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Clinton Township, Macomb Township

May 7, 2014

Chippewa Valley recognizes top teachers

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

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Chippewa Valley recognizes top teachers
On April 28, the Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education honored three teachers — Melissa Couck from Erie Elementary School, Heather DePoorter from Wyandot Middle School and Julie Hilker from Dakota High School’s Ninth Grade Center — with its annual Outstanding Teachers of the Year awards. Pictured, from left to right, are Board President Denise Aquino, Couck, DePoorter, Hilker and Superintendent Ron Roberts.

CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Three Chippewa Valley Schools teachers were honored on April 28, when district officials presented them with the district’s annual Outstanding Teachers of the Year awards.

This year’s award recipients were Melissa Couck, a second-grade teacher at Erie Elementary School; Heather DePoorter, a seventh-grade science and language arts teacher at Wyandot Middle School; and Julie Hilker, a biology teacher at Dakota High School’s Ninth Grade Center.

“I think we have many, many outstanding teachers here in Chippewa Valley, and I think these three teachers represent those teachers very well,” Superintendent Ron Roberts told the large crowd gathered in the board’s meeting chambers. “I had the opportunity … to visit their classrooms, and they truly are exceptional classrooms. When you walk in, you can just tell that they’re special places, so it’s very exciting to have these three teachers here with us tonight.”

School Board President Denise Aquino thanked Couck, DePoorter and Hilker for their hard work and dedication, noting that she had a chance to meet all three of them at a recent awards banquet hosted by the Macomb Intermediate School District.

“That was really wonderful, because we don’t always have the opportunity to know every teacher,” Aquino said. “But of course, it’s people like you that make our district proud, and we’d like to extend our congratulations because we know that you do a wonderful job every day for our students. For that, we’re very grateful.”

According to Roberts, Couck, who began her career in Chippewa Valley in 2005, has been described by her colleagues as a “dedicated” and “innovative” leader with a tireless work ethic and a real passion for teaching. Last year, Couck wrote a grant totaling $60,000 that allowed Erie to become Macomb County’s first “Leader in Me” school. Roberts stated that Couck delivers an “investigative” approach to learning, where students are given the opportunity to discover a lot of information on their own, creating students that are independent, self-motivated and eager to learn.

After thanking the board for its recognition, Couck told the audience, “I feel so fortunate not only to do what I love, but to do it in Chippewa Valley, a place where the human element is still honored in education. I think that is truly what sets us apart.”

DePoorter was hired by the district in 2002 and, according to Roberts, is an “enthusiastic” teacher who always looks for new and exciting ways to engage her students. She is known for using technology in her classroom, and incorporating it into classroom projects and assignments, as well as instilling students with a sense of purpose and valuable life lessons. DePoorter also serves as chair of the Wyandot science department, where she is a mentor and role model to her fellow teachers. In addition, she is an active volunteer for various charitable causes, including Relay for Life.

“I feel very fortunate to have my teaching position here in Chippewa Valley Schools,” DePoorter said at the meeting. “I’m very grateful that I get to come to school every day and live out my dream of being a teacher, and I’m very grateful that I was selected for this award.”

Hilker began teaching in Chippewa Valley in 2003, and according to Roberts, her enthusiasm for teaching and learning is “contagious.” Her classroom is known as a place of constant engagement, he said, and she is especially renowned for inspiring girls who are planning to enter a scientific field by actively encouraging their interests. Hilker has served as an active member of the Chippewa Valley Science Curriculum Council for many years and also spent time as a sponsor for the Dakota Key Club, where she worked with local homeless shelters and organized children’s parties for the underprivileged.

“Your kind words have been overwhelming,” Hilker told Roberts and the board. “I’m so thankful to have such dedicated colleagues to work with on a daily basis, to be part of such a great district and to have such a supportive community, which makes a world of difference.”

Roberts then shared a video with the crowd that showed him visiting the classrooms of each award-winning teacher to interview them and their students. He called the video a “trailer” for a longer program that will soon air on Chippewa Valley’s cable TV station.

One of the best parts about filming these interviews, Roberts said, is that he gets the opportunity to speak directly to kids all over the district. At the elementary school level, when asked about their teacher, students will often tell Roberts very simply, “She’s nice.” At the middle school level, students are not very talkative, either, usually expressing their feelings with something like, “She’s cool.”

“But when you go to high school, it kind of changes, because kids can verbalize things a little bit better and they’re a little more worldly,” Roberts said. “I’ll have a student say to me, ‘I really like Ms. Hilker; all the kids like her. Even kids who don’t like to come to school like being in her class.’”

“I think that’s what elementary school kids are really telling me when they say, ‘She’s nice,’ and that’s what middle-schoolers really mean when they say, ‘She’s cool,’” the superintendent continued. “But the high school student actually says it, and to me, that’s very moving. You can have no greater compliment as a teacher than a student wanting to be in your class and wanting to learn because they care what you think about them. It’s a connection that’s really special between students and teachers.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.