2008-09 Celebration of Excellence Award Winners


Peggy Connors, Lunchroom Supervisor at Slauson - January 21, 2009

Nominated for outstanding customer service by students Blaire Patterson, Grace Crowe, Soroya Binetti, Brice Brown

Mrs. Peggy Connors is our lunchroom supervisor.  She opens up for breakfast; helps in the media center every morning and then goes down for lunch.  Mrs. Connors has worked at Slauson as a volunteer and in a paid position for at least 15 years.

Mrs. Connors is really nice and very sweet, yet she is very strong and keeps order in the breakfast and lunchroom.  She  makes sure that if students don't have anything to eat, they get something.  She is always there if you have a problem.  You can talk to her and she'll help you with suggestions.  Mrs. Connors is also very helpful in the media center.  She knows how to find things for research papers and she is always willing to help individuals and classes.  She is especially helpful if there is a substitute for our media specialist.

Mrs. Connors can be really strict if she needs to be but she also understands what is going on with students.  If she sees a problem, she doesn't wait until it escalates.  She cuts it off before it can become a major concern.  She is not afraid to wade into the middle when she sees students need help doing the right thing.  Mrs. Connors is very quiet.  She never yells.  She handles situations calmly and doesn't let anger get in the way.

Mrs. Connors is the person that all of the new lunchroom supervisors look to for training and guidance.  She helps them learn the ropes and helps them to become effective supervisors working with students.

Mrs. Connors is committed to Slauson and all of the students and staff members.  She really cares and we are better for knowing her!

Cindy Johengen, Teacher at Allen Elementary - February 18, 2009

Nominated for outstanding customer service by parents Shawn and Mark Ricoy

When anyone asks our son, Ian, what he likes best about school this year, he immediately says “my teacher”. We have never witnessed a more inspiring or devoted teacher as Cindy Johengen.  We have always been pleased and impressed with our sons' teachers at Allen over the years.  But this year, Ms. J has blown us away.  Within minutes of her presentation at Curriculum Night, we knew she would be an amazing influence on our son and all her students.  Cindy's desire to raise up every student to his/her potential is abundantly evident.  Her devotion to achieving that potential is unconditional and endless.  When our son has needed extra motivation or direction, she is always there to engage and inspire him.  Not only does she gives her time and attention to him in class, she gives her time to us, his parents, in meetings before school hours, through emails at all times of the day and night, and by phone.  I'll paraphrase one of her comments that demonstrates her devotion, words which brought me to tears: “When Ian needs me, and I am stretched thin, I remember the “Mom”; in me, and I remember you, his mom, and what we both want for our son and student.”  I believe Cindy Johengen's devotion and inspiration will have long-lasting and profound effects on our son.  She has already profoundly impressed us, his grateful parents.



Andrew Sargent, Teacher at Allen Elementary - March 25, 2009

Nominated for outstanding customer service by parent Monica Reich

My son, Jacob, attended preschool at Allen Elementary and had some fairly significant issues with sensory integration and playing well together with other children. Even though Jacob was supposed to attend Lakewood Elementary, I applied for him to stay at Allen to help his transition into kindergarten. When I learned that Mr. Sargent would be Jacob’s kindergarten teacher, I was nervous and somewhat apprehensive about how Jacob would react to having a male, first-year teacher. Mr. Sargent has more than proven my initial apprehensions as irrelevant, and has exceeded expectations I would have had even for a more senior teacher.

Mr. Sargent was originally assigned to teach another grade at a different school and was informed of his new assignment as a kindergarten teacher at Allen only about one week before school started. He quickly adapted and embraced the new challenge. I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering on Wednesday’s in Mr. Sargent’s class since October 2008, and I’ve been amazed at how well he handles the classroom. He has set up wonderful procedures and guidelines that help the students transition easily through their day. Mr. Sargent is consistent and firm but fair, and he is always respectful in his interactions with the students, parents, and other Allen staff. Whenever students say, “I can’t,” or, “This is too hard,” Mr. Sargent always encourages them to work through their challenges and helps them find a way to see that they really can do it.

It is hard to believe that Jacob had so many issues in preschool just one year ago, and I am positive that a significant reason for Jacob’s growth and improvement has been the guidance and care that Mr. Sargent shows for his students. Please consider this exceptional teacher as a recipient for a Celebration of Excellence Award.



Kelly Kellar, Teacher at Scarlett Middle School - March 25, 2009

Nominated for outstanding customer service by parents Eric & Debbie Harris and Kim Woods

Comments from Eric & Debbie Harris

My son is a 7th grade student at Scarlett.  In the first month of his 6th grade year I contacted the counselor who put me in touch with Ms. Kellar.  Ms. Kellar immediately went through William's previous school records which included speech services, and scheduled testing and a date for an IEP for my son. She was in contact with me through the entire process and immediately eased my concerns.  Her relationships with all her students and parents is passionate and committed. She has contacted me in the evenings to follow up with an issue or to just check in on how William was doing. She maintains regular contact and has always gone above any job expectations.  Any concern that comes up, she is on it immediately and I trust her judgment immensely. She has implemented a Friday sheet for her students to keep parents informed of assignments completed or missing and all tests or upcoming assignments.  I am always amazed at the individual attention she gives to each student, especially knowing the large number of students she has.  Ms Kellar has made herself available many times after school to help with an upcoming assignment or to prepare for a test. She always knows exactly where each student stands with their grades and assignments. She is a tremendous asset to AAPS and I believe strongly she is well deserving of this award.  I can honestly say if not for her assistance and attention to my son, I don't know if we would have stayed at Scarlett for his middle school years. She not only takes the time to teach the academic lessons, she teaches valuable life lessons to her students (timelines, responsibility, honesty, and self respect). She is an amazing educator!!

Comments from Kim Woods

My son is a 7th grader at Scarlett Middle School.  He has had Kelly Kellar as his Teacher Consultant for 2 years.  Kelly is a wonderful asset to your team.
     When Justin first started at Scarlett, he had quite an adjustment to middle school.  At times it wasn't easy.  At times it was just down right hard.  I was beginning to think maybe Scarlett wasn't the learning place for him.  The very first time I met Kelly she told me that if I had any problems with Justin at Scarlett about anything ? his classes, his homework, teachers, anything ? I should talk to her first and she would help me out.  So I went and spoke with her about Justin's adjustment to middle school. She agreed that it appeared to be taking a little longer than usual for him to adjust but asked that I give her a little bit more time to work with him. She figured out what made him tick, learned his personality and worked with him. She didn't give up on him at all. She took a young man who hated middle school in September and turned him into someone who couldn't wait to get back to school after a holiday break! She is truly amazing!  
    When we have nights where homework is not going as I feel it should, I shoot Kelly an e-mail explaining the situation and the steps we've taken at home and she picks up the next morning where I left off the night before. She truly has my back so to speak.  My perception is that I have always tried to “team” with Justin's teachers and support staff to do what is best for Justin.  But I have to say, that I don't think I've ever met anyone who teams with a student and their family better than Kelly Kellar does. She takes it to a whole new level! She's always caring, supportive and positive of Justin no matter what the situation.
    One thing that I'm trying to get my children to do is advocate for themselves especially when it comes to their education.  At a meeting with Kelly, I saw Justin do that very thing.  We were meeting with her regarding class choices.  If Justin didn't understand something, he asked her for an explanation, thought about what she said and then gave his thoughts and feelings about the situation.  As a parent, it was wonderful to observe this type of discussion between Justin and Kelly. She listens to him and he knows that she'll listen to him.  That's huge for a child to feel that they can be open and honest with a person in authority and know that that person is truly hearing what they are saying.  He also knows that she is going to be open and honest with him. She calls things like she sees them and he knows that.  But it's that honesty that makes Kelly so special. She has the ability to get him to reevaluate his own actions/thoughts/words and then do the right thing.
    Justin says “She's a great teacher and helper because she writes assignments and tests on the board to help students out” in being more organized and responsible for their work.  “She also takes the time to help a student out if they need help when taking a test.”
    Kelly has recently implemented a system to let parents know the weekly status of their children's homework/assignments. She looks at a system, evaluates what's working, what's not and modifies it to benefit her students and keep their parents up-to-date.  
    Kelly is always up beat and positive!  Her sense of humor, honesty and willingness to tackle any situation (good or bad) is what makes Kelly so special! She is truly an asset to Ann Arbor Public Schools and to the families she serves! She is well deserving of this award!


Mary Brinker, Teacher Assistant at Skyline High School - April 22, 2009

Nominated for outstanding customer service by co-worker Sean McBrady

I'd like to nominate Skyline Teacher Assistant Mary Brinker for the Celebration of Excellence Award for Customer Service. Mary is new to Skyline this trimester and has had an immediate impact on our staff and students.  In my World History and Geography class, she has become an essential component. She assists ALL students (and me!) in countless ways and is invaluable when working with small groups or with students one on one both in and out of the classroom. Mary is friendly, hard working, and has brought a positive attitude and energy to our class. She is an excellent educator and deserves to be celebrated.



Kelly Cheladyn, Teacher at Pattengill Elementary - April 22, 2009

Nominated for outstanding customer service and innovation by parent Carter Malcolm

My daughter was a student in Kelly Cheladyn’s 3rd grade class at Pattengill.  Third grade was a year of significant growth for my daughter and Mrs. Cheladyn created a classroom environment that enabled my daughter to make great strides not only in her core academic skills, but in her confidence socially as well.  

My most difficult decision when considering the Celebration of Excellence nomination was not if I should nominate Kelly Cheladyn for an award, but for which award, Customer Service or Innovation, I should nominate her.  Because of the wonderful experience my daughter had in Kelly Cheladyn’s classroom, I have nominated her for a Customer Service award; however, many of the things done by Mrs. Cheladyn that contributed to my high level of customer satisfaction could also justify an award for Innovation.  Some examples of the many innovative classroom activities that Mrs. Cheladyn used are:
* Ferris the Frog -  Students took a Webkinz (Ferris) home for a week, used the website and recorded his activities in a diary.
* Enough Club - The class raised $122 toward building schools in Africa.
* Super Worker - A student is rewarded for an exemplary job by becoming the Super Worker of the Week.  As part of the reward, Mrs. Cheladyn and the student called a person of the studentÕs choice (parent, etc.) to announce the award.
* The Chalkboard - Mrs. Cheladyn’s weekly communication letter to the parents.
* Proud Books - Students assembled a collection of classroom work that they completed during the year of which they are particularly proud.
* Treasure Box -  Students were recognized for good behavior and got to choose a reward.
* Featured Person of the Week - One student filled in a laminated sheet (information and pictures) each week to guide “show and tell” about him/herself.
* Cleanest Nametag on Desk - Students were rewarded for cleanliness by getting a soda in the teacher’s lounge.
“I Am Beautiful” pledge - Start to the morning pledge to promote self esteem

A general theme of Kelly Cheladyn’s teaching style and the classroom environment that she created is of positive reinforcement.  The emphasis on recognizing and rewarding the good things that are done each day helped create an environment in which my daughter could excel.  The classroom activity examples that I chose to include in this nomination highlight some of the innovative, positive reinforcements that exist in Mrs. Cheladyn’s classroom.

Another contributing factor to my high level of satisfaction was Kelly Cheladyn’s ability to be innovative in creating a healthy, challenging environment for my daughter’s skill set.  One of the ongoing challenges for a teacher is to make sure that they are providing an equal opportunity for all of their students to learn.  This can be difficult when a classroom has a broad spectrum of ability levels.  My daughter reads at a high level and didnÕt have a reading partner at her level in her classroom.  Mrs. Cheladyn made sure that my daughter participated in a reading group that was challenging to her and provided her with an opportunity for growth by partnering with another teacher, Sue Beech, who also had a student reading at a high level.  Mrs. Cheladyn and Ms. Beech alternated hosting the reading group.  The result was an opportunity for my daughter and the other student to continue to develop a skill for which they were already demonstrating a high level of aptitude.  

In this nomination, I’ve mentioned many things that I believe make Kelly Cheladyn an outstanding teacher, her classroom environment one of innovation and healthy learning, and my feelings of “customer satisfaction” extremely high.  Nothing, however, makes as strong a statement for me as watching my daughter’s confidence and intelligence grow tremendously during her year in Kelly CheladynÕs classroom.  This could be easily seen each day as I received a broad smile and vigorous nod from her when I asked if she had enjoyed her day at Pattengill.  

Please recognize Kelly Cheladyn’s outstanding performance as a teacher with either a Customer Service award, an Innovation award, or if I were to choose, both a Customer Service and an Innovation award.  



Terry Vogel, Teacher at Huron High School - May 13, 2009

Nominated for innovation by parent David Potter

Mr. Vogel has been recognized as a stellar Latin teacher outside of the Huron community (he was recognized by the University of Michigan as the best Latin teacher in the state a number of years ago), and it is fitting that he be recognized within the community.  He is a superb teacher, constantly looking for new ways to make the vagaries of Latin syntax comprehensible to his students ensuring that they both enjoy their time in the classroom, and actually master the material.  Many of his students have gone on to thrive in Classics and related areas at the University of Michigan, and to a person the speak of his classes as moments when their academic futures were shaped.  I have seen the same in our daughter, whose praises not only his ability the enliven the day, but his classroom as a haven of support within the school.  

Although this award falls under the heading of innovation, as Mr. Vogel has constantly updates and refreshed his teaching, it could equally fall under the heading of customer service for the warmth and support his offers his students.



Marci Harris, Teacher at Slauson Middle School - May 13, 2009

Nominated for customer service by parent/student Amy and Joe Osinski

Marci Harris, or “Madame” as she is known among Slauson students, is a teacher extraordinaire!  Year in and year out she continues to enlighten, encourage and engage middle school students in her French class.  My son, Joe, has been in Ms. Harris' class for 3 years, which is quite a commitment for a young teen.  The energy with which Ms. Harris teaches rivals that of a middle schooler.  She makes learning a language fun and interesting by making it relatable and relevant to kids - teaching beyond the textbook:  cooking crepes in the classroom, classroom skits,  ordering off a menu in a French restaurant.  She also organized her 9th class trip to Quebec which was an amazing opportunity for Joe to be surrounded by the language.  Best of all, she knows my son and lets me know the good things -- not just the bad.   She is always positive and down to earth and we will miss her dearly.

I am proud to say that Joe will be taking French II as a Freshman at Pioneer next year as a result of the outstanding experience he has had with Ms. Harris.  As Joe puts it, “she’s cool and I always have fun in her class.”

She truly is one in a million and deserves recognition as one of the best in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. 



Sheila Garcia, Teacher Assistant and Eberwhite Elementary - May 13, 2009

Nominated for customer service by Eberwhite co-workers

Sheila Garcia is simply the best aide anyone could work with. She helps ALL children in a classroom, seeing needs and stepping up when needed.

   With some struggling readers and spellers, she initiated a “super sentence” club that met daily. With an autistic child who was “math phobic” she'd say to his fearful “OH NO, it's not math time is it?”  Her response- “It's just area and perimeter time!”

    Sheila sees the good in everyone and everything. She not only gives 100% and then some to her job, but she helps others do the same. An example of her desire to go above and beyond was when she took two students to get “concert dress” clothes the night before a big performance. Because of her kindness and desire to reach out, these students were not only able to attend the event (Sheila drove them to school as well), but they felt good about themselves and were able to participate on the same level as their classmates.  

    Sheila has been known to stay late after school, to assist, run copies, or help a teacher get ready for the next day.

    This spring Sheila came in on a day off, and helped a child prepare for the “Mind Fair.” She purchased materials, assisted in finding books, and showed him how to do research necessary for his project.  There is no way to describe his face when he received a blue ribbon for his efforts.  

    Sheila never announces what she does to help children, she just does it. She is highly admired by staff and parents as well. We should all be honored by having such an outstanding colleague!

David Caine, Teacher at Huron High School - May 27, 2009

Nominated for customer service by student/parent William and Michael Liu

Mr. David Caine definitely goes above and beyond when it comes to teaching physics to his students. Both of us, I (William Liu) and my father (Michael Liu) believe this, and we have combined our views as student and parent to give you a comprehensive opinion on why Mr. Caine highly deserves recognition.
In the classroom, Mr. Caine takes the time to accomodate all students. In addition to being a great teacher, he helps make physics interesting for everyone. He also has the funniest stories --which somehow usually end up describing physics equations and concepts (I chuckle just thinking about it). I greatly enjoy being in his class because we actually get to apply what we learn. After solving some velocity and collision equations, I think all my classmates have resolved not to go over the speed limit. (Well, we're still teenagers, but we will definitely be more careful.)
Also, Mr. Caine is always available after school. This is especially important and helpful because learning physics is different for each individual. Many times students need extra help, so they come after school, and Mr. Caine is there to help them. He takes the time with every student to make sure the student understands the subject material. He even gave everyone his home telephone number! In essence, Mr. Caine has made himself available throughout the day, and for that, I think he deserves recognition. It is hard to find great teachers like Mr. Caine.

Gary Graff, Teacher at Scarlett Middle School - May 27, 2009

Nominated for customer service by Scarlett co-workers

Gary Graff is a wonderful and caring teacher. He defies the conventional belief that those that teach for a long time become “burnt out” and inflexible in their instruction.  He successfully includes students with disabilities into his technology elective classes.  He does this in exemplary manner with very high needs students.   He makes sure that all of his students are successful, learning, and proud of their accomplishments.  His classes are always full of engaged students.  

When my self-contained classroom was relocated to Scarlett, Gary approached me about including my kids into his elective class.  I was the one unsure. We did include a few kids last year with high levels of modifications, but Gary did it!!!  This school year, there were too many safety issues. Gary again approached me about involving my students.  He volunteered his preparatory hour to set up a project that my students could do.  I was worried, but the idea more than worked; it was a wonderful success.  My students loved the experience and were so proud.  We plan to do another project shortly.

In addition to this, my classroom moved next door to Gary.  He has been nothing but the best “neighbor.”  He helps us out when needed and always has a friendly greeting for my students and staff.  His appreciation of little things is amazing. His positive spirit is contagious.  

My team would like to recognize him for all he does for staff and students. He is an asset to Scarlett’s community and AAPS.

Mitchell Lawrence, Teacher at Scarlett Middle School - May 27, 2009

Nominated for innovation by community members John Godfrey and Irma Majer

As regular attendees of Concert Night at Hill Auditorium, we have been very interested in following the growth and development of the Scarlett Middle School orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Mitchell Lawrence.  We are so impressed and pleased every year to see that the number of Scarlett musicians has grown to include such a diverse group of talented and enthusiastic performers as the ones we had the pleasure of hearing in February.  We are not part of the Scarlett community, so we do not have a perspective of what goes on in Mr. Lawrence’s class every day to bring about these results.  We recognize from the results, however, the commitment and creativity that Mr. Lawrence brings to his work with Scarlett’s students.  His program and repertoire, that now include electric string instruments, are imaginative and innovative and, at the same time, realistic in that he recognizes that the standard middle school orchestra playlist may not intrigue, motivate and connect with all students.  It is very clear to audience members who have enjoyed Scarlett’s performances in recent years that Mr. Lawrence approaches the challenge of bringing students into the world of ensemble performance as an outstanding educator must:  with empathy and understanding, imagination, and a talent for sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm.  It is for these reasons, and in appreciation for what he and his students achieve, that we nominate him for the district’s Celebration of Excellence Award for innovation.

Doug Julius, Teacher at Pioneer and Huron High Schools - June 10, 2009

Nominated for innovation by parent Jim Walsh

I am writing to nominate Mr. Doug Julius for the 2009 Ann Arbor Public Schools Award for Excellence. Simply put, Doug Julius is one of the finest high school teachers in the land. Let me say a few words about him both as a “paper person” and then as an honest-to-goodness human being.   On paper, he is the quintessential educator. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell University, he went on to earn two graduate degrees from the University of Michigan before entering our high school classrooms. He has taught all levels of Latin over the past eleven years (from Latin 1 to Latin 5AP). He has even taught Ancient Greek. But there is more. Let me just list a few of his other accomplishments in bullet-point fashion. The list is wildly impressive. If students are to be seen as “customers,” then this list exemplifies the best in “customer service.”
¥    He holds Tuesday evening “Latin refreshers” at local bookstores for any and all of his students.
¥    He holds annual picnics at his house for all of his students.
¥    He personally paid for all of his students to take the National Latin Exam in nine of the last eleven years (he obtained funding these past two years from a PTSO grant).
¥    He authored several successful PTSO grants for dictionaries and review grammars in Latin.
¥    He authored a wonderful text entitled Latin Made Simple (Stonesong Press, 2006).
¥    He served as a member of the Latin content advisory panel for Michigan Test for Teacher Certification in Latin (with MDE and Pearson) in May and November, 2007.
¥    He attended a summer program (2008) to bring spoken Latin into the classroom.
¥    He is currently enrolled in Concordia MSEL program in Curriculum Instruction to assist with curricular mapping and alignment in World Languages. He is especially interested in growing Latin from the elementary school level.
¥    Has taught both Introductory and Intermediate Latin in Ann Arbor’s Rec & Ed adult education program.

As impressive as all of these commitments and accomplishments are, they only begin to reveal his qualities as an educator. There is so much more to him that all of this. Let me share our personal experience with him.

My daughter Hannah is now a senior at Pioneer High School. She is a senior enrolled in Latin 5AP. Hannah took Latin for three years in middle school (Emerson School). She entered Pioneer and soon learned that she had a mild learning disability. As a consequence, she decided to begin her high school Latin career by taking Latin 2 instead of Latin 3. Fine.  As a sophomore, she enrolled in Latin 3 and promptly met Doug. She was also promptly in some academic jeopardy. Doug demanded more from her than she has ever experienced. Mix her academic challenges with these high expectations and you have a recipe for trouble. Of course, I met Doug after the first marking period. He listened carefully and with real empathy to her situation. And while he clearly understood the situation, he also knew that Hannah had it in her to reach down and perform at this new -- and higher -- level. He held firm to his aspirations for Hannah. He also vowed to help her adjust to these new expectations. To make a long story short, Hannah learned what it meant to aim higher and perform as such. Soon enough, Hannah was thriving in Latin 3 and decided to remain in his class the next year.  To her great disappointment, she was not able to take Latin 5AP with him this year. And while Hannah has no plans to major in Latin in college at the moment, she surprises herself and others when she admits that Latin has been her favorite subject in high school. To put a finer point on it, Latin 3 and Latin 4 were her favorite subjects in high school. Doug Julius has easily been her most influential teacher in high school. We are privileged to have met him. He is a gem.

I know that you will receive all manner of other recommendations for this award. I am also sure that all of them are deserving in some fashion. But even without looking at the other nominees, let me say that I simply cannot imagine anyone else trumping him. I am an educator myself. I have some sense of the qualities that mark an extraordinary teacher. Doug operates on a different level. He is in a category all his own. I sure hope you see fit to honor him with this award.