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Michigan City Area Schools Announces 2024 Teacher & Employee of the Year Recipients

Michigan City – April 17, 2024 – Michigan City Area Schools has announced recipients of its 2024 Teacher and Employee of the Year award. The program, which is in its pilot year, recognizes five staff members who have gone above and beyond to serve students.

The recipients include Susan Shell (Elementary Teacher of the Year), Jenny Jones (Secondary Teacher of the Year), Missy Burklow (Support Staff Employee of the Year), Diana Walpole (Food Service Employee of the Year), and Maryanne Garon (Transportation Employee of the Year). 

The five winners were surprised on Friday, April 12 by a “prize patrol” that included MCAS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Associate Superintendent Dr. Wendel McCollum, and representatives of Comcast and the Michigan City Chamber, which are sponsors of the program. Each recipient was presented with $500, an engraved award, and a bag of gift items, courtesy of Comcast and the Chamber.

“We’re thrilled to recognize these dedicated employees,” said Dr. Eason-Watkins. “They are all talented and experienced professionals who enjoy what they do and care deeply about the students and families they serve. They are truly models of excellence for our district.”

“Teachers have long been the architects of learning and play a pivotal role in our communities,” said Carl Jones, Jr., Comcast’s Regional Vice President of Government and External Affairs. “Comcast is proud to partner with Michigan City Area Schools and the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the great educators that are helping to shape the futures of our youth.”

“Our Chamber has a longstanding tradition of honoring area educators,” said Danny Hogan, Interim President of the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce. “We are excited to partner with Michigan City Area Schools and Comcast to acknowledge the accomplishments of deserving teachers and support staff who work tirelessly to support our Michigan City Area Schools students.”

About the recipients: 

The 2024 Elementary Teacher of the Year is Susan Shell, a kindergarten teacher at Marsh Elementary School. She has been a kindergarten teacher for 17 years – 16 of them for MCAS. Shell believes that in order to create life-long learners, she must commit to being one, too. She earned her Master’s in Early Childhood Education in 2023, and recently completed a year-long training in LETRS, a research-based program rooted in the science of reading. A Mentor Teacher Leader, she visits other classrooms to model lessons and co-teach, and she serves as the technology trainer for her building.  She is also an expert grant writer who has secured over $100,000 in funding for her classroom and school. 

“Susan’s students love learning and show tremendous growth,” said Marsh Principal Moniqua Neal. “She is an expert in instruction, and she builds lasting relationships with children and families. She is such an asset to our school!”

Jenny Jones, a computer science and technology teacher at Krueger Middle School, is the 2024 Secondary Teacher of the Year. She has 25 years of experience as an educator, serving students and families at Krueger for the past 23 years. A strong advocate of coding education, she is certified as a teacher for the Project Lead the Way courses “App Creators” and “Computer Science for Innovators and Makers.” She co-chairs her building’s leadership team and has organized and facilitated numerous programs at the school relating to student recognition and parent involvement. She is part of the Guiding Coalition at Krueger that launched the school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) program, Wolfpack, which builds an inclusive and positive culture and focuses on educator professional learning communities.

“Jenny is the definition of a great teacher,” said Krueger principal Josh Malone. “She puts kids first, leads by example, and has an extremely positive attitude. She is an expert in her field, a technology wizard, and advocates for her students’ future success.”

Missy Burklow, a paraprofessional at Knapp Elementary School, is the 2024 Support Staff Employee of the Year. A 35-year veteran of MCAS, she supports students in grades 1 through 5 who have mild disabilities and autism, in the areas of math and reading. She also assists students in the school’s sensory room, utilizing specialized equipment to help students regulate their emotions independently. She has volunteered with the school’s after-school remediation program, book fair, parent programs, and staff events – and has been a private tutor for over 20 years. She also serves as the co-president of the Michigan City Education Support Professionals Association. 

“Missy is a true asset to Knapp Elementary,” said Knapp principal Michelle Hornyak. “She consistently goes above and beyond to ensure the success and well-being of our students and staff. Her positive attitude, reliability, and willingness to help in any situation make her an invaluable member of our Knapp Crew.”

The 2024 Food Service Employee of the Year is Diana Walpole, a Food Service Tech 3 at Edgewood Elementary. She began working for MCAS Food Service in 2017; her professional skills in child nutrition, attention to detail, and personable attitude have made her a model professional who assumed the role of supervising all kitchen operations and staff at the school in 2019. She often donates her time to transform the Edgewood’s cafeteria for holidays and events such as National School Breakfast and Lunch week, and she is beloved by students and staff. 

“In a world where encouragement, smiles, and attention have never been more important to our children, they are sure to get all of this each day in the cafeteria at Edgewood,” says MCAS Food Service Director Nicole Santana. “Diana is a confident leader who is valued by her colleagues and has a tremendous impact on everyone she comes in contact with.” 

School bus driver Maryanne Garon is the 2024 Transportation Employee of the Year. She has been a school bus driver for MCAS since 2012, driving routes for students with special needs for most of her career. She is certified in wheelchair securement, CPR, and Crisis Prevention, and currently drives a special-needs bus for both Knapp Elementary and Barker Middle School. She has mentored several bus monitors, giving them the confidence and support to become drivers. A volunteer for several community organizations, she recently organized a drive at Transportation to provide items to the Stepping Stone shelter that were desperately needed.  

“Maryanne’s strong work ethic, passion, and compassion stand out daily,” said MCAS Director of Transportation Sue Harrison. “Her coworkers respect her and her students love her because she treats them as her own. Her comedic side always seems to lighten and brighten the day for everyone here at Transportation!”  

For more information about the MCAS Teacher and Employee of the Year program, including a complete list of school finalists for the teacher and support staff employee of the year, visit www.educateMC.net/TOY_EOY

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