By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Bedford Elementary School teacher Kerri Moccio stood inside the school’s media center in shock after she had been surprised with the Michigan Lottery’s 2018 Excellence in Educator of the Year Award.
Program representatives surprised the first grade literacy intervention specialist teacher with the $10,000 award during a District 7 Board of Education meeting May 16.
“Normally I’m not speechless,” Moccio said. “I don’t even know how I got picked for this. Wow! What an honor. I’m overwhelmed, and working in a district that feels like family is amazing. I’m so glad I spent pretty much all my teaching career here and I can’t imagine doing it anywhere else.”
Moccio has spent 25 years as an elementary reading specialist and with 23 of those years spent teaching in the D7.
“I could not do one thing I do without the most amazing teaching assistant, and I just work with the most amazing staff that goes along with all my crazy ideas,” she said. “I just feel like I’m in a district where everybody is all in for our kids.”
Moccio continued by thanking everyone who helps bring her ideas to life.
“We just apparently know the nicest people because I just ask and people are so willing to jump on board and donate things for all the things we have going on, and to me this is hopefully a way to pay that forward. I guess that will be my goal.”
Moccio’s nomination for the award highlighted her mentoring program that have paired up community and Ford Motor Co. literacy volunteers with first-graders in her reading class for 23 years.
“Kerri also has established several reading programs and community partnerships in her school and district: Books & Bites Under the Lights, Books for a Benefit Literacy Days, Family Reading Nights, Roving Readers, Teacher Feature Summer Storytimes, Reading with Rover (literacy program at local animal shelter), Meet Up, Eat Up & Read Up Summer Meal Program, and three new community Little Free Libraries,” the nomination read.
D7 Supt. Jennifer Mast praised Moccio’s work within the district during the board meeting saying, “We’re so proud of you and what you do. The district thanks you everything that you do.”
Bedford Principal Bradley Allen described Moccio as “an outstanding educator. She has implemented many successful literacy programs at Bedford Elementary and the programs have made a huge impact on students, staff, and families. She is so deserving of this award.”
For the 2017-18 school year, more than 500 educators from across the state were nominated and 34, including Moccio, were selected to win a weekly award.
Moccio said her love of reading led her to a career in education.
“I have always been an avid reader and had some wonderful language arts teachers growing up,” she said after she won the Excellence in Education weekly award in December. “That love for reading and for books is something that I knew I wanted to instill in others.”
She said her favorite part of being an educator is “putting books into the hands of students who need them and seeing their smiles and excitement. That’s the absolute best.
“Since my students are beginning readers, they have to work very hard at literacy every day. But when that light bulb moment comes and it all finally clicks and they start reading on their own, I am reminded why I love being an educator. I know in my heart that this is what I was meant to do. Seeing our community come together to support programs to provide books to children is a huge inspiration as well.”
Moccio said her students and her belief in the power of literacy motivate her to do her best every day.
“My goal is to level the playing field of literacy for my students and community,” she said. “Literacy should never be compromised, no matter what a child’s circumstances are. I’m always on the lookout for resources or strategies that will help make my students the best readers, learners and citizens they can be!”
Moccio earned a bachelor of science degree in secondary education and English from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and a master of science degree in reading education at Binghamton University. She has been an educator for 25 years, the last 23 with D7.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year, according to a press release.
Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $1,500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district.
Each year, one of the weekly winners is selected as the Educator of the Year and receives a $10,000 cash prize.
The nomination period for the 2018-19 awards will begin on Aug. 1. All public school employees may be nominated for the awards, which recognize educators who go “above and beyond” to make a difference in the lives of children.
To nominate an outstanding public school educator, go to http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation
Nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
· Excellence – Their work consistently helps students or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
· Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
· Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
· Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts.
· Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])