LHS educator is county’s teacher of the year

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published June 23, 2021

 Lincoln High School social studies teacher Gabrielle Avila, pictured top row far left, was named the Macomb County High School teacher of the year for the 2020-2021 school year through the Macomb Intermediate School District.

Lincoln High School social studies teacher Gabrielle Avila, pictured top row far left, was named the Macomb County High School teacher of the year for the 2020-2021 school year through the Macomb Intermediate School District.

Photo provided by Gabrielle Avila


WARREN/MACOMB COUNTY — From engaging students in her U.S. and world history classes to heading the school’s Social Studies Department, the dedication of Lincoln High School social studies teacher Gabrielle Avila has made an impact.

Avila was named the Macomb County High School Teacher of the Year for 2020-2021 through the Macomb Intermediate School District, or MISD. Lincoln is part of Van Dyke Public Schools.

“I was surprised and honored,” said Avila, who is also the Lincoln student government co-advisor. “I’m just really honored. I’m happy to represent Van Dyke and Lincoln High School.”

Every year, the MISD recognizes teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels — nominated by their peers, parents and students — in each Macomb County district. From there, an “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” is named countywide at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

According to Avila, who has taught at Lincoln for the past seven years, the students were “very nice and congratulatory” about her award. Senior and student government member Dyasia Robinson even wrote a letter of recommendation.

“She is one of the best teachers I have had so far in high school. She has great energy. There is always positivity radiating off of her,” Robinson stated. “She has unique ways to make history engaging and understandable. I have seen her change me and my peers’ feelings towards history in the best ways. When we walk into her classroom we are happy and want to do the work. She wants the best for her students.”

Under Avila’s guidance, the student government participates in community service projects, donates to organizations, and makes Thanksgiving baskets for a dozen local families.

“She makes all of us in student government better people. I am so grateful that she is one of our supervisors. I can tell how much she loves what she is doing and so can everyone else,” Robinson said.

Because of COVID-19, Van Dyke conducted virtual school for most of the year, with some students returning to face-to-face learning in March.

“It’s been challenging for everyone involved,” Avila said. “I miss my students, and I know they miss their peers. I miss the day-to-day interaction.”

Something the Troy High School graduate always keeps in mind when teaching her students is, “You don’t know what is going on in their life at that moment.” The most rewarding aspect of being in the classroom is “definitely the interaction I have with my students.”

“I try to engage students in history on a day-to-day basis. I hope in the end they come away with social studies they need in real life, and they felt comfortable learning in my class,” said Avila, who sees the effects of other staff members at Lincoln. “I know my co-workers work really hard.”

Avila’s favorite social studies unit is on the Industrial Revolution.

“There were a lot of exciting new things we take for granted.”

Avila, who graduated from Bowling Green State University, didn’t always plan on becoming an educator, but a couple of childhood experiences may have set the course. She often played school with her younger sister where Avila was always the teacher. The social studies teacher also used to help her aunt, an educator, set up her classroom every year for the new school year. In high school, Avila taught Catechism classes.

“I had some great teachers,” Avila said. “I’m sure they had some influence on me as well.”

LHS Principal Billie Sczepaniak sees Avila’s hard work every day.

“She works collaboratively with her team to create some of the best assessments and lesson plans our building has to offer. She is diligent in ensuring that all content and curriculum is delivered by the very best practices,” Sczepaniak said in an email. “She also is on our Healthy Grading Pilot Team. Her genuine care and passion for this initiative is apparent each time she speaks about it. She has agreed to train colleagues in various departments, has taken on the mentor role for teachers from the middle school, and is committed to implement this with the utmost fidelity in order for students to master the skills necessary to succeed.”

The awarded teachers are normally recognized at a dinner at the MISD building, located in Clinton Township. Because of COVID-19, this year’s dinner was canceled, but there was still a brief face-to-face ceremony for the recipients.

“We got to receive our awards from Dr. (Alesia) Flye,” Avila said. “It was nice to be recognized in person.”

This year’s countywide elementary school and middle school teachers of the year were Dawn Nacker and Paula LaSala, respectively, both of Utica Community Schools.

Elsewhere locally, Elizabeth Conroy, Autumn Pabst and Jordan Reeves were the Center Line Public Schools teachers of the year.

Brooke Kelter-Smith, Robyn Nowak and Emily Petroske were the Fitzgerald Public Schools teachers of the year.

Along with Avila, Amatullah Ahmed and Bonnie Zinkivach-Bassa were named Van Dyke Public Schools teachers of the year.

Noha Agini, Denise Kudra and Amy Rovner were the Warren Consolidated Schools teachers of the year.

Michael Lukasavage was the Warren Woods Public Schools teacher of the year. The district only submitted the name of one educator.