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10 Outstanding Michigan Educators Surprised with Regional Teacher of the Year Honors

May 5, 2020

LANSING – Ten teachers from across the state received a welcome surprise when they learned from their school communities that they were each named a 2020-2021 Regional Teacher of the Year (RTOY) by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

“I want to personally thank each of the Regional Teachers of the Year and all educators across Michigan for their creativity and passion to educate our children in these tough times,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “If there is one thing the last several months have taught us, it’s that our teachers will go to the ends of the earth and back to ensure their students are receiving the best education possible from afar, while supporting parents and guardians who are trying to juggle work and their children’s education.”

The notifications took place over the last several days as part of the kickoff to Teacher Appreciation Week/Month and were captured on video. 

“Michigan’s teachers deserve our thanks and praise for their hard work with our state’s more than 1.5 million schoolchildren, not just during Teacher Appreciation Week or Month, but every day,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice.  

“Especially in these unprecedented times, it’s important that we come together across the state as one community and continue to lift up our teachers and all of our education workforce. I am exceptionally proud of these 10 educators who have earned this honor and look forward to working with each of them in the coming school year to continue our progress in Michigan.”

The 2020-21 Regional Teachers of the Year are:

  • Region 1: Tan-A Hoffman, a second grade teacher at JKL Bahweting Anishnabe School in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Region 2: David Bunn, a high school teacher at Houghton Lake Jr/Sr High, Houghton Lake Community School District.
  • Region 3: Shantel VanderGalien, an eighth grade teacher at Wyoming Jr High, Wyoming Public Schools.
  • Region 4: Barbara Huston, a third grade teacher at Arrowwood Elementary, Saginaw Township Community Schools.
  • Region 5: Erin Carlson, a middle and high school teacher at Sandusky Jr/Sr High, Sandusky Community Schools.
  • Region 6: Chelsee Schram, a second grade teacher at Morrice Elementary, Morrice Area Schools.
  • Region 7: Elizabeth Honeysett, a high school teacher at Portage Central High School, Portage Public Schools.
  • Region 8: Sarah Soper, a high school teacher at Northwest High School, Northwest Community Schools.
  • Region 9: Owen Bondono, a ninth grade teacher at Oak Park Freshman Institute, Oak Park Schools.
  • Region 10: Janine Scott, a high school teacher at Davis Aerospace Technical High School, Detroit Public Schools Community District.

A map of the ten regions can be found on the MDE website, as well as a video of each RTOY’s surprise announcement. The announcement videos will also be shared on social media via MDE’s Office of Educator Excellence (@MIeducator).

The Regional Teachers of the Year were selected from more than 400 Teacher of the Year nominations from students, staff, and community members across the state. Those nominees then were invited to participate in a multi-part, competitive application process through which the 10 RTOYs were ultimately selected.

The 2020-21 honorees were chosen for their dedication to the teaching profession, as evidenced by their commitment to their students and track record of service to the teaching profession.

“Amazing work is happening in public education – even amidst our current crisis – and these dedicated educators are living proof,” said MEA President Paula Herbart. “Students are having their diverse learning needs met every day by innovative teachers like these 10 individuals. MEA is proud of all of them – and we are committed to advocating for the resources they and all their school colleagues need to open the doors of learning for every Michigan student.”

David Hecker, President of AFT Michigan, said: "There are so many great teachers in Michigan, it is not easy to climb to the top as these 10 educators have. I applaud them and thank all teachers for their dedication to their students. All teachers are superheroes."

Together, the Regional Teachers of the Year comprise the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council (MTLAC). The mission of the MTLAC is to bring the teacher’s voice to a wider audience, including working directly with MDE to provide input on proposed policies and initiatives, and to help share valuable information and resources with colleagues within their respective regions.

The next step in the process is for each RTOY to interview with a panel of statewide education stakeholders, with one individual selected as the 2020-21 Michigan Teacher of the Year (MTOY).

The MTOY has a seat at the State Board of Education table for its monthly meeting as a non-voting member; attends several national conferences with Teachers of the Year from other U.S. states and territories, representing the experiences of Michigan’s teachers and students; and is Michigan’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year.

Program expenses for Michigan’s Teacher of the Year program are covered through a generous partnership with the Meemic Foundation.

“Our everyday heroes, Michigan educators, stand strong and continue to shine even during these challenging times,” said Pamela Harlin, Director of The Meemic Foundation. “That’s why it is with great pleasure for The Meemic Foundation for the Future of Education to join in recognizing these 10 regional teacher leaders as they begin their journey to share their wonderfully diverse experiences in the common goal to elevate and enrich Michigan education.”