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Fraser teachers honored among best in county

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 13, 2016

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FRASER — Three Fraser Public Schools teachers were recently recognized for their achievements in education.

Teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels were acknowledged by the Macomb County Association of School Administrators and the Macomb Association of Curriculum Administrators. Teachers were originally nominated by their respective districts.

The three Fraser teachers honored this year are first-grade teacher Mary Palus, of Mark Twain Elementary; seventh-grade teacher Tanya Leon, of Richards Middle School; and special needs teacher Sara Kennedy, of Fraser High School.

“We are truly blessed in Fraser with an outstanding teaching staff,” said Fraser Superintendent Dr. David Richards. “Ms. Kennedy, Ms. Leon and Ms. Palus are wonderful examples of the excellent teachers in our district.  Each of these individuals cares deeply for our kids and work diligently to provide their students with a great learning experience every day.”

Palus, who is in her 18th year of teaching, said she was surprised to even be nominated. She is honored, privileged and humbled to be named among the top educators in the county.

“I look forward to coming to school each day knowing that I have 27 smiling faces eager to greet me,” Palus said. “I think it is important to create an atmosphere where learning can be fun and interesting. I know if I’m having fun, the children are, too.

“First grade is a year of growth. So much learning takes place from September to June.  It’s so rewarding to see the changes and progress made by each student. That alone motivates me as a teacher!”

This is Palus’ first time receiving this honor, and she calls her career one she was destined for from the beginning.

“My own first-grade experience was so special,” she said. “I adored my teacher and often imitated her as I played school with my dolls. These many years later I can still vividly recall so many fond memories of that year.”

Leon, who is being honored for the first time and is in her eighth year of teaching, teaches seventh-grade English and is also the student council advisor and Relay for Life co-sponsor.

She said being honored among the elite teachers in the county makes the designation even more meaningful.

“I come in every day with the highest expectations for every one of my students,” Leon said. “Regardless of their background or abilities, all I ask of them is to leave each class knowing they’ve given their very best — and they deserve nothing less from me.

“I truly believe every student can succeed and has boundless potential, and I want to be a force that helps them realize their capabilities in making this world a better place.”

She, too, knew early on that she wanted to impact children’s lives through teaching.

“I always knew I wanted to work with kids and I’ve always loved English, so it seemed an obvious choice — even though several people tried to push my career choice in other directions,” she said.

Kennedy is in her 11th year of teaching and was nominated for the first time. She teaches special needs to grades nine through 12, saying that she provides kids with the tools they need for their futures — as well as postsecondary skills that will impact their lives.

“It’s a humbling honor to be chosen by your peers,” Kennedy said. “It was completely unexpected. The list of teachers that have won this honor and that were nominated this year was incredible. Just to be nominated, to be seen, as an outstanding teacher by the people I work with every day (was special).”

To fit the theme of her colleagues, her dream of teaching started as a young girl. She recalls loving school from her time in the first grade, saying she would “be in heaven” if she could write on a chalkboard every day.

“I followed that dream until high school, when I was fortunate enough to become involved with (Fraser High’s) special education program,” she said. “I fell in love with the program and the students and everything they did.”

A total of 63 teachers from around the county will be honored in front of family, friends, school board members, superintendents and curriculum administrators April 21 at the Macomb Intermediate School District building in Clinton Township. Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, will present the teachers with congratulations.