Allen 2nd grade teacher wins Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery

Jennifer Harris plans to spend the award money on books reflecting the diversity embraced at Allen

An AAPS teacher known for her creativity and inspiring her colleagues has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

Jennifer Harris, a second-grade teacher at Allen Elementary, said her love of working with children and making a difference in their lives drew her to a career in education.

“I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember,” said Harris, who student-taught at Allen before beginning her career there 27 years ago. “I love working with children and I have always known I wanted to make a difference in children’s lives. I simply could not imagine doing any other job. Becoming a teacher is what I feel I was meant to do.”

The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public-school educators across the state during the school year.

Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $1,500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school, or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.

Harris said that she and Allen Principal Laura Wolf had just been speaking about how the money may be spent.

“We are thinking some new equity books for classrooms or a collection that can be shared by classrooms in a checkout system would be a good plan,” Harris said. “I will ask the staff if they have books in mind already that they would like to see purchased as well as start doing some of my own searching for titles.”

Harris said the endless rewarding feeling she gets from students is her favorite part of being an educator.

She said she’s taught kindergarten through fourth grade, and no matter which grade she’s teaching, she finds endless rewarding aspects to working with each age group.

“I love watching children in my class learn to read and write,” said Harris. “It is exciting to witness their mathematical reasoning and thinking as the year unfolds. I have the great opportunity to lead, teach, and witness a group of learners where friendships are forming, students are working together and learning to solve problems together, and a class community is forming in front of my eyes. Second grade is a pivotal year where students begin as early elementary learners and transition into upper elementary learners. This age group of children grows and matures in so many ways during their second-grade experience. My ultimate favorite thing about being an educator is knowing I have the privilege to play a role in and be a part of my students’ learning and growth.”

Laura Wolf has high praise for Harris.

“Throughout her career at Allen, Jennifer has modeled what it means to be an exemplary educator,” says Wolf.  “Her work is centered around keeping children first, making a difference in the life of each individual student and family she serves. We are so lucky she landed on the Allen team many years ago. It has been a privilege and an honor to work alongside Jennifer for many years.”

A family member who has been an educator for 38 years nominated Harris for the award. The nomination cited her willingness to make personal sacrifices for her school and students: “Jennifer Harris has consistently strived to be the best she can be. She sets high standards for herself and works tirelessly to provide outstanding lessons, accommodations for every type of learner, and exceptional care and kindness for each student. She is regularly requested by parents whose children she has had in the past and is known for going above and beyond in building positive teacher/parent relationships. Her creativity is inspiring to her colleagues and she is a model of a ‘team player’.

The nomination included the fact that Harris has been selected to teach in summer programs due to her strong work ethic and a reputation for being dependable and highly committed.

Harris earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. She has been an educator for 27 years, all with Ann Arbor Schools.

Outstanding public-school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at or through the websites of the Lottery’s media partner stations.

Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
  • Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
  • Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
  • Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts.
  • Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.

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