The program is in its third year and focuses on educators in Michigan and Florida who embody a particular trait, such as this year’s theme, “empowering.” Twenty-five teachers were selected from a list of 415 nominations in 2022.
Start, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher, has taught in Pontiac, Mich., since 2017. She said when students enter her classroom at the start of the year, they are often afraid to be wrong, which makes them afraid to try. Therefore, they don’t put in as much effort as they could.
“Throughout the school year in my classroom, I create a culture where students know that it isn’t about where they are, it’s where they are going to go,” Stark said. “They become empowered to try and they realize mistakes are something they can learn from.
“Students gain the skills to respect each other and themselves while collaborating to solve problems, learn the correlation between effort and results, and gain the confidence to always try.”
Wietecha, a ninth-grade math teacher, has taught in Pontiac since 2014 and said he regularly watches as students overcome the many obstacles his challenging classes present.
“When I was nominated and was awarded the grant, it meant to me that I am the coach behind our students, rooting them on and cheering for them,” Wietecha said. “I know that attitude is a reflection of leadership and I know that my students respond and work for me not because I deserved respect but because I earned it.”
“I believe all students possess the ability to become a math person and a thinker. Some students need the empowerment to believe that, too. This year I watched my students grow and I feel that I was a part of that not just academically but also mentally. My students believe what I believe and that is that they can do anything.”
The 25 winners of the grant are chosen by an internal review committee at LMCU. Nominees must clearly embody the selected trait of the year, demonstrate an impact on their students and school community and be passionate and distinctive.
Funds provided by the grant can be used toward anything that benefits the educational process such as classroom supplies or aiding in online learning.
“Being awarded the Roots in Education grant meant to me that I am empowering students by consistently giving students a space where they have a voice while they gain the understanding that with effort, belief, and trust in themselves, there are no limits to what they can accomplish,” Stark said.
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Oakside Preparatory High School is part of National Heritage Academies, a charter school management company in Grand Rapids, Mich., with over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
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