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Teachers of the year named in Macomb County

Two Fitzgerald teachers among county winners

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published April 15, 2015

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WARREN — Every year, Macomb County educators are nominated by their peers, parents and students to be considered the outstanding teachers of the year in their respective school buildings.

From there, each building winner competes through the Macomb Intermediate School District to determine the outstanding teachers for the elementary, middle and high school levels throughout the county.

For 2015, two Fitzgerald Public Schools teachers were named as teachers of the year countywide: Westview Elementary first-grade teacher Anita Somero and Chatterton Middle School sixth- and seventh-grade science teacher Sharon Sylvester.

Both teachers were recognized during the FPS Board of Education meeting March 26, along with the district’s three other teachers of the year at their building levels: Early Childhood Center preschool teacher Jessica Salter, Mound Park Elementary Title I teacher Durga Miranda and Fitzgerald High School band director Brian Roelandt.

“Anita creates a safe, respectful learning environment where each student has the opportunity to be successful. Her passion for teaching is contagious and can best be seen through the eyes of her students and heard through the sound of enthusiasm in their voices,” said FPS Superintendent Barbara VanSweden, who read comments from a  retired Fitzgerald teacher of the year and two former students. Somero was described as being “caring, patient, happy and ready to teach.”

“It was nice to hear the words that she read,” Somero said. “To hear someone else read the words of former students, that was really neat. It was overwhelming. My ... family was there.”

Somero and Sylvester both received the good news from school officials while they were in class with their students.

“I got a chance to share it with my kids. They kind of understood a little bit. They were very happy,” Somero said. “I appreciate winning this. I’m very honored.”

Somero began her career in FPS 23 years ago teaching second grade at Westview and soon switched to first grade. She believes every child should feel success as a learner, and she is known for welcoming each student in the morning with a personalized greeting. Somero works closely with parents to support student learning and reduce behavioral issues.

Somero didn’t initially pursue education, however.

“I started off at Wayne State in pre-med,” she said. It was her mom who said, “I think you’d be a great teacher.”

Somero listened and changed her major.

“The job has been very rewarding,” Somero said. “Being a first-grade teacher, you get to see the most growth in the children. They’re still babies at the beginning of the year.”

By the end of the year, Somero said, they are reading and writing.

“It’s just amazing to see the growth in the kids,” the elementary school teacher of the year said. “I want them to remember having fun and learning from me.”

Along with teaching the core curriculum, Somero also focuses on life skills. Students learn respect in her classroom and how to be a good friend.

Somero has very close ties to the district. She attended Mound Park as an elementary student and is a 1986 FHS graduate.

She said the budget cuts that school districts have endured statewide in the last several years, including salary reductions and cuts to the supplies, are a challenge.

“As a teacher, we want to make sure the kids have what they need,” she said.

Sylvester’s achievement left her “humbled.”

“I work with so many gifted teachers that put their whole heart and soul into their profession. Any one of my fellow co-workers would be a worthy recipient of this award,” she said in an email. “I do not do what I do for awards or accolades, but like most teachers, I do what I do because I love kids, and I want to be that positive impact upon a child’s life. The greatest award I receive is when I learn about my former students achieving great things in their lives.”  

It was after taking a prep-teaching course at Center Line High School that Sylvester realized she wanted to be an educator. However, she put her dreams on hold because of layoffs occurring at the time and took a job as a purchasing agent. When that industry went through what she called “a downward spiral,” Sylvester pursued her goal. 

“The day after I graduated cum laude from Oakland University, my precious daughter was born. Two years later, my special son entered into our lives. I knew my calling as a mom was stronger than my calling of a teacher,” Sylvester said. “Once again, I placed my dream of teaching on hold so I could give my own children 100 percent of my attention.”

Nineteen years ago, Sylvester was hired in FPS.

“I love my career choice, and I could never imagine myself doing anything else. How blessed is the person who loves going to work each day, because each day never feels like work at all.”

Sylvester named Carolyn Connell — her fifth-grade teacher at Crothers Elementary in CLPS — as her favorite teacher.

“She was probably one of my academically hardest teachers. I loved that because she took me to a higher level than I thought I could ever achieve. I pray I am that same motivator and role model to my students,” Sylvester said.

“The worst part of teaching is when you see a child hurting, whether it is emotionally or physically. These are kids,” she said. “It breaks my heart to observe the struggles some of them have to endure in their young lives.  If I had a superpower, I would fix their issues for each and every one of them.”

The best part of teaching is the “ah-ha” moments, Sylvester said.

“When a student finally understands a concept you are trying to teach is a great joy to watch them light up,” she said. “I often tell my students that learning is not always easy. It takes time and a lot of hard work and dedication. I share with them that learning never ends. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take chances. I share with them how I have stepped out of my comfort zone just recently here in my career.”

That includes leading the yearbook club, organizing the Chatterton Junior Honor Society, and establishing the school’s first robotics team this year. Sylvester also was selected to be a member of the Galileo Leadership Team.

 

 

A special recognition event will be held April 16 at the Macomb Intermediate School District building in Clinton Township to honor the
62 teachers of the year in Macomb County. The honorees for
the Warren and Center Line area are below:

Center Line Public Schools
Nichole Pelczarski — Peck Elementary School
Michele Miller — Wolfe Middle School
John Grob — Center Line High School

Fitzgerald Public Schools
Anita Somero — Westview Elementary School, county-level winner
Sharon Sylvester — Chatterton Middle School, county-level winner
Brian Roelandt —  Fitzgerald High School

Van Dyke Public Schools
Carol Scurti — Carlson Elementary School
Mary McSherry — Lincoln Middle School
Mark Reading — Lincoln High School

Warren Woods Public Schools
Lisa Meneghin — Westwood Elementary School
Leo Kondziolka — Warren Woods Middle School

Warren Consolidated Schools
Michelle Clarke — Fillmore Year-Round Elementary School
Cayna Carnes — Beer Middle School
Robert Lindsay — Sterling Heights High School

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