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Outstanding People for Education

Otsego had 25 educators from all areas of the district nominated for this year's Outstanding People for Education awards. This award is sponsored by the Allegan County School Board Association (ACSBA) and is presented to up to three people from each district in the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency as well as AAESA. This is a unique award in that it can be awarded to anyone involved in education, from a volunteer to bus driver, custodian, teacher and administrator, and everyone in between. 
 
This year's winners from Otsego are Sarah Jewett, 3rd grade teacher at Alamo, Mark Trumley, social studies and AIM teacher at the middle school, and Nancy Zyzelewski, special education teacher at the high school. Here is a little bit about each one as reflected in their nomination. 
 

Sarah Jewett, Alamo 3rd grade teacher

Sarah Jewett has been teaching at Otsego Public Schools for 30 years, and is retiring this year. She has taught 3rd grade for 28 of those years and is one of the most respected teachers in the district. “It has been an incredible journey teaching in the community of Otsego. I will miss this district immensely,” Jewett says. Sarah builds relationships in every way possible, with students, parents, colleagues and new staff. She has the ability to inspire children from all backgrounds and abilities. She has been a leader in our focus on literacy, eager to learn more and begin implementing new instruction.

“As a result of her ability to connect and inspire children every student feels like and knows they have a purpose,” her nomination stated. She truly has a gift of being an outstanding educator making others feel valued, instilling a love for learning in her students and supporting the growth of those around her. She’s an incredibly humble and giving person and we’ll be very sad to see her go but wish her luck in her retirement.

She is honored to be a part of this year’s 25 nominees and gracious to have won, “To be in the same league as those educators is such a privilege. Those 25 nominees are outstanding and I like to think I am just the spokesperson/representative for them all. With this being my 30th year and last year of teaching, it really is the cherry on top,” she says.

Mark Trumley, OMS social studies, AIM teacher

Mark Trumley has been teaching for six years and been at Otsego just a little over a year. He joined Otsego last spring but in his short time here has made a huge impact. He teaches social studies and started a new resiliency course at the middle school called AIM which stands for Attitude, Integrity and Mindfulness. Through that class, Mark has created a family, a safe place for students to go and given them the support they need. Five of his students each wrote a letter for his nomination describing him as caring, someone who listens to what anyone has to say, funny, goofy, easy to talk to and their favorite teacher. He checks up on these students, knows how to handle and support each student; they say he listens unlike any other teacher and makes their day just seeing him class. His 8th graders will greatly miss him. “I feel honored to be in the presence of other outstanding educators and validated for the hours spent developing AIM. It is helpful for me to reflect on this year, but also look forward to the work that still needs to be done with our most struggling students,” Trumley says. He thanks everyone involved in the class and and is grateful for the opportunity. “Our children truly are the future. If we want a better tomorrow, we need to continue investing in the development of the whole child, not just with academics. It is much more difficult being a teenager today than it was for most of us growing up. Our kids need us now more than ever,” he says.

Nancy Zyzelewski, OHS special education teacher

Nancy has been teaching special education for 25 years and taught in four of our five buildings. She just completed her 9th year at the high school. “I am so humbled by the nomination and by the award.  I am so lucky that I get to spend every day with the most amazing kids! I am so very blessed that I have my students for several years, so I also get to have relationships with the families that are just as important to me." She has been nominated for several years in a row and makes an impact on dozens of students, likely more, year after year. “School isn’t always easy for my kiddos and I am so lucky that I get to help every day manger the waters whether clear and smooth or full of mud and rocks,” she says. A parent nominated her this year describing her son as a sinking ship and in a situation that felt hopeless. But this teacher went above and beyond to keep him on track, checking his grades, checking in with him personally. She made sure he could get to school and get breakfast. Mrs. Z became like family. In addition, Nancy has created the Bulldog Boutique to make sure every student could have a dress or formal wear for homecoming or prom without the concern of the hefty price tag. Many people will agree with the final line of this nomination that states: “She deserves this award more than anyone I know.”

But Zyzelewski will say that her students help her grow in all aspects of her life, “My students are so strong and brave and I admire their courage to push through and carry on, no matter what. They make me a better wife, mother and teacher.”

Here are the 2019 nominees:

  • Kristin Alkire, High school science teacher
  • Nate Alkire, Middle school STREAM school teacher
  • Jacquie Bennett, Tutor at Washington Street Elementary
  • Dan Cleypool, high school business teacher
  • Julie Cramer & Laura Deerwester, Alamo Food Service
  • Sheryl Cramer, Alamo Kindergarten teacher
  • Lisa Currie, Administrative Assistant to the Supt. and Board of Education
  • Herve Dardis, High school principal
  • Jennifer Evans, 5th grade teacher at Dix Street Elementary
  • Keith Fuller, middle school counselor
  • Betsy Geivett, ASD Parapro at the middle school
  • Sarah Jewett, 3rd grade teacher at Alamo
  • Kris Kruizenga, Administrative assistant to the principal at Washington Street Elementary
  • Wendy Larson, media Center aide at Alamo
  • Brad Miller, High school guidance counselor
  • Catherine Moore, 4th grade teacher, Washington Street Elementary
  • Mitch Piersma, Band director at middle and high school
  • Mary Reitenour, 3rd grade teacher at Washington Street Elementary
  • Barb Schreuder, Kindergarten teacher at Washington Street Elementary
  • Lori Smalldon, 5th grade teacher at Washington Street Elementary
  • Heather Sokoloski, math teacher at the middle school
  • Mark Trumley, social studies and AIM teacher at middle school
  • Robbin Williams, Administrative Assistant to the principal at Alamo
  • Nancy Zyzelewski, Special Education teacher at the high school.
 
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