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Michigan Regional Teacher of the Year Has Special ‘Passion’ She Brings to Canton Charter Community

The sun shone brightly down on one special teacher at the state capitol building in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, and that teacher directed the spotlight right toward her principal, deans, and fellow teachers in a way everyone knew she would.
Robert accepts a hug from one of her students after the presentation.

Vanessa Robert, a kindergarten teacher at Canton Charter Academy (CCA), was named the Michigan Region Nine Teacher of the Year during the annual Charter Day at the Capitol, hosted by MAPSA, Michigan’s Charter School Association.
Robert was presented with a certificate by State Representative Ranjeev Puri of Canton on the steps of the capitol building in front of her husband Keith, 6-year-old daughter Isabella, 5-year-old son Griffen, and the entire kindergarten class of CCA.

“It takes a village to raise a teacher,” Robert said in her speech after accepting her award. “In 13 years of teaching, I have learned and grown so much from my students, my colleagues, and my administrators. I would like to share my sincerest gratitude to my principal and mentor Jen Conley, my dean Andreell Harris, and my kindergarten team Liza, Angela, Jaelyn, Sadaf, Rachel, Sangeeta, Pam, and Patty. Without them, I would not be here today.”
CCA Principal Jennifer Conley knelt and recorded video of Robert while she spoke to the large crowd gathered around the steps for the presentation.
“Everyone has just been really ecstatic on her team and across the building for the recognition she so deserves,” Conley said. “To be nominated is just an honor unto itself, and to move on to be selected as the teacher for region nine, everyone was just over the moon.”
Vanessa Robert was presented with a certificate by State Representative Ranjeev Puri of Canton on the steps of the capitol building. 

Robert is finishing her fourth year at CCA after moving over from fellow National Heritage Academies school Quest Charter Academy, where she began her career. The move made sense as her children grew to be school age and she wanted them to attend closer to where they live.
“Who Vanessa is, at the heart of it, those are the things we can’t teach,” Conley said. “I can’t teach a teacher to have the passion that she brings into our community. I can teach a lot of strategies and skills. We can model things at the principal and dean levels, but really to stand behind and stand up for what NHA really believes in is at the heart of who Vanessa is, and those are the things you can’t teach people.
“That makes me even more excited for her. Her own children come to our school and that, I think, is a true testament to what she believes in as well. When we bring our own children to NHA schools it speaks volumes about knowing what’s right and that we believe in it.”
Vanessa Robert, State Representative Ranjeev Puri, and MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry pose with the kindergarten class of CCA.

Robert said the initial news of the award a month ago was difficult for her to comprehend. She needed a moment to herself. Conflicting feelings swirled through her heart and mind. Then it was announced to the entire school, which has outperformed the local district for 13 years.
“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “It was very hard to accept because all of us teachers are very selfless. I feel like we are in it for the kids, I am really, truly in it for the kids. So, it was very hard to accept it for me, but I was really happy at the same time because I didn’t win, our school won, our kids won.”
Perhaps the most enjoyable portion of her day at the capitol occurred when her kindergarteners took to the steps to sing under the direction of K-8 Music Teacher Shari Hazell. Robert sat on the ground during the performance and snuggled tightly with her son. With a smile fixed on her face, she clapped for her students and shouted encouragement as they sang.
The CCA kindergarten class sings at the state capitol.

“Vanessa is truly just an amazing teacher, the best teacher I’ve ever seen,” Conley said. “She’s been a tremendous pillar for Canton Charter and really stands for and represents everything we do, not only for us, but across NHA as well. She’s been a great advocate for our school, charter schools, and across our community.”
Congratulations Mrs. Robert and Canton Charter Academy!

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About Canton Charter Academy
Canton Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Canton, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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