Saginaw Valley State University recognized six outstanding K-12 employees during SVSU’s first-ever Heroes in Education awards ceremony April 13.
SVSU’s student-led College of Education Leadership Team presented the awards to a mix of teachers, custodians and cooks who made a difference in the lives of students from across Michigan.
“The future of Michigan depends on our children receiving excellent education to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world,” said Craig Douglas, dean of the College of Education. “We are fortunate to have so many individuals at all levels of education determined to see students succeed through their committed service and inspirational examples, and we at SVSU are proud to recognize them for their vital work.”
The recipients are:
• Charles Arnett, a music teacher from Chandler Park Academy, an SVSU-authorized charter school in Harper Woods. Evelyn Shropshire, a building administrator at the academy, said Arnett built the academy’s music program from scratch, applying for grants and using his own hands to construct acoustic-friendly music rooms within the building.
• Sally Burkey, an assistant cook from Freeland High School. Nominators explained that Burkey is a favorite of the students. She recently took the initiative to pack breakfasts daily for a middle school student too shy to come to the cafeteria. After weeks of encouragement, the student began to sit with classmates in the cafeteria.
• Scott Garcia, a custodian from Genesee STEM Academy, an SVSU-authorized charter school in Flint. Rita Cheek, the school’s principal, said Garcia performs beyond the call of duty. “He covers the maintenance, security, student supervision, barbecue chef, motivator and any other task that needs to be completed,” Cheek said.
• Katie Jenkins, a teacher from Carrie Knause Early Childhood Learning Center in St. Louis, Michigan. Jenkins recently battled breast cancer and her mother died. “Despite her loss and heartbreak, she came to work every day and focused on her students and their needs,” said Theresa Vance, a kindergarten teacher at the institution. “She would leave an hour early every other Thursday for chemo treatments but be right back to work the very next day.”
• Gary Karney, a teacher from List Elementary School in Frankenmuth. Nominators said Karney worked hard to engage with students. He often arrived to school early, stayed late, volunteered as a tutor, and worked on weekends. He was credited with helping a special needs student concentrate in class by building the student a desk-sized replica of “his favorite thing:” The Titanic.
• Kathryn Layer, a teacher from Great Beginnings Christian Childcare and Kindergarten in Saginaw. Nominators touted Layer’s efforts to involve her students in service learning activities that included visits to local nursing homes, where classmates read to the elderly and provided company. Layer also was recognized for her work with autistic students at the institution.
The six were selected from among 86 educators statewide nominated for the award.
Douglas says the awards ceremony will become an annual tradition to highlight employees in the education industry who make a difference.