Celebration of Excellence Award Winners

 

Cathy Babcock, Teacher at Mitchell Elementary - March 26, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Cindy Underwood & Amy McDonald

Cathy takes a wonderful approach to her students and truly wants each on of them to succeed. Her room is full of enriching things for children. Cathy is committed to empowering each and every child she meets. I have seen her treat my other children with just as much warmth and encouragement as she treats my daughter who is in her class. She is wonderful and what everyone would want in a teacher.

Cathy Babcock has gone above and beyond to make sure that my daughter feels intelligent and that she is a wonderful child. From what I can tell, she has done this for all of her students. She sent out postcards over Christmas to welcome them back to school. Cathy is always upbeat and happy. I feel that my daughter would do well with almost any teacher, but to hear my daughter say, “I want to be a teacher like Miss Babcock” means that she is doing something to really show her dedication to these students.  Cathy has been engaging, supportive and open in any conversation that I have had with her. She has taken a keen interest in my younger children and helped us with important decisions.
While this may not seem to be above and beyond, I feel that based on other teachers I have seen, that this is exceptional behavior.


Danielle Bowles, Special Education Teacher at Scarlett Middle School - January 23, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Chrstine Marquis

I would like to nominate Mrs. Danielle Bowles for the Board of Education's Celebration of Excellence Award!!

I certainly believe Mrs. Bowles went above the call of duty with the after school program: Soul Steppers.  For the first time ever my child can stay after school and participate in a program that was being offered.  My child receives Special Education and requires constant supervision.  Mrs. Bowles not only teaches special education all day (Bless her to pieces) but then volunteers @ Soul Steppers and encourages, protects and includes my child and a couple of her classmates in getting some exercise and playing games.  Finally something my child can participate in without mom having to be in the shadows.  Gotta love Mrs. Bowles!!



Wanda Brann, Teacher at Dicken Elementary - May 28, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Kari Schmidt

I nominate two teachers, Lisa Miller and Wanda Brann for the Celebration of Excellence award under the customer service category.  They team teach 5th grade at Dicken Elementary. My son, Alex is in Mrs. Miller’s homeroom.  He spends half a day with each teacher.  I’m sure it is probably unusual to nominate two teachers at once.  Please consider the exception as these teachers exemplify the meaning of “team” teaching.

These two teachers demonstrate dedication like no other.  Alex is serviced through special education with an IEP.  It has amazed me how on top of his IEP they were from day one.  I didn’t have to provide a copy of his IEP to explain my child to them ahead of time and have never felt the need to check on IEP compliance.  They knew my child before he arrived the first day and were ready to meet his needs.  And that’s what they have done.  They have met his needs and then some.  Alex has achieved more academic success than I ever thought possible.  He feels a huge sense of pride in his accomplishments and enjoys going to school each day.  I see him smiling again! This has been a real gift given to him and to our family. Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Brann have made Alex’s year phenomenal, his best year ever, in all areas of his development.  

They normalized the classroom, allowing him to be just like any other student. Interventions that helped Alex were used with the whole class and made Alex feel like any other student.  Their classroom management is impeccable.  They have mastered the art of helping each student learn his/her way in a calm and quiet setting.  The focus has been on reinforcement of positive behavior and respect for everyone.  They have gone over and above adding additional learning experiences to the already extensive curriculum to work on things like bullying, respecting others, character development and conflict resolution.

Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Brann have provided optimal open communication between home and school.  I’ve always been welcome before or after school.  We email and periodically one of them will call to make sure we are all on the same page.  Recently Mrs. Miller called in the evening to check on Alex after a difficult social experience during the day.  She wanted to make sure he was ok.  He felt so special!  As a mother, I feel so blessed to have someone at school that truly cares about my child.  As we approach middle school next year, we are looking at options for placement that will provide that best learning environment for him academically and socially.  Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Brann have spent time talking about those options and have discussed with me their thoughts.  I thought I’d have to make that difficult decision on my own, but instead we are working together as a team working toward placing him in the best environment.  Open communication has really allowed Alex to be supported as a whole, in the environments where he spends most of his time.

Most of all, they love my child.  They see all the wonderful gifts in him that I do.  They emphasize his positives every day and support his struggles in a way he can feel good about.  Alex has gone from getting sick to his stomach before school and suffering from regular headaches due to increased anxiety to a happy, joyful boy who is excelling academically.  I can’t thank these two teachers enough for their dedication and excellence in teaching.  They truly go over and above a typical teacher in meeting each child’s needs.  This is what teaching excellence is all about!  Please consider these two wonderful team teachers as well deserving recipients of your Celebration of Excellence award.


Ben Edmondson, Principal at Scarlett Middle School - June 11, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Ann Schafenacker and Scarlett parent community

1.  Recently I was in Dr. Edmondson's office and noticed on his white board that he had an evening schedule for students to call him at his home by a certain time with an update on their homework for that evening.  I asked him how many students does he do this for, and his reply was "as many as needed.” That is who Dr. Edmondson is - he is completely committed to every student's success, not just academically, but socially and developmentally. 

2.  I always see him with a smile on his face, interacting with a student, or involved in some other school activity. I can't imagine how he remembers who we all are and who our child is! He's really exceptional! 

3.   his unwavering level of commitment to all the children at Scarlett. 

4.  Provides the very best environment to learn and achieve their full potential. 

5.  Dr. Edmondson’s leadership at Scarlett has been exemplary. 

6. He has made positive changes in the school and community.

7.  One of his most creative innovations has been the formation of the advisory hour reading groups. 

8.     Dr. Edmondson has brought an exceptional level of energy, expertise and excellence to Scarlett students.  By introducing Scarlett Academic Society and various after school clubs, he has set high standards for his students.  The motivation and determination to excel has become contagious in all Scarlett students. 

9.   He is a true advocate for the school and the students.  He works well with parents and encourages real participation between parents and staff. 

10. I believe that Dr. Edmondson deserves the nomination because he has fostered an environment of serious learning at Scarlett Middle School. 

11. He takes time out to talk to the students and never hesitates to help them.

12. Dr. Edmondson brings professionalism to our school and our students - both from the inside and the outside. 

13. I am new to Scarlett and am still learning all about it.  I do know that the Principal does a great job at creating order and discipline, thus producing an atmosphere conducive to learning. 

14.  He is supportive to parents.

15.  Dr. Edmondson has high expectations and the kids are rising to meet them.  The building has structure and order, yet a comfortable family vibe. 

16.  Dr. Edmondson has brought a new energy to Scarlett.  He is visible, accessible and energetic.  He supports trying new ideas.  He is optimistic.  He leads by example. 

17.   One area that I know a lot of people are happy with is the "zero" tolerance for bullying that seems to exist. 

     In summary, these nominations have been collected from a diverse sample of Scarlett students, parents and staff.  They give vivid examples of the many reasons why Scarlett Middle School Principal, Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, deserves recognition for his many accomplishments.


Brenda Garr, Math Teacher at Huron High School - March 26, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Diana Adzemovic

There are few words that can adequately describe Mrs. Brenda Garr; she is from the breed of teachers that is all but extinct.   For example:
 
1. She changes her tests every year, so that tests are not passed on from year to year and create an unfair advantage for those kids that "have" tests vs. those that "do not have" them, sometimes changing those tests during the course of the day, so that the 1st hour and 5th hour kids do not pass information to each other.  This creates an enormous amount of work for her, but enormous amount of work for her is a source of joy;
 
2. If kids need help with her class, she stays after school as long as she is needed and as long as there is still an un-answered question from EVERY single kid that is waiting.  She teaches the same way; everybody needs to "get it" or she will not move on.
 
3. Since she teaches advanced math, she rolls her chair around kids, so that she does not appear that she is above them, thus making this very difficult subject seem accessible.
 
4. She is very strict and very picky in grading, but I have never heard my daughter nor any of her friends complain about it.
 
5. She is quite tough in maintaining her high standards, but at the same time nurtures kids and never puts them down.  Quite the contrary, she builds their self-esteem (especially for young girls) and makes them feel good about themselves.
 
6. Her enthusiasm for math is contagious; she comes into the class excited about the new stuff that she will be teaching and leaves excited about having conveyed her knowledge.
 
Mrs. Garr is truly one of a kind and I know this because, unfortunately, there are many teachers around her who know their subjects, but do not TEACH, and most importantly put our kids down, lower their self esteem and make them feel worthless.  This is especially troubling for young girls and the overall belief that math is not their subject.
 
Fortunately, thanks to Brenda Garr, there will be many successful women mathematicians and engineers that will come from her classes.

We feel honored that she taught our daughter for two years. 


Debita Graham, School Nurse at Lawton, Burns Park, Tappan Middle School, Community High School (and others) - March 26, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Eileen Hoekstra & Ragan Dahle, with additional comments from Burns Park Principal Kathy Morhous, and Dean Peter Ways

I am pleased to nominate Mrs. Debita Graham, School Nurse at Lawton Elementary, for the Celebration of Excellence Award for Customer Service.  Mrs. Graham has been a continuing and strong advocate for children’s health and safety at school.  She has made a world of difference to the peace of mind of our family, and doubtlessly many others, especially for parents of children with food allergies.  For some of these parents, sending their kids to school is a scary endeavor, but after working with Mrs. Graham, many of those concerns have been able to be addressed.  She has made herself available, often at the last minute, to provide training to staff, substitutes, summer camp staff, and even classmates.  This is no surprise because Mrs. Graham has always been willing to meet with parents, listen, work together, and make adjustments to plans.  And even with responsibilities that spread her among many schools, she always manages to be responsive to your individual needs, which also benefit other students.  She is thorough, calm, compassionate, and is both professional and friendly with both the big and little people she deals with.  With sincere appreciation for all she does, I wish Mrs. Graham to be recognized for the difference she makes in many students’ and parents’ daily lives.

Comments by Regan Dahle:
Mrs. Graham has been a true innovator in managing food allergies in our elementary school.  My daughter has life-threatening allergies, and Mrs. Graham has taken extra time and effort to devise creative solutions that make it possible for my daughter to participate as safely as possible in all school activities.  Not only has Mrs. Graham done a wonderful job in managing the practical aspects of food allergies, but she has provided much needed emotional support to us as we struggled to integrate my daughter safely into school.   I cannot think of a more befitting recipient for the innovation award.

Comments by Kathy Morhous, Principal @ Burns Park:
Debita is always friendly, positive, and genuinely cares for others.  She never fails to notice the best in everyone and everything.  She models the benefits of thinking optimistically for all of us everyday.  No matter how busy Debita is I have never heard her complain or protest about anything.
 
Debita was instrumental in helping us get through the “measles breakout” in October.  Since our secretary had been out due to an injury, our office was behind in accounting for all the new student immunization records.  Debita stepped in and went through every file to make sure all immunizations were accurate and accounted for.  She did this before I even had the chance to think about it.  I know that she personally stayed at work late, arrived early and called families from her home in the evening.
 
Throughout this whole investigative process, Debita served as the messenger between the Public Health Department, the school and the families of the students involved.  She worked many overtime hours to make sure all questions were answered and families felt heard.  But most importantly, she did it all without a hint of criticism, when many around her were engaging in much of it.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times she said, “Is there anything I can do to help?” or “Can I do that for you?”  She offered help even when she already had plenty on her plate.  I found myself asking Debita what I could do to help her.
 
This is but one example of the many ways Debita goes out of her way to help.  There are so many other ways (e.g. allergy protocols, locating sources for free or reduced medical care) that she supports our students and families.  We at Burns Park consider ourselves very fortunate to have Debita serve as our school nurse. 

Comments by Peter Ways, Dean @ Community:
Debita serves multiple schools but is always there when we need her.  She is more than consciencious.  She absolutely keeps the best interests of students in mind and helps the rest of us do right by students.  She is truly an example of excellence for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.


Julie Johnson, Technical Specialist at Bach Elementary - May 28, 2008

Nominated for oustanding customer service by the Bach staff

The staff at Bach Elementary would like to nominate Tech Specialist Julie Johnson for Celebration of Excellence for her unending dedication to the students and teachers through the technological workings of our school.  Mrs. Johnson is the consummate professional in all situations.  She prioritizes tasks in a way that always puts student learning first.  Julie even spends her own time making curriculum available on lap top computers for use of children with special needs or children who are not proficient with English.  Not only is Julie a very knowledgeable tech, she always takes a minute to check in with teachers just to be sure everything is working well.  She is as friendly and helpful in the hallway for quick “Help me!” situations as she is for scheduled or formally requested assistance.  Mrs. Johnson puts teachers’ needs high as evidenced specifically by her dedication the afternoon of Dec. 21, the day before winter vacation.  Knowing a teacher would be travelling out of town that evening for vacation, Julie Johnson completed this teacher’s computer update throughout that Friday afternoon and then hand-delivered it to the teacher’s house out of town after school hours.  This was certainly above and beyond the call of duty and much appreciated!  Mrs. Johnson is a jewel in Ann Arbor’s crown.  We want to formally acknowledge this often unsung hero in our hallways.


Karen Jones, Teacher Assistant at Dicken Elementary - February 20, 2008

Nominated for oustanding customer service by Melissa Eljamal

Typically, teachers are the most frequently nominated people for this prestigious award. They are up in front of the classroom, every day, in the spotlight, wowwing both children and parents with their innovative style, their genuine care and concern. But there are other people who also make a difference in a quiet, steadfast, and sure way, without all the fanfare. This is exactly how Karen Jones makes a daily difference in my son’s life. Karen not only assists in helping my son Khalil (and others in the classroom) learn grade-level content. She also helps my son learn to lead an active, healthy, and responsible life with Type I diabetes. 

Karen had originally taken on the role of lunchroom coordinator at Dicken in order to play an active role in her children’s elementary school.  Little did she know that she would rise to an even greater role in the fall of 2004, when school administrators were searching high and low for a creative way to meet the health needs of my son, Khalil, who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of three.  Although we had successfully transitioned my son to an insulin pump in an effort to avoid having to give insulin injections by syringe at school, he was nowhere near capable of maintaining his diabetes on his own and had little awareness of the signals his body was sending when his health was endangered.

During the harrowing first two weeks of school in 2004, I attended kindergarten with my son as multiple staff members were approached to take on the job of providing the care for my son. Then, a miracle of sorts occurred and Karen Jones stepped to the plate and offered to be Khalil’s assistant  in the classroom. Because of her own personal connection to diabetes (she took care of a family member also plagued with this disease), she felt that she was capable of taking on the task of caring for my son.

In the past three years, Karen has ensured that Khalil’s days at school are productive and positive learning experiences that are above all healthy. Karen’s responsibilities include ensuring Khalil tests his blood sugar regularly and gives himself the proper medication to correct high blood sugar and food intake. She expertly follows our prescribed guidelines regarding how to manage classroom parties, gym, and recess, which might otherwise be a nightmare for a diabetic. But most of all, she is helping Khalil learn how to independently manage his diabetes. Every year we meet to discuss how Khalil can achieve age-appropriate milestones for mastering the art of caring for himself in an responsible manner. Karen performs these duties with the utmost care, and professionalism, continuously exuding calm assurance, even in past emergencies as a disconnected insulin pump, malfunctioning blood sugar monitors, and unexplained high blood sugars. She exercises excellent judgment and  communicates daily with us, ensuring that my son often has better blood sugar levels at school than at home!

In this day and age when school nurses must provide care to 4-5 schools per week, spending only ? day per school, Karen has become the go-to person related to the urgent health care scenarios that would otherwise have been addressed by a nurse. This is no small task, as Karen had three diabetics under her care at Dicken last year! When Karen realized the huge potential for one of her diabetics to forget their blood sugar testing equipment at home, she inquired with a manufacturer of blood sugar monitors to donate one to the school as an emergency monitor with which any of the children could test.

As I connect with other parents of Ann Arbor elementary school diabetics, I have come to appreciate the good fortune to be sending my son to Dicken. Not only is he obtaining an excellent elementary school education, but he is able to experience school as an otherwise normal school child. And we, the parents of Khalil, have the peace of mind that Khalil is not only safe, but is learning to become a responsible manager of his diabetes. Karen Jones is Khalil’s guardian angel  and we are forever indebted to her thoughtful service to our son.


Edward Kudla, Special Education Math Teacher at Slauson Middle School - November 28, 2007

Nominated for oustanding customer service by Alex Carmein

I remember when I was a little 7th grader and I didn’t know a thing about math. Then a person named Mr. Kudla stepped into my life and changed my math experiance forever.

I thought learning math in 7th grade was just going to be hard like in the rest of my past grades, but since I had a great teacher like Mr. Kudla Math, was just a snap for me. Mr. Kudla really understood how my brain worked and why math was so challenging for me. If it weren't for him I’d probably be failing at math right now, but because I had such a wonderful teacher I am not failing. Every day when I stepped into his class we’d start with something called The Mad Minute which really helped me with my multiplication facts. On Fridays whoever won The Mad Minute would win 50 cents in change. I won most of them that year. After The Mad Minute we’d usually do work in The Pink Book mostly on fractions and money.

 Every day I would greet Mr. Kudla and do my assignment. Even though I got frustrated at times Mr. Kudla really knew how to handle my situation. Thanks to The Pink Book I increased my knowledge on fractions. By the end of that year. I was sad because I thought Mr. Kudla wasn't going to be my math teacher anymore I was really going to miss him. Surprisingly, when 8th grade started I had Mr. Kulda as a math teacher again!! I was so happy that we would be together for a second year. I would learn more about math that I need to know to succeed. My 8th grade year with him was almost exactly just like the year before doing The Mad Minute and The Pink Book. In addition he introduced a new book called The Grey Book this one was more challenging than the last one but I managed to get through it.

 By the end of that year I was really sad because I knew for a fact Mr. Kudla was not going to be my teacher anymore. I really admired Mr. Kulda for those two good years. Thanks to him, he helped me get out of the darkness of math and hating it to stepping into the light of math and helping me like it. Mr. Kudla is the best math teacher I ever had. He really cared for me and really wanted me to be sucessful which I am know. Math is so easy for me thanks to him. As I move on though the years, I will always remember Mr. Kulda and how we had two such geat years together. I will always have a special place for Mr Kulda in my memories. After all he is my number 1 teacher and he always will be. I will never forget him.


Chris Mark, Orchestra Director at Huron High School - January 23, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by parents Thompson, Hayden, Fleischer, Burchsbaum, Tiexeira, Stefko-Bryant and O'Brien

We are nominating Chris Mark, Director of Orchestras at Huron High School, for an Award of Excellence for Customer Service.  We want to thank Mr. Mark for inspiring our students with a deep and lasting love for music, for nurturing students at all levels and abilities, and for organizing extracurricular activities to enrich the lives of his students.

Mr. Mark has inspired our children and countless others to love and create music for now and forever! He has a magical touch in selecting interesting, challenging orchestral works that students love to play and are willing to perfect. He then gets in professional conductors like Constantine Kitsopoulos to work with the orchestra and take it to a higher level. Students who graduate from Mr. Mark's orchestras often maintain both their strong musical interests and their ties to Mr. Mark.  A Huron student recently started the Annual Alumni Concert, both to inspire younger students and to honor this alumni connection with Mr. Mark.

Mr. Mark helps and encourages students at all levels and abilities. The number of orchestras at Huron High School under Mr. Mark's direction has grown from two to three.  Mr. Mark additionally supports students who want a deeper musical experience.  Recent concerts have included performances of original student compositions, performances of student-led ensembles, and conducting by student conductors. Mr. Mark has very generously given up his free time to give lessons and advice to these students and groups. For example, he greatly encouraged the student-led Celtic Music Club by getting in a “hot” folk group, Time for Three, to interact with the students and to inspire them to further achievement!

Mr. Mark has additionally initiated extracurricular activities such as an orchestra camp and travel to enrich the musical lives of his students.  The orchestra camp in the summer has been a great activity to build “team” spirit and learn important musical skills.   Thanks, Mr. Mark, for all you do for our children!

Other comments:
Mr. Mark makes orchestra feel like a community, a safe place for kids to learn and grow and be with others who feel their passion.
Mr. Mark devotes himself to offering unprecedented opportunites for kids.
Mr. Mark creates excellence
Mr. Mark makes orchestra cool.


Sean McBrady, Teacher at Scarlett Middle School - November 28, 2007

Nominated for oustanding customer service by Pamela and James Morris

 I would be honored to nominate Mr. Sean McBrady for the Celebration of Excellence Award. Last year my son came to Scarlett as a 6th grader and the first of our children to attend public school. I was extremely nervous at first, until I met Mr. McBrady. He was very open and welcoming to both my son and myself. Through the year we maintained contact on a regular basis keeping me updated on concerns and offering encouragement. He let me know when my son had forgotten his manners when addressing an adult and complimented my ability as parent when my son volunteered to bring ice cream to the whole class. Although my son doesn’t have Mr. McBrady as a teacher this year, he still continues to support and encourage him. My son once told me that Mr. McBrady is not only a cool teacher, but also a friend. As our children grow I find that, many times, it is very hard to let them go, with caring teachers like Mr. McBrady around for our children to call friends, I know that I can relax, maybe just a little.


Lisa Miller, Teacher at Dicken Elementary - May 28, 2008

Nominated for oustanding customer service by Kari Schmidt

I nominate two teachers, Lisa Miller and Wanda Brann for the Celebration of Excellence award under the customer service category.  They team teach 5th grade at Dicken Elementary. My son, Alex is in Mrs. Miller’s homeroom.  He spends half a day with each teacher.  I’m sure it is probably unusual to nominate two teachers at once.  Please consider the exception as these teachers exemplify the meaning of “team” teaching.

These two teachers demonstrate dedication like no other.  Alex is serviced through special education with an IEP.  It has amazed me how on top of his IEP they were from day one.  I didn’t have to provide a copy of his IEP to explain my child to them ahead of time and have never felt the need to check on IEP compliance.  They knew my child before he arrived the first day and were ready to meet his needs.  And that’s what they have done.  They have met his needs and then some.  Alex has achieved more academic success than I ever thought possible.  He feels a huge sense of pride in his accomplishments and enjoys going to school each day.  I see him smiling again! This has been a real gift given to him and to our family. Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Brann have made Alex’s year phenomenal, his best year ever, in all areas of his development.  

They normalized the classroom, allowing him to be just like any other student. Interventions that helped Alex were used with the whole class and made Alex feel like any other student.  Their classroom management is impeccable.  They have mastered the art of helping each student learn his/her way in a calm and quiet setting.  The focus has been on reinforcement of positive behavior and respect for everyone.  They have gone over and above adding additional learning experiences to the already extensive curriculum to work on things like bullying, respecting others, character development and conflict resolution.

Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Brann have provided optimal open communication between home and school.  I’ve always been welcome before or after school.  We email and periodically one of them will call to make sure we are all on the same page.  Recently Mrs. Miller called in the evening to check on Alex after a difficult social experience during the day.  She wanted to make sure he was ok.  He felt so special!  As a mother, I feel so blessed to have someone at school that truly cares about my child.  As we approach middle school next year, we are looking at options for placement that will provide that best learning environment for him academically and socially.  Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Brann have spent time talking about those options and have discussed with me their thoughts.  I thought I’d have to make that difficult decision on my own, but instead we are working together as a team working toward placing him in the best environment.  Open communication has really allowed Alex to be supported as a whole, in the environments where he spends most of his time.

Most of all, they love my child.  They see all the wonderful gifts in him that I do.  They emphasize his positives every day and support his struggles in a way he can feel good about.  Alex has gone from getting sick to his stomach before school and suffering from regular headaches due to increased anxiety to a happy, joyful boy who is excelling academically.  I can’t thank these two teachers enough for their dedication and excellence in teaching.  They truly go over and above a typical teacher in meeting each child’s needs.  This is what teaching excellence is all about!  Please consider these two wonderful team teachers as well deserving recipients of your Celebration of Excellence award.


Stephanie Ruzicka, Counselor at Huron High School - February 20, 2008

Nominated for oustanding customer service by the Toner family

Ms. Ruzicka has been incredibly helpful to us at Huron.  She responds to e-mails and phone calls promptly, often within hours (even on weekends!!), and she has gone above and beyond in numerous ways to help our son at Huron.  She has gone to bat for him, supported all of his efforts to challenge himself and achieve his best, and is always ready to help.  We cannot thank her enough for the difference she has made in his high school experience.

She is truly a remarkable counselor.  In every situation in which any of us has asked for her help or advice, she has always responded immediately (yes, to my amazement even e-mailing us on weekends!).  She has helped our son adjust to Huron, and always given him good solid advice and encouragement. She is also wonderful at coming up with creative solutions to scheduling dilemmas. 

We've been particularly impressed with the way in which she combines realistic advice with encouragement to our son to take on challenges.   In one situation in which he set an ambitious goal for himself, she credited him for his willingness to work so hard, and advocated for him long after others might have given up.  It meant a tremendous amount to us and to him that she supported him in his initiative and effort.  It is truly amazing how thoroughly responsive she is to students at an individual level.  She is completely dedicated to putting the students first, and understands what it means to serve her school community. 

In our son's words, "Ms. Ruzicka is amazing and awesome"!


Ellen Sapper, Teacher at Pioneer High School - January 23, 2008

Nominated for oustanding customer service by the Tuchman family

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, which I now attend. 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.


Nancy Schleicher, Counselor at Scarlett Middle School - February 20, 2008

Nominted for outstanding customer service by Debbie Harris and the Steiff family

Mrs. Schleicher has made the transition to middle school absolutely wonderful, not only for my own son, but all the new 6th graders!  She is always available, helpful and sincerely cares about her students and their education.  She assisted us early on in a situation and I was extremely impressed with her dilligence and support.  She is an outstanding staff member and deserves to be recognized for her compassion, attentiveness and support. 

My first contact with her came during the first week of school - I noticed right away that my son was having problems with the change to middle school and with getting organized.  He has a history of a processing delay and had received speech therapy services through 3rd grade for this.  I contacted Nancy and told her William's history, the adjustment problems he was having, and asked if his teachers could be made aware of these things and could any further testing be done for William.  That same day I got a reply from Nancy and she had already met with each one of his teachers individually, she had met with the Speech Therapist and had arranged a meeting for me to come in and set up more testing.

The following week I got an email from Nancy asking how everything was going, and she told me that she had followed up with the teachers again, and was there anything more she could do for William.  Since that time we have had regular conversations, she has called me several times just to check on William, she keeps me updated on his grades and shows a personal interest in not just him, but all her 6th grade students.

We had an incident in one of William's classes where the teacher was not receptive to the additional help William needed and Nancy immediately transfered William out of that class and placed him with a teacher who has been excellent in understanding William's challenges. I have personally seen her assist other families in the same attentive manner and her genuine concern for the students is always evident.  She is a tremendous assest to Ann Arbor Public Schools.  I don't know where my son would be right now if not for Nancy - even with his challenges in the classroom, he has made the Honor Roll, and this is definitely a result of Nancy getting him the additional help he needed and her ongoing communication with his teachers, the speech therapist, teacher consultant, and myself.

Comments from the Steiff family:
Mrs. Schleicher has been extraordinarily available and helpful to my son, my husband, and me throughout my son's introduction to middle school.

In the months since then, Mrs. Schleicher has continued to distinguish herself in her concern, communication, and helpfulness.  Throughout the fall she checked in with several short but friendly emails, for example, to see what was wrong when my son had been absent for several days, to let me know about something positive that had happened with my son at school, or to congratulate us on an excellent first report card.  It meant a great deal to know that someone on staff knew my son personally, cared about him, and was keeping an eye on his progress at school.

Mrs. Schleicher not only reaches out to us, she has continued to be responsive when we reach out to her.  Whenever I have any questions, I feel comfortable contacting Mrs. Schleicher.  She returns my calls and emails quickly, listens to my concerns, and responds empathically and constructively.


Kris Taveggia, Teacher at Wines Elementary - May 28, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Deb & Joel Buffington

Until this current year, Kris was the TC at Wines Elementary School.  This fall, when the position of fourth grade teacher opened up she made the decision to come back to the classroom.  I am so very thankful that she did.  In third grade, our son struggled with attention issues in school, so much so that he often sat just daydreaming rather than doing his class assignments.  He would bring home several hours of homework most nights.  At the beginning of this year, I discussed this with Kris and she came up with several insightful mechanisms to help keep him more attentive.  She suggested having him bring a fabric he could move around in his hands for a tactile type action.  She had already noticed he had to keep his hands moving all the time.  She pays attention to where he is at in his class work, often staying in with him over portions of recess or specials class.  She really boosts his confidence on the areas he is very good at and has taken the extra time to work with him in the areas he has difficulties.  Kris has stayed after school, given up free time, met with us, completed outside assessments for and had teleconferences with a psychologist 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 needs to become a better student.  She has shown a genuine desire to help our son to be the best he can be and has never given up no matter how frustrating it is.  Kris makes herself available to us after school and into the evenings.  She very patiently goes over his day with me, detailing his behavior, his positive actions and his problem areas.  Our son was recently diagnosed with ADD by a neuropsychologist.  Kris has spent several hours with me discussing the various options, reviewing our sonÕs extensive report from the neuropsychologist before meeting with me and then going over the results with me.  She gave us a perspective about the different meds and some suggestions on how to discuss these options with our son.

As a teacher, Kris 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 and are so very thankful to have had the good fortune to have had her teach our son this year.


Amy Whiting, #144 Bus Driver - November 28, 2007

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Jude Fardig

Amy noticed that my son was still at the bus stop after she pulled through the stop at Abbot on 10/11/07. She swung back around to pick him up thinking he had missed his bus. Ben had just called me to ask me to meet him there with his coat.  Amy arrived before I did so when Ben did not get on the bus, she swung back around to check on him. Ben told her I was bringing his coat and that I would drive him to school. She continued on her way with her lucky busload of students to Forsythe. It is nice to know that Amy takes such good care of all of our kids every day while we go off to work.  I thought everyone should know what a good job she does! Thanks Amy!


John Zervogiannis, Custodian at Huron High School - May 28, 2008

Nominated for outstanding customer service by Michelle Michiele and Brigitte Romero

This letter is to nominate Clague Middle School Head Custodian Mr. John Zervogiannis for an AAPS Excellence Award.  As Head Custodian, “Mr. Z” does an excellent job organizing people and resources to keep our school in tip-top shape!  His work ethic and professional demeanor are commendable.  Mr. Z is cheerful in his communications with students, staff, parents and community members using the facility.  Mr. Z often goes above and beyond the call of duty to serve the school community.  On behalf of the Clague PTSO, we invite the Board Of Education to join us in expressing our thanks to Mr. Z for taking pride in his work.  Over the years, his daily efforts in our school help provide for an excellent education for our children. 

Mr. Z brainstorms with PTSO leaders on how to improve the building atmosphere.

Mr. Z is proactive during registration, the pancake dinner and other events to assist parents, students, staff and community members.

I have had the opportunity, for the last three years, to work closely with Mr. Z in the organization of several large events at Clague, events that require detailed advanced planning. Not only has he always been ready and on time with the list of tasks that had been assigned to him, but he has always made himself available during these events to make sure that they ran smoothly. His efficiency in returning the facility in clean and organized shape after each event has been very much appreciated.
 
Mr. Z takes a lot of pride in his work and in maintaining the building in the best of shape and his active dedication is well known in the Clague community.