Logo

The MTLAC is a group of teacher leaders from each of the ten prosperity regions across the state who have been selected to assist the Michigan Department of Education with the implementation of the Top 10 in 10 Years Strategic Plan and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan.

During their year of service, members will provide feedback to the MDE through monthly virtual meetings, while working to develop the Michigan Teacher Leader Network, promoting the #proudMIeducator campaign, and sharing information about new and proposed educational policies with their fellow teachers.

                                                        2017-2018 MTLAC Members

John Barnes Saginaw Public Schools
Jasmine Bates Van Buren Public Schools
Laura Chang Vicksburg Community School
Jeff Croley Dewitt Public Schools
Heather Gauck Grand Rapids Public Schools
Becky Godin Holly Area Schools
Beth Gonzales Wayne RESA
Matthew Homrich-Knieling Cesar Chavez Academy
Amber Kasic Holland Public Schools
Rez Kayto Ann Arbor Public Schools
Katie Lee Alpena Public Schools
Robyne Muray Lansing School District
Andrew Neumann Bay-Arenac ISD
Gina Pepin Escanaba Area Public Schools
Jane Porath Traverse City Area Public Schools
Ciera Searcy Detroit Public Schools Community District
Jonathan Starkey Sturgis Public Schools
Kevin Tobe Haslett Public Schools
Aimee Torok Grand Blanc Community Schools
Michael Whalen Kearsley Community Schools
Nikky Willison Public Schools of Petoskey
Gina Wilson Early College Alliance @ Eastern Michigan University
Chris Woods Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium, and Keweenaw
Kymberli Wregglesworth Onaway Area Schools
Saginaw Public Schools
John Barnes

John Barnes has been with Saginaw Public Schools for 15 years, including his time as a student teacher, and has taught students in grades from 7 to 12. Prior to being a teacher, he worked in the electronics industry for 12 years.

Barnes went into teaching because the person who most impacted his life growing up (aside from his parents) was his drama teacher, James Brooks. Barnes found the idea of teaching was at once thrilling and terrifying. Barnes didn't understand children, and never met a teacher like himself. Barnes thought the students deserved to know what they were facing in the real world, and said he draws from his experiences in the private sector every day in lots of ways.

Barnes said he has stuck with teaching for a few reasons. Some of it is his own children, while part of it is getting to tell the truth every day, and seeing former students reaching their goals is deeply satisfying to him. Most of it, he says, is the puzzle solving aspect. He sees every class is a novel set of students with strengths and weaknesses. As a teacher mediates content, they diagnose, devise a strategy, succeed and move on or fail and make a new one. Over the course of each year, the process gets dialed in and then that classroom is a machine to behold. Or not. Every year is another opportunity to make that machine better than ever.

Barnes joined the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council because he is always in search of new challenges. And if you ever want Barnes’ undivided attention, play frisbee with him, as he is much like a dog in that regard.

Jasmine Bates
Van Buren Public Schools
Jasmine Bates

Jasmine Bates currently works at McBride Middle School in the Van Buren Public School District. She has been teaching at McBride Middle School for three years and has been in education for four years. Jasmine started her education career as a first grade teacher. She then moved into a position where she provided mathematical intervention to 7th and 8th graders to assist in areas students struggled with most in the classroom and on standardized testing. In the fall of 2016, Jasmine transitioned into a 7th grade math teacher.

She sees the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council as a great opportunity to express how different policies in education have had an effect on teachers and students. Jasmine loves being a teacher because she is passionate about helping each of her students reach their full potential, even when they feel like they are not capable of getting there. Being a teacher allows Jasmine the opportunity to be creative and teach students in ways that are relatable to their own lives. Jasmine has also discovered that to be a successful teacher, you need to be yourself around your students without being judgmental. A fun fact about Jasmine is that she created a rap to Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” song to teach two step equations to her 7th grade math students.

Vicksburg Community Schools
Laura Chang

Laura Chang is entering her eighteenth year of teaching in Vicksburg Community Schools where she currently teaches second grade. Previously, she has taught pre-K, a first/second grade combination, and third grade at Sunset Lake Elementary.  Chang has worked as an instructional consultant at Tobey Elementary.  She also teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in the Special Educational and Literacy Studies department at Western Michigan University.

Chang applied for the council so that she could work with other teachers to meet the needs of our students. She is thrilled to be a part of MTLAC’s dynamic team of teachers who are invested in finding ways to impact the students of Michigan’s public schools in a positive way.

 She loves being a teacher because of the precious little learners who walk into her classroom each day.  They inspire her daily with their hard work, their perseverance, and their joy for learning. Chang’s students also encourage her with their curiosity, excitement for learning and passion for accomplishing difficult tasks.  Chang says she is so blessed to have a job in which every day is different, and is so fortunate to work in the fulfilling, life-changing career of teaching.

Jeff Croley
Dewitt Public Schools
Jeff Croley

Jeff Croley has taught at DeWitt High School for 24 years. In that time, he has taught Creative Leadership, Acting I and II, Stage Movement, Technical Theater, Improvisation, Video Production, Film as Literature, Creative Writing, Communications and Debate, Communications/Yearbook, and Public Speaking courses.

He applied for the council to help Michigan grow the talent pipeline, remain educationally and economically competitive, and provide unique opportunities for students and teachers to work together to remain actively engaged and passionate about learning and discovery. In order to do this, Croley believes it is vital to transform our current education system and rethink the role of educator as well as the function of our educational institutions. He also believes Michigan needs to do a better job of supporting and promoting a culture of innovation in K-12 education and he wants to help. It is time to provide students and teachers with the time, training, and resources necessary to adequately prepare them to move forward in the 21st Century.

He enjoys teaching because he enjoys developing talent and creating opportunities where students can unleash their creativity while remaining inclusive, empathetic, and fearless in their pursuit of making a positive difference. Croley plans to amplify the "student voice" while introducing them to creative industries and initiatives along the way. He wants to provide students with the "soft skills” that standardized tests don’t measure, but are demanded in the workforce. Croley is also passionate about keeping the artistry in the teaching profession.

He is actively involved with Creative and “Educational” Placemaking and the co-founder of the DeWitt Creativity Group and Michigan Creativity Group. Other interests of Croley’s include Filmmaking, Applied Improvisation, Theater, and Golf. 

Grand Rapids Public Schools
Heather Gauck

Heather Gauck is a Special Education Resource teacher for grades Kindergarten through 3rd in Grand Rapids Public Schools. She has been in education for 23 years.

After becoming an America Achieves Fellow in 2014, she started becoming more involved with educational advocacy. Gauck watched a webinar of a teacher testifying and realized that if positive change is to happen, teachers need to have a place at the table and she wanted to be there. Gauck is thrilled to have this opportunity to work with such an incredible group of teacher leaders, the MDE and Policy Makers.

Gauck’s passion is to give a voice to her students who daily are met with frustration and struggles. If she can give them hope and success no matter how small, she believes she has done her job well. She founded innovationclassroom.com after receiving a $40,000 grant from the ChanZuckerberg Initiative to support teachers worldwide to integrate technology in the classroom.

Holly Area Schools
Becky Godin

Becky Godin has been teaching with Holly Area Schools since 2010. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with certifications in Early Childhood Education and Autism Spectrum Disorders. She also holds Master’s degrees in both Early Childhood Education and Special Education.

Godin is the teacher and service coordinator for Early Intervention and Child Find. She works with families who have children between the ages of birth and three years and have been identified as having delays in one or more areas of development.

Godin finds early childhood education to be the most rewarding area of teaching. Children are born learning and these critical first years impact the success they experience later in school. A big focus of her educational philosophy is the importance of helping her tiny students grow into strong individuals as social, empathetic and capable learners. Godin also loves working with families on how they can best support and promote their child’s development.

She chose to apply to the MTLAC with hopes that she could be a voice for our youngest learners, caregivers and early childhood professionals. Unfortunately, high quality early childhood programs continue to remain out of reach for many families. Outside of school, Godin enjoy spending time with her family on a small farm, where they raise mini horses to visit children with special needs.

Beth Gonzales
Wayne RESA
Beth Gonzales

Beth Gonzales works with teachers, students and families to create innovative learning experiences that help support and maximize efforts to grow learning communities. Her goal is to design and implement creative curriculum and programs that meet the needs of both students and their families, providing learners of all ages with opportunities to build a firm academic foundation while advancing critical thinking skills.

Over the past 10 years, Gonzales has worked as a lower elementary educator (K-2) in high-needs districts serving academically struggling students and their families. She currently works as a high school ELL teacher for Wayne RESA, as well as freelance in the educational blogging and creative design worlds. Whether designing curriculum, crafting an educational family activity or updating a website, Gonzales loves creating workable solutions for all types of learners.

Gonzales believes that school climates are changing as our students face numerous challenges such as poverty, transience, ELL factors, and, by serving as a member of MTLAC, she has an opportunity to actively participate in the process of how to prepare communities to best support these differing student populations. She is ready to help facilitate some positive change in Michigan’s educational system!

Other fun facts: Gonzales teaches aerial silks (think Cirque du Soleil) at Planet Rock. She is also just getting back into climbing, so if anyone needs a belay buddy…

Cesar Chavez Academy

Matthew Homrich-Knieling

Matthew Homrich-Knieling is a third-year English Language Arts teacher. He completed his first year of teaching in Springfield, Massachusetts and is now entering his second year at César Chávez Academy Middle School in southwest Detroit. Homrich-Knieling has taught grades 6 - 8.

He loves teaching because it gives him the opportunity to integrate many of his passions: working with young people, sharing his love for reading and writing, and building community that practices and fights for justice. Homrich-Knieling especially loves working with middle-school children because of their energy and their candor.

Recognizing that teachers (and students & families) are implicated into education policy, Homrich-Knieling wanted to be an integral part of that conversation and decision-making process. Living and teaching in a city that has historically received the brunt of discriminatory policies, he has a pressing need to advocate for the lives of his students and their families. He applied for the council so that he can help shape Michigan education policy in a way that recognizes the humanity and unique needs of all students.

Amber Kasic
Holland Public Schools
Amber Kasic

Amber Kasic is entering her fifteenth year of teaching and sixth year at Holland High School as a Spanish teacher. She has taught K-12 students throughout her career and simply loves to watch young people discovering who they are and inspiring them to think about the ways they may contribute to our world, now and in the future.

Kasic applied to be a member of the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council because she believes in our kids and our teachers, and is excited to play a role in transforming education. Outside of teaching, Kasic travels often. Most recently, she went with a group of students to a remote area of Peru and lived and worked alongside the people of the community of Huilloc after conversing with them throughout the year via Skype as part of a study of agriculture and food security. Kasic finds that travel always enriches her classroom, as our students are quite curious about the world around them and exploring that together makes learning so meaningful!

Rez Kayto
Ann Arbor Public Schools
Rez Kayto

Rez Kayto is an elementary teacher in the Ann Arbor Public School District. She has taught English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies to students in Kindergarten through 5th grade.

Kayto loves learning and sharing the passion for learning with children, and guiding students to reach their utmost potential. She has a crucial role, one that positively impacts a child’s love for learning. She applied for the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council to collaborate with policymakers in implementing ESSA and to be a voice on behalf of her fellow educators.

Katie Lee
Alpena Public Schools
Katie Lee

Katie Lee is beginning her second year at Thunder Bay Junior High in Alpena. She taught Science 7, Earth Science, Intro to Chemistry, and Intro to Physics for nine years at Hillman Jr./Sr. High before moving to Alpena to teach Seventh Grade Science.

Her educational experiences over the past 11 years and desire to improve student success inspired her to apply for the Council. She loves teaching because every day is an opportunity to inspire and help students achieve their goals. Katie has recently been appointed to Dean of Students at Thunder Bay Junior High is the leader for the Multi-Tiered System of Supports Team. She also serves as the Co-Content Area Leader for Secondary Science at Alpena Public Schools. She has twin three years old daughters and a husband who is also an educator.

Lansing School District
Robyne Muray

Robyne C. Muray teaches English/Language Arts and performing arts classes at Lansing Eastern in the Lansing Public School District. Muray has taught in Lansing Public Schools for the last four years, and is entering her 18th year as a teacher this fall. During her career, she has taught each grade from Pre-K through 12.

Muray applied for the council position because she is an advocate in the mindset that every child can succeed, noting that the students that we serve are rich in diversity and have the tenacity to overcome obstacles and challenges that give our state a competitive edge.

She loves being a teacher because she is amazed at the resilience that children possess. Muray’s mission is to unlock individual talent and facilitate academic growth through differentiated instruction, and providing opportunities for students to showcase their mastery of content through performance and project based assessments.

Andrew Neumann
Bay-Arenac ISD
Andrew Neumann

Dr. Andrew J. Neumann has taught Building Trades to high school seniors at the BAISD Career Center for 20 years and has taught at Delta Community College for over 15 years.

Neumann applied to the Council as a way to have a voice for Career and Technical Education, having been a student in the high school vocational class and the college classes he now teaches. He completed a carpentry apprenticeship and was in the construction industry for more than 8 years before beginning his teaching career at BAISD. He has seen firsthand how valuable these programs are, providing a lifelong high paying skill which is in high demand. This passion for teaching while building a new home annually has inspired many of his students to continue in construction and has created a hiring frenzy for those students by both union and non-union construction companies across the state.

Neumann truly enjoys convincing students and parents that through hard work and perseverance, pursuing a skilled trades career and a college degree is still attainable, having not had a professor or fellow student beyond his Master’s degree that had attended or taught CTE.

Gina Pepin
Escanaba Area Public Schools