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Cedar Springs grad and resident receives award

Mike Waite (center) received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MITES state convention on May 13. Courtesy photo.

Mike Waite (center) received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MITES state convention on May 13. Courtesy photo.

The 2016 Michigan Industrial Technology Education Society (MITES) state convention and awards ceremony was held on May 13 in Lansing, Michigan.  A 1978 Cedar Springs graduate and current resident, Mike Waite, was the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. This award began in 2003 and is given to a retired instructor that exemplified dedication in their teaching career.

Waite retired in 2015 after teaching woodworking, manufacturing, construction, general shop and drafting for 31 years at Watervliet High School and previously taught two years in Chatham, Illinois. He attended Western Michigan University (WMU) where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree. During Waite’s tenure at Watervliet, his woodworking students earned many regional and state first place awards for their projects. He had one grand champion in 1996. His program was recognized as one of the top woodworking programs in the state in 2008. Waite served as a regional area officer (RAO) for MITES for five years, a woods rules committee member, and director of the woods area at the state competition for 15 years. He was a six-time recipient of the MITES Regional Service Award as well.

Darci (Nielsen), also a CSHS graduate, and Mike have been married for 33 years. They have a son Adam and his wife Katie, as well as a daughter, Chelsi and her husband Tevin. Upon retirement, Mike and Darci built a home on Winfield Lake in Coral, so they could again be closer to family and friends. Waite also coached boys high school varsity basketball for seven years and varsity golf for nine years. An Illinois state basketball championship was earned while coaching in 1984. He was later inducted into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame.

MITES has allowed Waite priceless opportunities to talk with, learn from, and work with many great, dedicated teachers. “Hosting several MITES regional conventions at Watervliet motivated my students to do their best on their current and future projects. My students enjoyed sharing their projects and receiving recognition for their work from family, friends and the community. I will forever treasure the memories of seeing and hearing proud parents and grandparents speak of their students,” Waite explained.

Waite went on to explain he had mentors in his life that inspired and influenced him to become a wood- working teacher. His first encouragement came from his Cedar Springs High School teacher, Dan Davis, who suggested Waite attend the state convention as a sophomore. Upon seeing the creativity and high quality of work done by other students, Waite’s eyes were opened to all the possibilities. “I knew I wanted to challenge myself to do a project of this caliber and so the journey began,” explain Waite. Dan Davis and his wife Carolyn were on hand to witness Mike’s recent state award. Davis explained CSHS teachers Tom Kloote, Steve Ringler, and himself were recipients of the MITES Program of Outstanding Quality Award in 2006. The new Cedar Springs High School had just been completed and the staff had implemented a wide variety (CAD, metal and wood) of successful programs at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels earning them the state recognition.

Another influential person in Waite’s life was his woods WMU professor, Gill Hutchings. Waite worked for him as a lab assistant to help pay his way through college.

“I still stay in contact with him and we also get together each summer. He will be 90 years old this summer. Just before spring break of my junior year at WMU, I was running low on money and told Hutchings I was considering taking some time off. Upon returning from break, Hutchings called me into his office. He explained that he and his wife wanted me to live with them and take spring and summer classes. I would do odd jobs for them and they would pay for my classes. He arranged for me to student teach that fall. Hutching’s guidance changed my life. I have tried to follow his example with my students over the years. It has been wonderful maintaining contact with many of my students over the last 30-plus years. I thank my Lord for the opportunities I have had to work with students,” shared Waite.

MITES presenter Greg Meyer stated, “Teaching is truly a way of life for this recipient. I am honored to give this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Mr. Mike Waite.”

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