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May 8, 2014

Walled Lake Central teacher snags finalist spot in ‘LIVE with Kelly and Michael’ top teacher search

By Cari DeLamielleure-Scott
C & G Staff Writer

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Walled Lake Central teacher snags finalist spot in ‘LIVE with Kelly and Michael’ top teacher search
Walled Lake Central students Harrison McKay, 17, Ethan Freedman, 17, and Cooper Duda, 17, are in the advance integrated math studies class taught by Nebojsa Stojkovic, far right.

WALLED LAKE — Whether it’s in the classroom or on the track field, students of Walled Lake Central teacher Nebojsa Stojkovic are introduced to a teaching technique that involves competition and real-world experiences.

From organizing students’ desks into individual islands to letting students decide their peers’ actions, every lesson the 31-year-old educator teaches hints at where the future careers and the lives of his student can lead, he said.  

“As opposed to me saying, ‘No, you can’t go to the bathroom,’ or ‘Get your book,’ the peers dictate,” Stojkovic said, explaining that students earn points for incentives throughout the year for working together.

“(Peers dictating) is more influential than a lot of adults would be,” he said.

Stojkovic received degrees in math and psychology from the University of Michigan, and he returned to Walled Lake Consolidated School District about nine years ago to teach math and coach track and field, and football.

Though he is a native Serbian, Stojkovic grew up in Walled Lake and graduated from Walled Lake Western. Because his family, with the exception of his brother — who lives in California — returned to Serbia, Stojkovic considers his students and athletes his family. 

“I never really had the desire (to leave Walled Lake). Some people want to leave; I didn’t. I wanted to come back home. … You always come back home,” Stojkovic said.

His passion, unique teaching abilities and energy are the reasons former student and West Bloomfield resident Kelsey Prena, 22, nominated Stojkovic for the top teacher search through the syndicated morning show “LIVE with Kelly and Michael” with hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Straham.

“I would not be the person I am today if I had not had him as a coach,” Prena wrote in her nomination.

This is the show’s fifth annual top teacher search, and among the tens of thousands of applicants, Stojkovic was announced as one of the top 12 national finalists during the April 25 show, and in the April 29 broadcast, he was revealed as one of the top five teachers.

“I thought, he’s super deserving, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to write a letter. And I honestly didn’t think anybody would read it,” said Prena, who graduated in 2009. “I figured it was worth a shot. … The letter kind of wrote itself because it’s easy to talk about him and brag about how good of a person he is.”

Stojkovic is an inspiration for Prena, she said. While she did not have the opportunity to have him as a teacher, Stojkovic coached Prena in track and field for four years, and he taught her life lessons, she said.

“He fights for every single person, and that kind of spirit rubs off on you so you feel empowered to fight for every single person you can,” Prena said. “He got me a scholarship to (Michigan State University) … and I can’t wait to be a professor.

“I can’t wait to teach. That’s something he instilled in me. His excitement to teach and reach every single person — that’s what I want to do.”

Besides teaching and coaching 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Stojkovic heads to the local Passion for Life office after school, where he is the CEO for the nonprofit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals.

Passion for Life’s basic mission is to raise awareness for children’s hospitals nationwide. Passion for Life currently partners with Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. When an eco-friendly Passion for Life garment is purchased, 10 percent of the cost is distributed to the affiliated children’s hospital, such as Sparrow Health System in Lansing, Stojkovic said. At the local level, the organization picks an inspirational family and hosts an annual run in their honor.

“The grand picture is the retail line that generates a constant flow of money,” Stojkovic said.

Within the next three to five years, Stojkovic plans on expanding the institutional roster globally. 

Stojkovic, along with the other four finalists, will be flown to New York to appear on the “LIVE with Kelly and Michael” show May 16.

Following Stojkovic’s “LIVE” debut, the competition will go through a final round of online voting, and the winner will be announced during the May 20 show.

Stojkovic will appear on the “LIVE with Kelly and Michael” show on WXYZ Channel 7 at 9 a.m. May 16. To vote for Stojkovic for the top teacher following the show, visit www.livekellyandmichael.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cari DeLamielleure-Scott at cdelamielleure@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1093.