Top teachers recognized
By Terry Oparka
March 6, 2013
International Academy-East English teacher Omar Hakim, who was named High School Teacher of the Year for the Troy School District, gets around the district, the country and the world.
A panel of teachers selects a Teacher of the Year winner from parent and student nominations at each level — elementary, middle and high school — and a winner overall. A total of ten teachers were nominated district-wide.
An entourage of educators, parents and the media surprised Hakim at the school Feb. 28 when he received his award.
“I feel so honored,” he said. “I don’t even have words, and I’m an English teacher.”
Hakim has been at the IA-East for two years. He taught English at Athens High School for two years before that. He graduated from Troy High School and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Oakland University. He also worked as an English-as-a-second-language tutor at Boulan Park Middle School.
In summer of 2010, he travelled to Morocco with other educators for the University of Arizona Center for Middle Eastern Studies Teach Morocco program, funded by the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program.
He planned to travel to Turkey this week, visited London last summer and will go to Germany this summer on educational fellowships. In addition, he was an English presenter at the National Council of Teachers of English in Las Vegas this past November.
“I want to look at other international models and globalize our curriculum,” he said.
Hakim said he knew since 11th grade he wanted to be a teacher, after he was inspired by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and their themes to follow your dreams.
Philip Ma, a former Athens student of Hakim’s, nominated him.
“Through his extroverted personality and passion for both English and teaching, the students in his class are always wide awake,” Ma wrote. “I still remember at the beginning of my year with him, my class and I were not paying attention to him during a lecture. The amazing part about Mr. Hakim was that he did not react in pure anger. Instead, he thoughtfully told us that we were acting immature and that it hurt him that we were not paying attention. Immediately after the class was dismissed, we all got together and decided that we would make him a card to tell him that we were all sorry. After we gave Mr. Hakim the card, he told us how much it meant to him. Never again did we disrupt his class, as the respect we had for him was too great.”
“Omar Hakim makes a difference in global education,” IA-East teacher Sandy Lew Allen said in her supporting statement. “He is not only an outstanding teacher; he is a dedicated, lifelong scholar. He seeks opportunities to grow and has experienced a world of learning that he brings to his classroom.”
Middle School Teacher of the Year
Patrick Koneval was named Troy School District Teacher of the Year for middle school. The technology teacher at Smith Middle School runs the morning announcements, and he is rarely at a loss for words, according to his colleagues. However, he was speechless when the district staff and media surprised him with the award in his Video Technology 2 class Feb. 27.
Koneval has presented at the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning conference, travelled across the country in the summer to teach other educators how to use online programs, sought and received grants to bring the Edline software program to the district and helped to write the first online computer class for the Troy School District. He’s also organized the American Cancer Society Relay for Life Charity Basketball Game for the past seven years and participates on the school’s team for the Relay for Life event held in Troy each spring. He was also named Coach of the Year for 1999-2000. He’s taught in the Troy School District for 22 years.
Smith Middle School student Lauren Toma and her mother, Diane, nominated Koneval for the award.
“He’s been such a nice teacher to me and my sisters,” Lauren said. “I have come to know him as the best kind of teacher — one who adores kids and is always centering everything he does on them,” Smith Middle School English teacher Jennifer Trice said in her support statement for Koneval’s nomination. “His lessons, projects, and teaching always have a student-centered focus. In fact, I do not know any other teacher who is able to let students run with their work in such a way as they have authentic ownership of the process. His students see, beginning to end, that they are the driving force behind their learning.”
“As a mother of four, I have had the privilege of having my three older daughters have Mr. Koneval throughout their middle school years, and I have noticed that my girls have enjoyed him in different ways,” Diane Toma said in her nomination. “Each one of my daughters has learned so much from him. He has a way of reaching out to the kids and he has inspired all three of my daughters in learning and respecting teachers.”
“I try to make a difference,” Koneval said. “This is truly an honor. It means the world to me. I enjoy what I do.”
The Troy School District will also nominate both Koneval and Hakim in their respective categories for consideration in the Oakland Schools Teacher of the Year program.
About the author
Staff Writer Terry Oparka covers Troy and the Troy School District for the Troy Times. Oparka has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2000 and attended Oakland University and Macomb Community College. Oparka has won an award from the Michigan Press Association and three awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Detroit Chapter.
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