Story, photos and video by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
Lisa Cope drove her 2005 Dodge Caravan to her job as a physical education teacher at Carpenter Elementary Monday.
By the end of the day, she had won a two-year lease on a brand new Buick as the 2018 Washtenaw County Teacher of the Year presented by LaFontaine Automotive and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber.
The selection committee unanimously agreed that Cope should be this year’s winner, said David Norton, head of the selection committee.
“We received so many letters from teachers and students that made it clear how loved Ms. Cope is,” said Norton. “Ms. Cope received the highest scores from the committee members in the categories of passion, engagement, leadership, and inspiration. I believe all these qualities are what make her an amazing teacher and the 2018 Teacher of the Year.”
Cope has taught at Carpenter for the last 23 years, and at Clague Middle School for the previous seven. She also served as chair for the Health and Physical Education Department for the district for seven years.
Norton said the committee was impressed that Cope has been able to adapt and innovate her physical education curriculum throughout the years to ensure she stayed in touch with every student in school.
“She has taken her education beyond just the student body by motivating faculty members at Carpenter to do early morning and after school `walk and talks’ where they would walk around a loop, getting exercise and bonding,” he said.
Principal Michael Johnson calls Cope “passionate, powerful, dynamic, humble, a great listener, and funny.”
He said she works hard to inspire everyone around her.
“Her lessons are thoughtful, creative, and effective for enhancing both physical education, health and social skills in students,” says Johnson. “She goes out of her way to ensure that everyone feels appreciated and successful, whether they are a student, colleague, or parent. Our team is that much stronger because of her dedication.”
Asked how she felt to win, Cope said she was overwhelmed.
“It’s exciting. It feels wonderful,” she said. “The students and my colleagues and the whole community at Carpenter—I think they’re amazing.”
She said she tries to meet the needs of every student.
“I try to keep it fresh and engaging and leave every classtime with a message they can rememberand keep it fun and special,” she said.
Vera Felk-Spraetz first met Cope when her daughters—now 30 and 27—attended Carpenter, and now that she’s retired, volunteers as a helper in Cope’s classes about three times a week.
“She’s a fantatic teacher,” said Felk-Spraetz, as she smiled at Carpenter students checking out Cope’s new car with its big red bow. “The kids are Number One in her mind; she’s always coming up with new ideas; and I know for a fact she’s sometimes up til midnight just thinking of new ideas to keep the kids involved. She stresses teamwork, and never loses her patience. She continues to amaze me.”
Carpenter fifth grade teacher Nicole Thomas said Cope tries to get to know all 430-plus students in her classes by having personal interviews throughout the year where she asks students specific questions about their personal interests, their favorite fruit/vegetable, their favorite physical activity, what they want to change about gym class, etc.
“She uses that information to differentiate instruction and attempt to make her class enjoyable for all students,” wrote Thomas, in nominating Cope for the award. “She attempts to create lessons and activities where all students feel successful (even those who aren’t competitive or feel they’re “athletic”). Lisa uses programs and lessons to encourage students to be healthy and active outside of the school day and in their future lives.”
“Students in my classes have always talked about loving gym days and are eager to attend her class. She also creates active activities for staff to get moving and be social to boost the morale and energy among staff members. Lisa has a positive impact on staff and students on a daily basis.”
Other remarks from those nominating Cope for the award:
“Lisa is inspired and inspirational…..Lisa models healthy life practices for adults and our children.” Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for AAPS
“Lisa Cope is unmatched in her care for children, her dedication to her schools and district, and her advocacy for healthy practices. The AAPS community is enriched by her and her students have benefited in countless ways from her encouragement and example for these many years.” Dawn Linden, Executive Director of Elementary Education for AAPS
“Lisa is a dedicated and creative teacher who always goes above and beyond for her students and colleagues. Ann Arbor is very lucky to have her in our district and I feel very blessed to have her in my department and as a mentor.” Katherine Hamilton, PreK-5 Physical Education Teacher at Allen Elementary School, Chair for the Physical Education and Health Department at AAPS
“Lisa Cope has been an incredible advocate for student health and well being through excellent physical education programming throughout her entire career.” Robin Bailey, Fine Arts Coordinator for AAPS
“I have had Mrs. Cope since second grade. Gym is always my favorite special. She is one of the teachers I enjoy the most because she inspires us, keeps us healthy, has lots of activities, and we have fun. Every year, Mrs. Cope does Jump Rope for Heart.
This year, Mrs. Cope gave everyone water bottles to inspire kids to drink less sugary drinks and to eat healthy. She also does Field Day in June. Kids enjoy it because it is always new and creative. Mrs. Cope has fun activities for us at gym class. She always makes up new activities every year. Mrs. Cope made up her own game called Sha-Ball. She set up a mat by one basketball rim and then set another mat by the other rim. She has several teams she switches in and out. You have one ball. You are only allowed to take two steps and then you have to shoot or pass the ball into a basket held by the other team. The team with the most points after two minutes wins the round. She also has Glow in the Dark Day and obstacle courses. Mrs. Cope always wants kids to stay healthy because not all of the kids in the world have that opportunity. She keeps us all healthy at Carpenter. That is why I think Mrs. Cope should get Teacher of the Year.” DeMarus Bird, fourth grader