By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Four Dearborn Public School teachers were chosen and celebrated Wednesday afternoon, from 913 student nominations of 239 teachers, at the 18th Alberta Muirhead Teacher of the Year awards ceremony.
Jackie Lovejoy, president of the sponsoring Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce, said the purpose of the annual event, held at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, is to recognize and encourage outstanding educators in the Dearborn Public Schools.
“At a time when quality education is so critical to the economic growth and development of southeastern Michigan, we hope that this program will serve as a positive model for the development of other programs,” Lovejoy said.
Eddie Fakhoury, executive director of the Dearborn Education Foundation, also announced three DPS school grant recipients: Duvall Elementary, $250; Bryant Middle School, $500; and Dearborn High School, $1,000.
“The grant is to be used by the school in any means that they see important that supports the continuing education and success of our students,” Fakhoury said.
This year’s teacher honorees included Seena Ankouni and Samia Fawaz of Lowrey Elementary School; Sharifah Ahmed of Salina Middle School; and Amanda Lichocki of Fordson High School.
Each received $1,000, a Golden Apple Award, and a family pass to The Henry Ford.
Ankouni, who is in the preschool-to-second grade category, was nominated by a student who appreciates her fun approach to learning, ability to make math fun, and her help making new friends when, as a newcomer, they had none.
“My teacher makes writing fun because when we complete our writing, she has an activity for it,” the nominating student said in an essay. “For example, we are writing about plants, then we will plant flowers. Also, I have a hard time in math, but my teacher made math fun. She created awesome math centers.
“Furthermore, this was my first year at this school, and I had no friends because I was new to the school and very shy. My teacher knew I was struggling to make friends, so she asked the class if they would be my friend. Now thanks to my teacher, learning is fun with all my new friends.”
Fawaz, also a Lowrey teacher, was nominated by Mona Berry, 10, who said she appreciates her teacher’s ability to make learning fun.
“My teacher creates a positive and fun classroom,” Berry wrote. “If I don’t understand something, my teacher makes sure that I understand by pulling me to the side and helping me privately.
“She makes me feel happy when I come to school. She tells a lot of jokes and stories that have a great deal to do with what we are learning so we don’t forget. She makes learning positive, and she is fun and very kind.”
Fawaz credited her students with her teaching success.
“I might have just won teacher of the year, but I have 30 teachers in my classroom that teach me every single day,” Fawaz said. “They teach me how to love, how to be patient, and life lessons.”
She said she became a teacher because she always had a passion for helping people.
“Being able to influence so many people has made me a stronger and a better teacher every day,” Fawaz said. “Their personalities, their passion for learning, and their kindness is one of the most gratifying feelings you can ever imagine.”
Sharifah Ahmed, a Salina Middle School language arts teacher, was described as “amazing” by her student nominator.
“She has done much to connect classroom learning with everyday life,” the essay read. “One thing that the class and I have learned was to never give up on something you want because it is difficult.”
Ahmed said she loves being able to motivate students and have them want to become something greater.
“I want to make sure that I can encourage them and make sure they know that people care about them, so they can continue to further their education,” Ahmed said.
She said she tries to connect with topics and activities her students enjoy, and she incorporates that into her lessons.
She said it is also important to commit to your heart to teaching.
“Teaching is not a job that you can come into and leave at the end of the day and not feel anything,” Ahmed said. “You’re going to enjoy it – and if you don’t enjoy it, then it is not for you.”
Another language arts teacher, Fordson High School’s Amanda Lichocki, was nominated by freshman Mariam Alkudari, who mentioned Lichocki’s smile, encouragement and positive attitude in her nominating essay.
“She has taught me various things, from annotating articles to writing research papers, but more importantly, she pushed me to meet all of my full potential,” Alkudari said. “Every time I had an assignment, I wouldn’t just strive for the grade. Instead I put in extra work to make her proud.
“She also taught me that the best way to live life is with a positive attitude. I can get straight 4.0s throughout high school and call myself successful, but attitude is the true key to success. I will always try to remember my teacher’s heart-warming attitude and always try to replicate that to the best of my ability.”
Lichocki said teaching was actually a career change for her after working in retail management. She said the teachers she knew in high school influenced her decision to become a teacher.
“I had a lot of teachers who became life-long friends and mentors, so I kind of wanted to do the same thing, and give back the way I was treated in high school,” Lichocki said.
She said her enthusiasm, personality and occasional sarcasm helps her connect with her students.
“I try to make a lot of real world connections to make things appealing to them, and relate-able, so they don’t feel that it is just, ‘Oh, we are just reading this to read it’ and there is no point or inner-purpose,” Lichocki said.
“So you have to connect to real life and tell they why it is important, why they need to use it, and why they need to learn it.”
She said teaching is a very fulfilling career.
“I felt like it was a calling for me,” Lichocki said.