Kennedy Elementary educator named Teacher of the Year

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published May 1, 2012

 Linda Dunn, a special education teacher at Kennedy Elementary School, was named the Outstanding Teacher of the Year for Macomb County through the Macomb Intermediate School District.

Linda Dunn, a special education teacher at Kennedy Elementary School, was named the Outstanding Teacher of the Year for Macomb County through the Macomb Intermediate School District.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WARREN — When Kennedy Elementary special education teacher Linda Dunn steps inside her classroom each morning, she doesn’t feel like she is going to work. She feels like she attending school.

“I’ve always loved school,” Dunn said. “I went into teaching because I love school and learning. I enjoy being a part of that learning community and working with others for a positive common outcome.”

Others have noticed Dunn’s enthusiasm for the classroom. The educator was recently recognized as Macomb County’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year at the elementary school level for the 2011-2012 school year.

She was among 56 teachers honored at a banquet April 19 at the Macomb Intermediate School District building in Clinton Township. The honor left her “speechless.”

“I’m not usually speechless,” she laughed. “I was overwhelmed. I was pleased and proud.”

Along with the title, Dunn received a clock, a plaque, flowers and a $1,500 cash award to use toward professional development at the local, state or national conference level. She shared the items with her students April 20 as they gathered in a circle on the carpet for story time.

“What?” second-grader Shilyesses Patterson said while viewing Dunn’s gifts. “Those are nice people.”

Van Dyke Public Schools occupational therapist Kim Orosz reportedly initiated the nomination for Dunn with Principal Melissa Pluszczynski and school secretary Patti Pickett working on it with her.

“She’s absolutely incredible. Her students love her,” Pluszczynski said. “She always has a smile on her face. She’s here late too many nights. She puts her heart into everything she does.”

Dunn celebrates her 39th year in education this year. Her first teaching experience began at Guardian Angels Catholic School in Detroit, where she impacted the first-grade students learning under her. She also started a preschool and latchkey program out of a church.

In 1994, Dunn began a tenure with Detroit Public Schools, where she taught preschool and kindergarten at Columbian Primary on the city’s southwest side. There were times over the years when Dunn put teaching aside while raising her three sons with husband Mark.

“I subbed in between having my sons,” she said.

In 2000, VDPS welcomed her.

“That’s when I finally got to do special ed,” she said. “I love preschool and kindergarten, but I really love special ed. I think it’s because you can celebrate little successes.”

Dunn’s class size of second- and third-grade students at Kennedy is on the smaller side. Laura Moore is her teaching assistant, and the students meet with a speech pathologist every week.

“We have small class sizes, so we can assess the students,” Dunn said. “It’s easier to move them forward. You also get to work with a team and service the whole child.”

Dunn’s students learn the core curriculum and work at his or her own pace. Each day is planned out, so the students know what to expect. They’re also exposed to music and physical education classes during the week.

“They all have their own goals, so everyone is working at their own levels,” Dunn said. “They’re just a great group of kids. The students that are ready are mainstreamed.”

Dunn has witnessed many changes in education over the years, but said the basics have remained.

“You still need background information (and) prior knowledge to build new learning on. This makes for a receptive audience,” she said. “You must feel safe and comfortable and have basic needs met to learn best. You need to constantly assess, formally and informally, to know where that student is and what that student needs to know next. The world is constantly changing and so must our teaching methods and content.”

The “most rewarding” part for Dunn is seeing students succeed.

“When they finally get something or you hear them reading, that’s the most rewarding to me,” she said. “I love to see students’ faces when they are successful. Little successes build and promote good feelings about themselves.

“The kids have to be comfortable. They have to be safe in order to learn,” Dunn said. “I love the way my teachers made me feel. I want the kids to go as far as they can.”

Every year, three Macomb County teachers from each building level are named as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year for their respective district. The applications are then submitted to the Macomb Intermediate School District where a panel of judges reviews and scores the applications to select countywide Outstanding Teacher of the Year honorees for each building level.

Lincoln Middle School teacher Jonathan Healy was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year for Van Dyke at the district level for middle school while Lincoln High School teacher Robert Curtiss received the honor for Van Dyke at the high school level.

Dunn has started a parent group for parents of autistic children. To find out when the group meets next, call Kennedy Elementary School at (586) 758-8349.

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