Center Line, Warren
Outstanding Teachers of the Year named
Two Fitzgerald teachers honored at county level
By Maria Allard
Posted April 19, 2017
CENTER LINE/WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — Chatterton Middle School teacher Jodi Titus always knew she wanted to be an educator, while Fitzgerald High School teacher Jeff Kmiec didn’t begin to pursue the field until he got into college.
While the Fitzgerald Public Schools teachers took different paths toward becoming educators, they have both been an inspiration to their students and were named as the Macomb County Outstanding Teachers of the Year for the high school and middle school levels for the 2016-17 school year.
Every year, the Macomb Intermediate School District recognizes Outstanding Teachers of the Year. Teachers are nominated by their peers, parents and students to be considered in their respective school buildings from their districts. From there, an Outstanding Teacher of the Year is named countywide at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
The Macomb County Association of School Administrators and the Macomb Association of Curriculum Administrators will hold a special recognition ceremony April 20 at the MISD building in Clinton Township to honor 63 teachers.
Mound Park Elementary School teacher Karen Willett and Westview Elementary School teacher Nicole Hunt were named as Outstanding Teachers of the Year in FPS at the elementary level.
“The educators that we have recognized are shining examples of the high caliber of dedicated teachers we have working in Fitzgerald Public Schools,” FPS Superintendent Barbara VanSweden said in a prepared statement. “Teachers are a key ingredient to providing Fitzgerald students with a quality education, and these outstanding educators deserve our praise, respect and admiration.”
Titus has been an educator for 32 years. She spent the first 10 years of her career working with special education students and then moved over to teaching mathematics. Titus still uses her special education background in class because of the special-needs students who have been mainstreamed into general education.
It was Chatterton Principal Laurie Fournier who visited Titus during class to announce that she had been named Outstanding Teacher of the Year for the county. Titus teaches sixth- and seventh-grade math.
“She came with flowers and took pictures with the kids. I kind of got a tear in my eye,” Titus said. ”I am very honored and excited. It’s very nice to be recognized. It’s very humbling. It feels very good. Family and friends have been awesome about it. They’ve all been supportive.”
Titus spent a lot of time as a kid playing school with her friends and always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
“There was never a question in my mind,” said Titus, who was encouraged by her own high school teachers to become a math teacher. “I love math. I really do.”
One goal for Titus is to greet each of her students with a smile. The most rewarding aspect for her while teaching is building relationships with her students.
“When kids say they didn’t get math before and now they do, and knowing I helped them get past their frustrations, it’s wonderful to see their growth like that,” Titus said. “This is like my second home.”
As for the challenging side of teaching, Titus feels that the state testing takes away from her instruction time.
“I want to spend as much time with the kids as I can,” Titus said.
Kmiec teaches biology, introduction to engineering design, environmental science, and principles of engineering. One certainty for Kmiec is the “very good rapport” the FPS teachers have with each other.
“I just value the work of so many of my colleagues,” Kmiec said. “I think that is one of our strengths. We’re all very willing to learn from each other. I think there’s a great deal of respect for each other.”
The high school teacher began working in FPS in 1999. He left the state in 2002 and lived in Phoenix, Arizona, for a couple of years. Kmiec felt like he needed to pursue his adventurous side, especially after a close friend died. With three buddies, Kmiec hiked for five days down the Grand Canyon to pay tribute to his late friend.
“It was pretty rugged,” Kmiec said. “The landscapes were phenomenal.”
While he enjoyed his time in the Southwest — “I liked the mountains; the weather was wonderful” — Kmiec eventually returned to Michigan.
It was during his second or third year at Central Michigan University that he made the decision to teach. The seed to teach was likely planted when Kmiec was attending Stevenson High School.
“There was a physics teacher I had my senior year, Tom Diliberti,” Kmiec said. “I saw the approach he took to teaching. I really liked it.”
Being in the classroom is “a lot of fun” with his students.
“I love seeing their growth. When we get them in September, they’re starting their high school experience,” Kmiec said. “By June, there’s just a tremendous amount of growth. There’s a lot of maturity they take on.”
When Kmiec experienced a seizure disorder during the last school year, he shared the news with his students and colleagues. He was unable to drive for several months, so staff at FPS and CMS were always offering rides to and from school. He also used this time to show his students to never give up even when faced with adversity.
“They can see teachers are real people,” Kmiec said. “One of my things was getting back in the classroom and teach kids how to overcome obstacles in their lives.”
Top local teachers honored
The following teachers were named as Outstanding Teachers of the Year within their respective districts:
In Center Line Public Schools: Linda Finazzo, Crothers Elementary; Jason Ratkowski, Wolfe Middle School; and Eric Heinz, Center Line High School.
In Van Dyke Public Schools: Tina Misoni, Lincoln Elementary; Daniel Bienkowski, Lincoln Middle School; and Darrius Alexander, Lincoln High School.
In Warren Consolidated Schools: Jamie Steinman, Wilkerson Elementary; Jessica Syswerda, Carleton Middle School; and Jeffrey Olind, Warren Mott High School.
In Warren Woods Public Schools: Jennifer Wisniewski, Pinewood Elementary; Laura Vukich, Warren Woods Middle School; and Jason Doughtery, Warren Woods Tower High School.
Sandra Davis, of Anchor Bay Schools, was named as the Macomb County Outstanding Teacher of the Year at the elementary school level.
About the author
Staff Writer Maria Allard covers the school districts of Center Line, Fitzgerald, Van Dyke, Warren Consolidated and Warren Woods, and Macomb Community College for the Warren Weekly newspaper. She also covers the City of Grosse Pointe Woods and the Grosse Pointe Public Schools System for the Grosse Pointe Times newspaper. Allard has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University, and she is in love with the Rolling Stones.
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