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Teacher of the year nominees

May 07, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- From kindergarten to physics, the district's three choices for Teacher of the Year are at the top of their class.

Amy Poole, a kindergarten teacher at Oakwood Elementary, Dave Green, a Brandon Middle School science teacher, and Lesley Hildebrand, a science teacher at Brandon High School, were nominated for the 2013-2014 Oakland County Outstanding Teacher of the Year Awards, which were to be announced on May 8.

"They are all absolutely wonderful, fantastic teachers," said District Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "They are student-oriented, and the kids love their classes and they learn so much. From kindergarten to physics, they are great examples of master teachers."

School districts in Oakland County nominate teachers each year from elementary, middle/junior high, and high school to receive recognition from Oakland Schools and the Oakland Schools Education Foundation. According to the foundation, these are teachers "who have achieved, through their effort and example, the highest standards of excellence in their profession. Oakland Schools has created these awards out of a conviction that a quality public education system is essential to the health and vitality of our community."

Nominees must be certified, full-time teachers with a minimum of five full years of classroom teaching experience and the application process requires nominating principals to write a letter of support, as well as also include letters from a colleague, current or former student, and parent of a student.

Amy Poole has taught kindergarten in the district since 1997. In her letter of nomination, Oakwood Principal Kristy Spann cited Poole's clear communication with students, "mindful about her word choice, her rate of speech, choosing topics that are of high interest to the students in general, and specifically linking class content with particular student interests." Spann noted that Poole's goal is to fully understand the issues affecting her students "and to challenge each regardless of where he or she is on the learning journey."

In their letter of support for Poole's nomination, parents Nate and Stacy Odinga wrote that their son Carter told them within four days of starting school that he loves his teacher.

"He is on fire for learning and we believe that credit goes to Ms. Poole," they wrote. "Like most parents, we had a million things running through our heads before sending our first born off to school for the first time. We were worried about the bus, lunch, the length of the day, how could one teacher keep control in a room of nineteen 5-year-olds, our quiet son getting lost in the shuffle, etc. Amy Poole answered all those worries within a week. She is highly organized so we are always aware of what is going on in the classroom... Ms. Poole has been just the best teacher we could have asked for as parents of a kindergarten student."

Brandon Middle School Science Teacher Dave Green has instructed students in and out of the classroom since 1999, teaching lessons about ecology in Kearsley Creek and sampling/monitoring the Flint River Watershed in Project Green Stream. He also founded and led the 4-H Challenge Club at BMS for 10 years.

In her letter of nomination, BMS Principal Tina Chambers said that Green uses strategies that allow students to express their thinking on topics and teaches them how to look for evidence to back up their thinking. Each student participates at their own level and during instruction on topics, he seeks articles to meet the varied reading levels of students.

"When it comes to coaching, students couldn't have a better cheerleader," said Chambers. "Dave spends time after school doing re-teaching with students and giving alternative opportunities for learning the material. He uses the Instructional Science Notebook (ISN) as a way for students to organize the information and see their own learning through a variety of activities."

Erin Wolfert was a student in Green's science class last year and said thus far, he is the teacher who has had the biggest impact on her and one who teaches in a way that connects with students and is memorable.

"He made learning engaging and fun!" she wrote. "Mr. Green easily connected with the students and had a great sense of humor... Now, the problem with some teachers, they teach something, students memorize it for a test, and then it is forgotten. But Mr. Green made us think about what we were learning, got us involved, so we didn't just memorize it, we learned and understood it! I remember it all!"

She also recalls the lesson in which Green took students into Kearsley Creek to get invasive species and examine the creek water.

"We got into the creek, gathered water and rocks, and then examined them under microscopes," she said. "It was, without a doubt, the best day of school I have ever had!"

Lesley Hildebrand has taught science at Brandon High School for the past seven years and was instrumental in the founding of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program at the school. In the TRAC Bridge Program, part of STEM, she provides students the opportunity to actively use hands-on applications in civil engineering to build a bridge and compete at the state level.

"Due to her sensitivity to her students as people and not just as student learners, students are willing to go above and beyond any expectations she sets for her classes," said BHS Principal Dan Stevens. "Teaching Science and STEM classes with many labs and hands-on projects, she holds safety at the forefront of all that they do... Mrs. Hildebrand's philosophy on teaching is to have the three way triangle of parents, students, and teacher all come together as one for each of her students to be successful in the classroom...When Mrs. Hildebrand talks or believes in something strongly, the staff is sure to notice and listen more attentively than the average school employee. Her thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, resonate loudly with our staff and school community, making her a leader whenever change is imminent."

Kara Yeaker's daughter, Emily, is a student in Hildebrand's class. Yeaker wrote the following in a letter supporting Hildebrand's nomination as Teacher of the Year: "As a parent, I understand that my children will have many influences in their lives as they travel through our educational system and in the world beyond the classroom doors. I understand that they will have many lessons that will shape them as human beings. I believe that Emily has learned the most important life lessons from Mrs. Hildebrand. She has learned that school is a good place where relationships can nurture and enhance creativity, imagination and intellect. She has learned that teachers care about you and strive to challenge and support you both inside and outside of the classroom. She has learned that she has a voice and can make a great contribution to the world. She has learned to be confident and caring. All of these skills were learned as the result of the teaching style and great heart of Mrs. Hildebrand."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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