Rochester High School teacher Kelley Cusmano celebrates with members of the school’s student council after being named the 2024-25 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

Rochester High School teacher Kelley Cusmano celebrates with members of the school’s student council after being named the 2024-25 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

Photo provided by Rochester Community Schools

Rochester High educator named Michigan’s Teacher of the Year

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 21, 2024


ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — A passion for teaching runs in the family of Rochester High School teacher Kelley Cusmano, who was recently named the 2024-25 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

As children, Cusmano and her twin sister, Sarah, often helped their now-retired kindergarten teacher mother, Kathy Youmans, in class.

“I have always been a high school teacher, and it’s because my mom was a kindergarten teacher. I helped her a lot, and I was like, ‘Man this is a different kind of help. I can’t tie that many shoes and wipe that many noses,’” Cusmano recalled with a giggle. “I spent a lot of time in her classroom growing up.”

The identical twins, now married with different last names, followed in their mom’s footsteps pursuing a career in education. Sarah Giddings is now a principal, and Cusmano, a high school teacher.

Cusmano earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, a bachelor’s degree in English, and an administrative K-12 certificate, all from Michigan State University. She has been an educator for more than 18 years, the last 16 years at Rochester High School.

Cusmano joined Rochester Community Schools in 2008 as an English language arts teacher at Rochester High School. The following year, she accepted the additional role as student council advisor  — a position that she has held for the past 15 years.

“I know it sounds cliche, but I feel very honored and blessed to work where I do, do what I do, and be a teacher. It’s the best job in the world,” Cusmano said.

On May 7, cheers of joy erupted from a crowd of 1,600 students as State Superintendent Michael Rice  announced that, of over 85,000 public school teachers in Michigan, Cusmano was named the 2024-25 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

A humbled and emotional Cusmano accepted the award during a surprise, all-school assembly at Rochester High School.

“I am not the best teacher in Michigan, but I have a really loud voice,” Cusmano said, with a chuckle. “And I love what I do, and I love who I do it with.”

Rochester High School Principal Josh Wrinkle said Cusmano is “an amazing teacher” and “the perfect example of who you would want to have your kids in the classroom.”

“The students love her. I think the biggest thing for them is she’s always finding a way to be engaging — she’s always finding a way to make things real for them,” he said. “When you’re talking about a high school kid in a classroom, those are the two things that really lock those kids in and make them love learning, and Kelley is certainly a teacher that does that every single day.”

To be a successful teacher, Cusmano believes it’s important to have “the ability to roll with it.”

“It’s the ability to change and think on your feet. It’s the ability to read people — you have to read people and make judgments every single day — and it’s the ability to understand the responsibility that you have every day. Every day, parents give us their precious cargo, and we are responsible for that,” said Cusmano.

Cusmano’s family was thrilled to be in attendance for the big announcement.

“My mother is one of the best teachers you could get in the state of Michigan, and that’s probably why she won this award,” said Cusmano’s daughter Mia. “I don’t think there was anyone better they could give the award to.”

“There’s nobody more deserving,” added Kathy Youmans, Cusmano’s mom. “She is so passionate about this. She gives every bit of herself to these kids and she loves them just like they are her own.”

Giddings said her twin sister has a “passion” for teaching and “does it so well.”

“She’s amazing and she’s going to represent the state of Michigan so well. She lives and breathes Rochester,” she said.

As MDE Teacher of the Year, Cusmano will represent more than 85,000 Michigan teachers and will serve on the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council, where she can advocate for students and influence education policies and initiatives statewide.

“We know how hard she works and she can balance everything,” said Kelley’s husband, John Cusmano. “She just puts so much into being an educator and being a leader — 18 years in and she’s just getting started.”