Posted on 08 July 2015.
Dave Stuart receiving his award.
By Judy Reed
Cedar Springs High School teacher Dave Stuart was recently honored by the State of Michigan as one of five finalists for Michigan Teacher of the Year.
He finished as a runner up, out of 487 applicants.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Stuart, who teaches history and English to incoming freshmen.
The Michigan Teacher of the Year is selected by a committee that reviews applications from teachers throughout Michigan. Applicants submit biographies and written essays that describe educational history; professional development activities; philosophy of teaching; and thoughts on emerging education trends and issues.
Stuart said that he was nominated anonymously by someone last fall, and after going through several rounds, he was invited to be a finalist in April.
The top honor went to Rick Joseph, a fifth/sixth grade teacher at Birmingham Covington School.
“I wasn’t really disappointed that I didn’t win,” he said. “It went to such a deserving guy.”
Pictured L-R: Cedar Springs Superintendent Laura VanDuyn, teacher Dave Stuart, CSHS Principal Ron Behrenwald, Anne Kostus Director of Academic Services at CSHS, and retired Michigan Superintendent Mike Flanagan.
Stuart said one thing he noticed about all the teachers vying for Michigan Teacher of the Year is that they all had a compelling story. “There are a lot of great teachers out there, but being Michigan Teacher of the Year is not about being the best; it’s about being someone who can represent and speak for all teachers in the state,” he explained. “There are 10 teachers in my hallway that are better teachers than me.”
The Michigan Department of Education has used this award annually to honor Michigan’s exemplary educators. The State Board of Education honors the Michigan Teacher of the Year with a seat at the Board table during its regular monthly meetings, and to engage in the discussions on moving Michigan’s system of education forward.
Stuart said that it was kind of a relief not to win, because the Teacher of the Year spends a lot of time out of the classroom. “I’m really excited about teaching and my writing on the side,” he explained. “It fulfills me.”
Cedar Springs High School principal Ron Behrenwald called Stuart a “highly effective teacher, who provides not only high quality instruction for his students day in and day out, but one who also develops character strengths in his students, such as curiosity, grit, zest for life, gratitude, and self control. Our Tech 21 Freshmen Academy students have a deep appreciation for Mr. Stuart and the way he ‘brings it’ everyday in his classroom.”
Stuart released a book last year dealing the English/Language art side of the common core. It’s called “A non-freaked out guide to teaching the common core.” He also has a website www.teachingthecore.com.
“He has put a tremendous amount of personal and professional time in studying the English common core to create purposeful meaning from it and develop practical approaches for students …” noted Behrenwald. “Mr Stuart has even created his own blog to share his thinking with other educators and last year started traveling the professional development circuit speaking with school districts and faculty across the country about the common core and his practical approaches to it.”
Stuart is humbled by the support he has received from both the administration and his peers. “My career has changed so drastically since coming to Cedar Springs,” he remarked. “There are so many seriously intelligent and caring teachers and administrators here. There are some highly supportive folks, who helped make this happen. I feel rich beyond measure.”
“The students, faculty, staff, and administration of Cedar Springs High School could not be prouder of Mr. Stuart’s accomplishment as one of the 2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year Runners-up,” said Behrenwald. “I encourage the greater Cedar Springs community to join us in celebrating not only the outstanding teacher we have in Mr. Stuart for our school age children to learn from, but also to have Mr. Stuart and his family living and serving in our community.”
When we talked, Stuart was flying out to Philadelphia for the kickoff of a $10,000 research grant he received having to do with building character in students—which is another one of his passions.
The other educators selected as state-level finalists for the Michigan Teacher of the Year Award are Mr. Michael Craig, special education and agriculture teacher, Charles R. Drew Transition Center, Detroit Public Schools; Mrs. Emily Pohlonski, science teacher, Novi High School, Novi Community Schools; and Mr. Luke Wilcox, math teacher, East Kentwood High School, Kentwood Public Schools.