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Achieve Teacher Named Finalist in Regional Accolade Honoring Charter School Educators

 Ashley Benson, first-grade teacher at Achieve Charter Academy, was recently named a finalist in MAPSA’s annual MI Charter School Awards and is now in the running to be recognized as the 2020 Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year. 

“I am thrilled for Ashley to have been chosen as a finalist for MAPSA Teacher of the Year!” said Jennifer Conley, principal at Achieve Charter Academy. “Ashley is one of the most compassionate and caring teachers who provides a first-grade classroom that is focused on a combination of fun, firmness, and focus. She meets the needs of all her individual learners and is a huge asset to our school community.”

Every year, MAPSA’s Charter School Awards provide a platform to highlight outstanding educators in Michigan's charter schools. There are nearly 300 charter schools across Michigan and hundreds of nominations were received for this year’s awards.

“We are so excited to have a member of our team receive this recognition! Ashley demonstrates sincere care for every student as she connects one-on-one with their interests and needs,” said Cathy Henkenberns, director of school quality at NHA. “She is dedicated to her own learning and strives to improve her practice. As a result, her students benefit from her growth mindset and dedication to her work.”

Reflecting on her nomination, Benson shared “Being a finalist for MI Charter School Teacher of the Year means so much to me for many reasons but mostly because it is an opportunity to recognize all of the amazing students, colleagues, and families that have helped me to grow and deepen my passion as an educator. I would not be where I am without them!"
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Two additional individuals from NHA were also recognized as semifinalists in the awards. Aletha VanValkenburg, second-grade teacher at Chandler Woods Charter Academy, was named a 2020 MI Charter School Teacher of the Year award semifinalist and Shelli Wildfong, principal at Metro Charter Academy, was named a 2020 MI Charter School Administrator of the Year award semifinalist.

"Shelli is a strong, positive role model for students at Metro Charter Academy," said Shawn Leonard, director of school quality at NHA. "She is an outstanding leader and is truly worthy of being considered for this prestigious award."

To be considered for this recognition, MAPSA receives anonymous nominations from parents, teachers, school leaders, and community members to recognize those who are going above and beyond. VanValkenburg shared how honored she felt upon learning about her nomination; "It means so much that someone cares about you enough, to take the time to nominate you," she said.

VanValkenburg is well known for her love of children's literature and sharing that with her students. "Aletha is up to date on the newest book to a series, knows characters in many books, and can skillfully match a student with a book to enjoy," said Georgiana Varlan, dean of lower elementary at Chandler Woods. "Aletha cares for her students and families."

“Michigan’s charter schools have some of the most innovative, creative and talented educators in the country, and we’ve seen that come to light even more in the past few weeks,” said Dan Quisenberry, MAPSA president. “These finalists represent the best of the best, and they’re continuing to work every day to engage, inspire, and educate their students. We’re so proud to be able to honor them and shine a spotlight on their accomplishments.”

The top five Teacher of the Year and Admin of the Year finalists each receive a $500 cash prize and will earn a platform to share their best practices throughout the year.

Congratulations to NHA’s finalist and semifinalists!