2020 Distinguished Educator: Michele Nowak ‘Brings Everyone Joy’

Every year, Lapeer Community Schools, in cooperation with the District’s employee groups, recognizes the best of our staff. In lieu of our typical employee awards banquet, we will honor each award winner individually.

Sometimes all the fancy words adults can conjure up have to take a backseat to the simple reflections of youth. When asked about 2020 Distinguished Educator Michele Nowak, Jayla Holiday said something about her teacher that we should all hope one day could be said about us.

“She brings everyone joy.”

Robert Lavachery, another student, has a similar view. He recalls staying indoors during recess to put together a heat lamp for the students’ beloved gardening club that Michele founded. 

“I know that made Señorita Nowak very happy,” he said. “It made me feel good, too, because I like making other people happy.”

For the last 21 years, Michele has brought students like Jayla and Robert back to school every day with a renewed sense of wonder. Her classes are always full of excitement and creativity. Ask anyone who has ever been in a classroom, and they will agree: One cannot impact the lives of students without a passion for learning. 

Michele Nowak has passion to spare, and one can see evidence of it everywhere she goes; And, as a traveling teacher, she’s been everywhere.

One of her colleagues called her a “leader” with “invaluable” qualities that make her stand out among her peers. Another said her devotion to lifelong learning is contagious.

“Her knowledge of, and passion for, her subject matter, makes her a colleague that other educators strive to emulate,” her colleague said.

A proud Michigan State and Marygrove College alumnus, Michele has been a fixture in the elementary foreign language department for two decades. Michele cultivated a love for Spanish early on in life, when she started counting with her furry friends on Plaza Sésamo. She loved the outdoors, and especially reading and gardening. She naturally gravitated toward Spanish classes in high school and eventually pursued degrees in Spanish and Geography at MSU, including study abroad opportunities in Spain.   

Once she became a full-time teacher, she started using her passions (Spanish, gardening, photography, etc.) to help her students find theirs.

To her colleagues, Michele is a trailblazer —  an early adopter of strategies to keep students engaged in learning every day. She sets the standard.

Another colleague raved about Michele’s ability to bring her passions beyond teaching into the school setting.

“She puts her time and energy into the school climate and community to make it feel like family … that’s what she does,” she said. 

Another talked about her design of standards-based world language curriculum with clear objectives and opportunities for engaging in self-assessment.

“Her work across grade levels and integration across content area demonstrates her flexibility and vision for big ideas, and how to execute them in practice.”

As a group, the World Language Department at the Zemmer Campus offered its support for this recognition in a letter, citing Michele’s energy and passion as laying the groundwork for a successful world language program at the secondary level.

“Our upper-level programs would not be as successful as they are today without Michele’s help,” the letter stated. 

Michele Nowak is an expert teacher, a great colleague and friend to so many in Lapeer Community Schools. For her students, she provides experiences that will last a lifetime.

“She’s the teacher my kids love and will always remember after they graduate,” one parent said. “They were upset when they realized she did not go with them to middle school.”

Eres la mejor, Señorita Nowak!

lapeercs

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