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.
For Chris Prill, learning has never been confined to the four walls of the classroom. Learning, it turns out, is something you do on your way to school, too.
And on the way home. At recess. And lunch. Even on the weekend.
Learning, unlike a textbook, is not bound by anything.
Chris, a 2020 Lapeer Community Schools Distinguished Educator, admits that his own difficulties at an early age have guided him throughout his career as a teacher.
“He’s a perfect example of someone who learned from every one of his challenges, whether academic, social or athletic, and paid it forward by becoming a teacher so he could help students of all abilities reach their full potential,” one colleague said. “He has the unique ability to take a lesson and reach students of all levels … it’s important for Chris to ensure every student feels part of the process regardless of their academic ability.”
Chris has been a teacher in the District for 18 years and has most recently served as a science and outdoor education instructor at the Rolland-Warner Campus. He has coached basketball, softball and track at the middle school level and been a sponsor of numerous extra-curricular activities.
Most notably, Chris has been instrumental in the incredible success of outdoor education in the District. He has been in charge of the National Archery in the School Program (NASP) at Rolland-Warner and has served as co-sponsor of the school’s Archery Club. Chris has worked tirelessly to keep the program and the club funded through grant opportunities and local fundraising.
Chris has also taken the reins of Rolland-Warner’s Bee Club, which enhances the classroom experience for many of the students in his science and outdoor education classes. Students get to experience firsthand the process of tending bees, raising honey and marketing it for sale.
“Under his leadership, Chris has helped to energize and expand (the Bee Club), offering students real-world experiences outside the classroom that they can connect to their inside learning,” one colleague said. “All along the way, Chris has parlayed his passion for the outdoors into opportunities many of his students will take with them the rest of their lives.”
For Chris, his life’s work is about capturing imaginations and sowing the seeds of wonder that will eventually take up root and grow into something much bigger — to uncover goals, skills and ambitions that some students never knew they had.
Students look up to Chris as someone who never looks down at others. One of his students spoke of his love for children and his ability to connect on a personal level, meeting students where they are.
“When I was having issues, he was like a father figure I could talk to when there was no one else,” she said.
Another colleague, who works with cognitively-impaired (CI) students, said Chris has done amazing things for the community at Rolland-Warner.
“When tending to bees or any other activity, he always includes the students from the CI program,” she said. “He is understanding and does not lose patience when it takes them twice as long to put on their bee suits or when teaching them how to shoot a bow and arrow. On top of that, he always makes sure to take photos that I can share with their families.”
Chris has the ability to work with students with every disposition and ability, but he has a special gift for reaching students with challenging behaviors.
“We specifically would attempt to utilize Chris in special ways, devising unique schedules for him just so he could work with these students at some point in his day,” one colleague said.
Throughout his career, his dedication to his students, his fellow staff members and to the entire school community has been an inspiration to many. His approach to education is worthy of admiration and imitation.
What must we do to reach every student? Chris has the answer: whatever it takes.
One of his science colleagues put it this way: “He will do anything to help a kid. He has spent countless hours of his personal time on projects, raising money without expecting anything in return.”
The reward, for Chris, comes later, when wrong tracks are made right, and when the hard-to-reach are reached. Harvest time for the rewards of work.
A parent whose children were taught and coached by Chris, summed up her experience in glowing terms: “During their time with him, my children would come home excited to tell me about all they learned in class. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest assets that Lapeer Community schools has, and one of the reasons I would not choose to send my kids anywhere else.”
For his enthusiasm, creativity, work ethic and dedication to the students of Lapeer Community Schools, we offer this recognition on behalf of a grateful school district.