Celebration of Excellence Award Winners

Barbara Burroughs - Teacher at Lakewood - Customer Service Award

Nominated by Liz Fall and Ann Martino
Awarded May 30, 2007

There is a high bar for achievement and behavior in Barbara Burroughs' fifth-grade classroom at Lakewood. As parents, we are most grateful for that. Our children respect her and work hard to meet her expectations. Under her guidance, they are receiving both solid academic and social preparation for middle school and beyond. Mrs. Burroughs is a pro at working with parents and colleagues to make sure that each child's needs and strengths are being addressed.  Her expectations are gladly met by students through creative interactive learning opportunities like historical simulations, peer grading and "Kids Rule Day."  It is a truly gifted educator who can maintain standards of academic excellence, nurture an atmosphere of positive reinforcement, and contribute to the development of individuality and self esteem.  Not only does she accomplish all of this, but does so consistently, with kindness and consideration for every student.  For us, "Mrs. Burroughs Rules"-- she is our ideal of an extraordinarily excellent and beloved fifth-grade teacher!

Pat Chabot - Secretary at Slauson - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Jan MacKenzie, coworker
Awarded November 29, 2006

Pat Chabot is an amazing person!  Her complete competence in her work, her calm, steady way and  great sense of humor  is what makes her such an asset to the Slauon community.    Pat is constantly bombarded with questions, concerns, requests, etc. from staff, students and parents.  She never waivers in her  compassion, patience and good humor with anyone.  While  I am nominating Pat for this award, I believe  speak for the entire Slauson community in saying that she is truly remarkable in all that she does.

Dottie Davis - Athletic Director at Huron - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Michele Julien, parent
Awarded January 24, 2007

I volunteer in the athletic office and on numerous occasions I have seen Ms Davis take time out of whatever she may be doing to address kids, parents, coaches etc..  These people may not have appointments and just come in with questions and issues and she handles it.  I know there is expected customer service but Ms. Davis seems to have GREAT customer service 24-7.  She has stepped into a position and I believe is really trying to turn around the Athletics at Huron High for the better.  I have had some issues with my student this year involving athletics and Dottie has done a great job dealing with my frustrations, helping me understand how things work, and helping me and my student deal with the issues at hand.  He is a 3.9 scholar athlete.  She is a caring person.  I truly feel that she cares about the students and has concern for what is in their best interest.  I also feel that Dottie is going to turn things around for Huron High Athletics.  Keep up the good work Dottie!!!!

Dee Drake - Teacher at Huron - Innovation Award
Nominated by Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson
Awarded June 13, 2007

How many teachers set themselves on fire?  And how any high schools can boast of having more than 25 student award winners receiving more than 45 awards at the S.E. Michigan Science Fair.  Mr. Drake motivates Huron students to enter--and win awards.

Sophia Dubreuil - Headstart Teacher at Preschool - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Rita McQuade Ardan
Awarded February 14, 2007

Sophia has a special way with the preschool children she works with.    She is sensitive to each child's personality/developmental level and works in a positive gentle fashion to guide each child's learning of classroom routines and the curriculum.   Her clasroom is a dynamic learning situation with children interacting with materials and each other in a positive fashion throughout the preschool day.  

Marcus Edmondson - Class Principal at Huron - Customer Service Award
Awarded March 28, 2007

Comments by Margy Fox:
Mr. Edmondson did so many things to help both of my daughters from helping with class schedules to making sure my older daughter graduated. He sent cards to her to encourage her and let her know that he would never give up trying. She made it to graduation because of Mr. Edmondson, and she jumped up and gave him a big hug after getting her diploma. Now it is helpful to know he is there and a resource for my next daughter's senior year and all that needs to happen.

Comments by Martin & Cathy Huebner:
We now have our fourth son walking the halls of Huron High School.  Mr. Edmonson has had a profound influence on all of our sons thru the years.    He has been willing to lend a listening ear, and to give ( sometimes stern!) direction when needed.  We have always found him available when we had questions or difficulty navigating a situation at school.    He has helped make Huron a welcoming and successful school for our family.  We are extremely grateful for his care and concern for all our  students.  We are very fortunate to have a principal like Mr. Edmonson at Huron High School.

Comments by Peter Huebner:
Mr. Edmondson's personality is what has stood out to me and others.  He is always very kind and genuine with the people that he comes in contact with.  There was a time in my high school career when things were not going so well, and Mr. Edmondson was the first person to ask, "What can I do to help?".   When he walks into a room his contagious smile and laugh make the whole room brighten up, and a sense of warmth is felt by all.  You care about students and it shows.  You are the man Mr. Edmondson. I wish I could be like you. 

Comments by Mary Jo Desprez:
Marcus Edmonson is gentle giant who wears many hats at Huron High School. His year starts early as he coordinates the registration process for the Huron and it seems from that moment on he is on "the go" --helping students figure out schedules, assigning parking spots, mediating conflict, chaperoning dances and athletic events, coaching basketball and spending the time to get to know the kids in his class--he is not an administrator that just goes through the motions. The class of 2007 has had several class principals before Marcus assumed the role and he made every attempt to make up for lost time and to give that class a sense of stability and leadership..the class of 2007 knows who Mr. Edmonson is. As a class principal he is in a unique situation to see the best and the worst from the community, but the thing that makes Marcus special is his ability to treat everyone with patience and respect. It is evident in the way he talks with students that he cares about them and he cares about supporting them so they are in a position to reach their full potential. I hope your selection committee will agree that Mr. Edmonson is a distinguished representative of Huron High School and deserving to be recognized for his tireless efforts and his dedication and service to students.

Linda Edwards - Teacher Consultant Pittsfield - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Ric & Tina Hotchkiss
Awarded May 30, 2007

We would like to share an Ann Arbor public school success story. This  story involves Ryan Hotchkiss, Pittsfield Elementary School, Linda Edwards (A teaching consultant at Pittsfield) and Scarlett Middle School.

Ryan’s education began in Ohio with difficulties. He was falling behind in reading and writing even though he was (and still is) a bright child. As a result of his struggles, his self-esteem was diminishing. Knowing that something was not right, we demanded that Ryan be tested for learning disabilities. The test was given at the end of Ryan’s 2nd grad year. The results showed that he was struggling with a learning disability called dyslexia. We met with a team of educators and developed an individual education plan (IEP) for Ryan. Through our tears, we could see that our son’s fight to achieve had just begun. We knew he had what it took to succeed with our support and the help of an educator with the talent for teaching children with special needs. But where do we find this person?

Our family moved to Ann Arbor that summer and we found ourselves at Pittsfield Elementary, meeting Principal Mary Ann Jager. We shared our wishes and concerns about Ryan with her. She assured us we were at the right place for our son, and introduced us to the TC Linda Edwards. Mary Ann was right! Linda and Ryan make a great team. In 3 short years, Linda helped this 3rd grader who’s reading was 2 years below grade level grow into a middle school student who is reading at grade level.

Now Ryan is in 8th grade at Scarlett Middle School and is still tutored (privately) by Linda once a week. His reading level has continued to keep up with his grade level and he is currently working hard on his writing skills. The teaching staff at Scarlett has done an amazing job in preparing him for high school. This became apparent when we received his last MEAP scores. Ryan, a dyslexic, received all 1’s and 2’s! Thank you Pittsfield, Linda Edwards and Scarlett Middle School for helping a young man overcome many obstacles to reach a high level of achievement.
To express our appreciation to Linda Edwards, we would like to nominate her for the Celebration of Excellence Award. She has helped Ryan to reach his full potential; this truly would not have happened without her.

William Finch - Teacher at Pioneer - Customer Service Award
Nominated by:  Daniel Saltzman
Awarded June 13, 2007

Mr. Finch teaches in a very dynamic fashion. If his students are ready to go on to a new topic, he moves on and vice-versa. He encourages student participation partly by asking his students what they want to learn, and partly by involving his students in the writing of worksheets. It is a very rare day when his class isn't conducted in a warm, comfortable atmosphere, since he treats his students more like his peers than his students.

Mary Frenette - Administrative Professional at Huron - Customer Service Award
Nominated by: Carolyn Brink
Awarded January 24, 2007

Mary consistently provides excellent customer service to her students and parents of students.  She is always calm and pleasant even when there are many demands of her time.  I have always appreciated her kind voice and reassuring manner. Thank you Ms. Frenette for all you do to make Huron High school a great High School!

Olida Harris - Teacher at Dicken - Customer Service Award
Nominated by:  Barb Byers
Awarded April 25, 2007

Mrs. Harris has been my son's teacher for two years now.  This  year we have a 3/4 grade split, and this is the first time she had to teach it and has done an amazing job presenting both curricula very thoroughly and clearly.  She goes out of her way to increase her expertise in reading techniques, she has a ton of books for the kids and seems to always be up on the latest research and ways to help kids improve their language arts skills.  She also is a great math teacher, her explanations and teaching of both 3rd and 4th grade math are excellent.  Her classroom is always incredibly organized and neat.  She is very patient and communicates well with all the kids.  It is a pleasure to help out in her class.

My son is pretty severely challenged with autism, and sometimes his work requires significant adaptation and modification.  She is always the first to suggest ways to do this, coming up with creative ideas on how to make things easier for him to understand and participate in.  She is a great team member with our TA, they both work extremely well together coming up and implementing ideas to help all the kids, but particularly including my son with his peers.  She always is very proud to celebrate and share his successes with me and the team.  They might be small steps for some kids, but they are huge with my son.  He has made incredible  progress in the last two years with Mrs. Harris, and I believe it is in great measure due to her wonderful teaching of, high expectations for, and belief in Sam.

She is also an advocate for my son, when he needs something she is willing to speak out.  She requested to have my son for a second year when it was clear she was going to teach a 3/4 split.  I can't tell you what that means to our family, to have someone want to have a student with many challenges.

She is also a wonderful person to have around the school in general, her cheerful demeanor and calming influence on the kids is wonderful.  Please consider giving this award to Mrs. Olida Harris, who exemplifies what a teacher truly should be.  Thank you for your consideration.

Michael Hecker - Principal at Clague - Customer Service Award
Nominated by: Michelle Machiele, Amy Knutilla, Janine Erba, Marla Goldstein, Jody Linn, Emily Eisbruch, Suzy Stein, Anne Rapundalo, Jane Zhou, Varsha Mehta, Kathy Natelborg, Marci Gilchrist, Brigitte Romero, Jane Miller
Awarded October 11, 2006

Principal Hecker is beginning his fifth year as the leader of Clague Middle School.  The Clague Community has grown and flourished remarkably under Mr. Hecker's leadership.  We are fortunate that the hallmark of his administration is customer service.  This letter is written to nominate Principal Michael John Hecker for the 2006-2007 Ann Arbor Public Schools Excellence Award in the area of Customer Service.
When Mr. Hecker began at Clague, he posted this quote by Gandhi on his office door, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Mr. Hecker is a caring leader and a gifted communicator.  He is quick to respond to inquiries and is attentive to his families.  His enthusiasm for education and his joy in collaboration brings a high energy level to teaching and learning at Clague.  With humility and humor, Mr. Hecker has been successful in eliciting the best attitudes and performance from all levels of Clague staff.  We are grateful that our custodians, teachers and administrators take pride in their work.
As one indication of Mr. Hecker's leadership, our school's MEAP scores are very high and Clague Middle School's letter grade ranking by the State of Michigan Department of Education is an “A.”  As an indication of this community's devotion to our school and Mr. Hecker's receptivity to collaboration, more than 300 of our school families are signed up to volunteer again this year.  Family donations to the Clague PTSO have increased by more than 75% during Mr. Hecker's years at Clague.  Families appreciate the better environment at school and want to contribute more so they participate in the grocery store program, which netted $6,000 in the first year.  In large part due to Mr. Hecker's encouragement to his staff, last year the PTSO awarded $9,000 to our teachers to fund classroom projects.
Mr. Hecker is able to astutely manage the entire scope of his job as principal (more than 740 students, nearly 100 staff and more than 300 parent volunteers!), yet he values the individual.  In addition to his exemplary professional skills, he's a lot of fun for the kids too! 

We are grateful to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education for recognizing his many years of leadership to our community by awarding him the AAPS Excellence Award in the area of Customer Service.  We are so fortunate to have Mr. Hecker as our principal, our school leader at Clague Middle School.  To Mr. Hecker, we reflect your welcoming words back to you in saying, “We are glad you are here!”

Casey Hermoyian - Teacher at Huron - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Debbie & Joe Veltri
Awarded February 14, 2007

Casey has been our son's science teacher for 3 years.  My son has struggled with school.  He has the ability to do the work, but at times forgets to turn in his homework.  For the past two years and in the current year, Ms. Hermoyian has taken the extra time to work with him on his grades.  She has stayed after school, given up free time, met with us and the counselor in an effort to help our son.  She has worked with him one on one, has given suggestions as to how he could be helped and mostly has given him the confidence he needed to become a better student.  She has always had faith in him and has never given up no matter how frustrating it was.  She has sent home extra homework, given him ideas for projects and worked hard to help him to succeed.

Casey has been helpful, had faith in our son and has been open to suggestions.  As a teacher, she goes above and beyond the needs of the student and shows that she truly cares about her students.  We applaud her for all her hard work and dedication.

Richard Ingram - Teacher at Huron - Innovation Award
Nominated by Phyllis Coleman
Awarded June 13, 2007

It is with deep appreciation and gratitude as a parent of a 12th grade choir student at Huron High School, that I recommend Dr. Richard Ingram for the Celebration of Excellence Award for Innovation. Dr. Ingram has brought an exceptional level of energy, expertise and dedication to the various choirs he teaches, as well as to his Humanities Class.  He has an exhuberance and dedication to his vocal music students which is unsurpassed and contageous to all of his students.  He has set high standards for his students, not only in voice study & performance, but also in strength of character!  He also demonstrates his commitment to their academic and singing success by holding a summer choir camp every year at Interlochen, taking the students to Italy last year to perform in the International Music Festival (in which Huron placed 1st!), and holding "practice auditions" for seniors who are auditioning for colleges!  Dr. Ingram is so committed to his students, that he shows his support by attending other events in which the students participate, such as plays and concerts.  He is also so humble that he would not even think of accepting an Excellence Award without acknowledging his partner in vocal music, Ms. Bonnie Kidd, who is also outstanding in her dedication and commitment to students.  Whether or not Dr. Ingram is selected for this award, it is important that I nominate him as a small thank you for all he has done for all of his students to encourage them vocally, academically, and personally to give their best.

Mary Ann Kennedy - Teacher at Haisley - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Margo Williams
Awarded June 13, 2007

My name is Margo Williams and I am the proud parent of Natalie Williams, a 5th grader at Haisley who happens to have autism.  Natalie is in an inclusive setting at Haisley school and is also a student in Mary Ann Kennedy's resource room.  I would like to nominate Mary Ann Kennedy for the Celebration of Excellence - Customer Service Award.

Mary Ann has been Natalie's resource room teacher for 3 1/2 years.   Mary Ann is much more than a resource room teacher.  It is my understanding that Mary Ann is the case manager for all the students with IEPs that attend the resource room at Haisley.  Through the years this has included students of varying levels of disability and many of whom have autism.  Mary Ann not only works with the students individually and in groups, but also coordinates the individualizes educational plans for all these students, handles daily problems ( including behavior problems) and coordinates  the assignments for TAs each day, such as when one is absent.   Mary Ann is the one who knows what each of these children is doing each day, where they are and what they need.    When something goes wrong, Mary Ann is likely to handle it.

The entire team of  inclusion TAs at Haisley are wonderful and work together in a very harmonious fashion.    I believe that it is Mary Ann that is responsible for the success of this team work.   I have been told that TAs who work with her do not wish to leave. 

When I think of Mary Ann, I think about her knowledge of speech pathology, ( she is trained as a Speech Pathologist)  her tireless effort in creating and implementing IEPs,  and her creativity and ability in teaching academics.  But what I feel about Mary Ann  is that she is someone who really cares about my kid.  This caring is apparent in all she does.   Please vote to award Mary Ann Kennedy the award of excellence, for she is someone who goes the extra mile for our kids every day!

Ken Long - Teacher at Huron - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Anita Brauckmuller
Awarded January 24, 2007

We moved into the area in January and it was very difficult on our son to leave his friends behind.  He was a Junior and looking forward to his senior year because he knew most of his friends since middle school and grew up with them.  His first days here were difficult but their was only one teacher, Mr. Long, who made an impression and thus far a lasting diffrence in Ricky’s perception of how teachers should help new students blend in with the existing class.  Mr. Long had a friendly, open communication and group environment in his class and he was the only teacher who had students introduce themselves to each other.  Ricky looked forward to his class everyday, he felt very comfortable in that class and around the students and he performed his best for Mr. Long because there seemed to be a sense of mutual respect and sheer delight.  Once he knew and felt comfort w/some of those classmates around school grounds, his confidence grew and he began making more and more friends and now he is just doing better than ever (and we have moved alot).  I am greatful for the little act of courtesy of "introduction" which made a huge diffrence in Rickys performance. 

What is amazing is that he also joined the chess club because Mr. Long asked him several times during the first couple of weeks we moved here.  And even though Ricky felt that it was for Geeks and Nerds (his prior perception), Mr. Long was persistent and I also encouraged him to try it.  Ricky found friends and self confidence through this club.   I pick up my son from school every day and everyday I am grateful for the one person who cared enough to do everything possible to help this one boy.   I just want to thank Mr. Long, who I have not met to date, for being that one teacher who made the diffrence in my son, and such a positive difference which enriched Ricky forever because introduction leads to much more and persistence has lead Ricky to believe he can do anything.

Anne Meade - Secretary at Allen - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Laura Roth
Awarded April 25, 2007

Allen Elementary School is a successful school in large part due to Anne Meade.  Anne is often the first person newcomers to Allen meet.  She welcomes them in a way that makes them eager to return.  In fact, she is probably the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ best recruitment tool.  Like most secretaries, it is likely Anne usually has too much to do, yet you would never know it when you see her.  She always makes you feel like she has all the time in the world to talk with you, answer your questions, or help you with whatever you need.  She is friendly, professional, knowledgeable, calm, and infinitely helpful. 

In addition to Anne’s ability to give people exactly what they need when they need it, she is also exceptionally skilled at the other aspects of her job.  When Janette Jackson retired as principal and Joan Fitzgibbon came to Allen, it was Anne who smoothed the transition.  Her ability to handle all of the behind the scenes aspects of school is so great that she makes what she does look effortless.  In fact, it is difficult to fully appreciate the quality and quantity of her work until you visit other schools and places of business.  It is only then that all the ways they are lacking compared to Allen become glaringly obvious. 

Anne treats everyone with the utmost respect.  A student may come in for the fifth time with an imaginary complaint, and still Anne helps.  A parent may ask a question that was already answered, and still Anne helps.  A teacher might make a request to have something done yesterday, and still Anne helps.  She has an incredible amount of patience, an ability to see the big picture, and seemingly limitless capabilities.

Anne has quietly and humbly made a tremendous difference in so many people’s lives.  She more than deserves this honor.

Nicole Nunlee - Counselor at Huron - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Devon, Jennifer and Ray Scott
Awarded November 29, 2006

Nicole Nunlee has provided superior customer service to my daughter, Devon Scott. Nicole has worked diligently to supply Devon with the resources needed to help her achieve academic success. She has invested her time and energy into helping Devon to grow and mature as a high school student ever since she began working with her over two years ago. Nicole takes each student's issues as a personal challenge. Nicole even came in this summer to help work with my daughter on English. She is a wonderful role model and mentor for my daughter. She is very helpful to me as a parent.I could not ask to be treated any better as a customer! Devon is very fortunate to have her as a counselor.

Lynn Okenka - Secretary at Pioneer - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Eli Bleiler
Awarded February 14, 2007

Lynn is one of the powerhouses that run Pioneer.  From answering phone calls from parents patiently and compassionately, to providing staff a wealth of information to get their job done, Lynn clearly goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure everyone is taken care of at Pioneer.  I truly appreicate all the time and help Lynn has given me as I learn how to enrich my students lives by providing outside activities. Lynn's procedural knowledge has saved me hours of time  and provided me guidance on how to provide a well-rounded educational experience for my students.  Thank you from my students, Lynn- we have a great time in the classroom because you have patiently taken the time to show me how to include these activities in our school day.

Nancy Polmear-Swendris - Nurse at Preschool - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Ann Schafenacker
Awarded December 13, 2006

School nurses work behind the scenes and so often don’t get the credit they deserve.  I would like to nominate School Nurse Nancy Polmear-Swendris for the Celebration of Excellence Award for Outstanding Customer Service.  My 11-year-old daughter has a potentially life-threatening food allergy.  Over the years, we have learned how to manage her allergy, and we developed a strong degree of confidence that she would be safe and healthy in her elementary school setting.  However, much change and uncertainty comes with the transition to middle school.  The guidance Ms. Polmear-Swendris provided as we navigated the transition this fall was invaluable.  She was instrumental in establishing the accommodations needed to provide a safe learning environment for my daughter at Scarlett where they have not had a peanut-allergic child in recent years.  She met with us before school started, encouraged my daughter’s input in the planning process, collaborated with teachers and staff to inform them about the allergy management plans, problem-solved minor issues along with my daughter once school started and kept communication lines open with all involved parties.  Not only does my daughter feel secure in her new middle school since teachers and staff know how to handle her allergy, but she also has been empowered by Nurse Polmear-Swendris to become more independent in managing her own health.  This is nursing care at its finest, and I am pleased to have this opportunity to nominate Ms. Polmear-Swendris for the Celebration of Excellence Award to acknowledge her remarkable service benefiting my daughter, her teachers and her family.

Laura Roth - Teacher at Tappan - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Agnes Jensen
Awarded May 30, 2007

Ms. Roth is an outstanding social studies teacher. All year long she has been assigning fascinating, timely projects to her 7th grade class.   For example, the students did a large group project on world religions.  Each group researched a religion (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc.) and the class compared and contrasted each religion's basic beliefs, then were tested based on  what they learned from their group, as well as their peers'  presentations.  Any ADULT would benefit from studying these group materials to help understand current world events. 

She assigned a thesis paper based on recent articles describing the banning of religious symbols from some European schools (large crosses, Muslim headscarves and yalmulkes).  Each student, through a well defined process, was asked to formulate an opinion for or against these policies, and then to write and defend that opinion.

Students are currently reading a book from National Geographic titled "Facing the Lions," about a young teen living in the African bush. Each chapter, students are comparing and contrasting their lives in Ann Arbor with the African teen.  Drawing a personal connection is really making such a "different" culture come to life. 

She uses very clearly defined grading scales for projects and  papers.  The students know exactly what needs to be done to receive points for each element of the assignment.  They learn how to apply their efforts in a step-by-step fashion to meet the 'boss's'  expectations (in this case, Ms. Roth!).  This organized way to approach assignments is outstanding training for high school, college, and the working world.

Ms. Roth offers a "second chance" for tests where students did not  obtain a mastery level score.  They have to meet criteria she outlines (for example an extra homework assignment to reinforce learning the material), then they have the chance to re-test.  We really appreciate the emphasis on actually learning the material, rather then getting the grade.

Time Magazine did a recent cover story on "How to Build a Student for the 21st Century."  Ms. Roth is already incorporating some of their ideas (student being critical thinkers, material mastery and understanding their global community).  We appreciate her efforts, and think her curriculum could be a model for other teachers and students!

Ellen Sapper - Teacher at Pioneer - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Tuchman Family
Awarded March 24, 2007

Ellen Sapper has greatly impacted the future of many student's lives. I am writing this as her student from 9th grade English and my parents are proudly supporting me in this nomination. Customer Service is fitting for Ms. Sapper as she has the tremendous ability to alter a student's perception of school; there were many days when I walked into her classroom feeling tired, bored, or ready to go home, and left those days excited to learn more, read ahead, or better appreciate being in the Ann Arbor Public School System. Ms. Sapper is not only a teacher, but an ally. When all her previous students are overwhelmed with the stresses of junior year, applying to college, or simply need someone to talk to in the school, most of her alumni student's quickly run to C321 where they know they will find an open door and a listener, who offers tremendous advice. Ms. Sapper advised me into finding my first choice college, in which I now plan on attending in the fall of 2007. Had it not been for her cozy and intimate classroom environment in which every voice was appreciated and valued, I think I would have had a very different experience at Pioneer High School. Ms. Sapper's class is a haven from some of the caos and confusion that is inevitable at a large high school. I strongly recommend Ms. Ellen Sapper for the Customer Service Celebration of Excellence Award, as do my parents, for she has made Ann Arbor Public Schools extremely proud.

Susan Schneider - Teacher at Huron - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Calcagno Family
Awarded November 29, 2006

Susan went out of her way to help my daughter with collecting and delivering her homework to her.  She is always available to help her when she needs help with her work.  She also is going way over her duty to help my other daughter with her algebra after 7th hour.  She puts in so much time at Huron and is a very caring and giving teacher. She has made some unpleasant experiences at Huron into some positives.  Susan is available to talk or ask questions, if she does not have a answer she will look into it.  She has been a positive influence on both my daughters.  She does an awesome job with her AVID students.  AVID is a blessing for my daughter, she even appreciates it now!!  I truly feel she cares for the students at Huron.

Dan Tolly - Teacher at Ann Arbor Open - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Annmarie Rubin - and his entire class
Awarded March 28, 2007

the following nomination has been edited for length.  20 additional letters of support have also been received.

Over the past two + years I noticed an interesting phenomenon at our school. Everyone seemed to be engaged in what was happening in Dan Tolly’s music classroom.

I went to parties where there were Ann Arbor Open parents and more than once overheard them talking about the Open School’s music teacher, Dan Tolly. At one point during a dinner party it seemed that everyone had a story about how much their kids knew and remembered from music class. One parent said, “my kid never remembers any dates or names, much less most of the other stuff he learns – but he knows when Woody Guthrie was born and the names of George Gershwin’s brothers!” There we all were, on our ‘night off’ from the kids - talking about composers, the dust bowl, rhythm and melody and jewels of concentration. The parents were awed by what their kids knew. Another said, “I can’t wait until my son comes home to find out what happens to Woody and his family!”

It seemed that everywhere I went I was seeing or hearing something about what was happening in Dan Tolly’s music class. This year I decided, with a group of five other parents, to nominate Dan for a Celebration of Excellence Award. We invited other parents to join us by sending e-mails to four classrooms. The response was overwhelming.

Dan Tolly is a once-in-a-lifetime teacher. He is the kind of teacher kids would follow to the ends of the earth. He is inspiring, passionate, demanding, generous, and kind. He believes in the kids. He believes in what they can do. He pushes them to do it. And when they do it all of them soar with the joy of accomplishment.

Please join me in celebrating Dan’s many accomplishments as a music teacher. As you can see from the attached nomination and letters of support from parents, Dan is truly deserving of the Celebration of Excellence Award.

John Van Black - Counselor at Huron - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Adler, Liu, Natarajan
Awarded December 13, 2006

Comments from Dorit Adler:
My daughter, Michelle, is currently a 10th grade student at Huron.  Last year was her first experience in the AAPS, having previously attended private schools in town.  I was concerned that with the size of Huron, I would have difficulty addressing questions, concerns, and that Michelle might not get the attention she needed if questions regarding classes, future college concerns, etc., arose.  Since the very first contact, our experience with Mr. Van Black has been phenomenal, wiping out any such concerns.  Mr. Van Black has been available, interested, and responsive on numerous occasions involving questions about classes, scheduling, or other both specific and general matters as they relate to Michelle's experience at Huron.  He has always responded very promptly --despite some of the technological challenges-- in a manner that reflects many years of experience dealing with young adults.  I have been particularly impressed by the fact that he not only pays attention to my questions and concerns, but ultimately turns to my daughter for her opinion, input, and thoughts.  He has been extremely helpful in guiding us through class  choices, changes in schedules, and other matters that have the potential of creating stresses for us.  It is particularly helpful to me as a parent, to be able to say to Michelle "Go ask Mr. Van Black's opinion/suggestion," knowing that both she and I very much value his input.

Perhaps just as noteworthy, is the fact that Mr. Van Black has a unique manner of combining humor and an "open door" and welcoming demeanor with his professional approach.  I continue to be amazed how he meets the daily challenges of working with these teens, yet clearly having their respect and admiration.

We are very fortunate to have Mr. Van Black at Huron and to have him as Michelle's counselor.  I hope that his tireless efforts continue to be recognized for the outstanding job that he is doing.

Comments from Michael Liu
 Mr. John Vanblack is one of the best counselors I have ever met. Somehow my son's class schedules mailed home were different from what he registered for during school time before summer vacations, in 2005 and 2006. Two times we came to Mr. Van Black. Two times, he was so patient. He assured us he would fit the best schedule for my son. He really did his best and searched for every possibility to register the classes my son wanted. Some classes even needed his attention for a few times. He expressed great enthusiasm to get the registration done satisfactorily. Before I said "Thank you", Mr. Van Black passed a message to me to appreciate my patience. Mr. Van Black is very responsible, patient, and enthusiastic to every student and family. I have attended one of his evening information meetings and I can tell he is thinking and doing the best for our students and our school. Mr. Van Black deserves recognition.

Andra Warsinske - Teacher at Huron - Customer Service Award
Nominated by Doug & Kristie Gallinger
Awarded October 11, 2006

We would like to nominate Andra Warsinske for her outstanding service to our daughter, Dustie.  Dustie was unable to complete the 05/06 school year due to a medical emergency.  All of Dustie's teachers worked with her to see that she was able to stay current with her classwork, but Mrs. Warsinske went above and beyond what was expected by meeting with Dustie throughout the summer to see that Dustie was able to complete her class and begin her senior year on time.  Mrs. Warsinske is a wonderful example of what we all should strive to be.
He is wonderfully articulate and is good at listening as well. He is also accessible and easy to talk to. He is a wonderful counselor.