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Excellence in Education Honors Kalamazoo County High School Seniors and Educators

April 15, 2020

Each spring the Excellence in Education program recognizes the top 2% of academically performing high school seniors across Kalamazoo County.

This year, 44 seniors were selected for the honor, which includes a $1000 scholarship to help with post-secondary expenses. Each student also recognized an educator who significantly impacted their education.

The Excellence in Education program also awarded nine Educator Incentive Grants which provide funding for teachers and administrators in Kalamazoo County to explore new ideas to enhance teaching styles, motivate and inspire their students.

“The Kalamazoo area has a long history of educational excellence and innovation, so it is fitting that we continue the tradition of honoring those practices through the Excellence in Education program,” said committee chair Keevin O’Neill, superintendent of Vicksburg Community Schools.

A collaborative effort among all Kalamazoo County public and non-public schools, local foundations, educational groups and the business community, Excellence in Education was created in 1986 to focus community attention on the academic and professional excellence of graduating high school seniors and educators within Kalamazoo area schools.

Over the course of its lifetime, the Excellence in Education endowment has awarded a total of $1,363,799 in scholarship funds to 1,846 outstanding high school seniors. Additionally, $589,791 in professional development grants have been awarded to 747 educators.

The Excellence in Education program is supported by a permanent endowment established at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. Funding for the endowment was raised through the leadership of the Monroe-Brown Foundation, with strong support from local foundations, businesses, organizations and individuals.

For more information, including access to the 2020 Student Presentation, please visit the Excellence in Education webpage at


Congratulations to the 2020 Excellence in Education scholarship recipients:


Climax-Scotts High School

Simon Swager


Comstock High School

Jeme Richards

Zoe Vandrey


Galesburg-Augusta High School

Daniel Chatman

Jayne Flynn

Sydney Free

Kendra Hagey

Alaina Hiemstra


Hackett Catholic Prep

Katherine Harpenau


Heritage Christian Academy

Olivia Calnin


Kalamazoo Central High School

Ethan Fonger 

Isabelle Hawkes 

Alyxandria Hough

Daniel Nguyen 

Cormac Roth 

Charity Sidwell


Kalamazoo Christian High School

Garrett Mallak 


Loy Norrix High School 

Adonia Alexopoulos

Riley Dominianni 

Lily Dorstewitz 

Nathan Goodwin-Kelly 

Carly Loken 

Antoinette Puca


Parchment High School

Celia Kuch 

Syed Mustafa 


Portage Central High School

Ethan Lee 

Ranya Liu 

Julia Strauss 

Chase Szafranski 

Kevin Wang

Jessica Zhang 

Zachary Zlomek


Portage Northern High School

Riley Carlson 

Grace Fan 

Malcolm Gaynor 

Jack Langejans 

Aayush Mohanty 

Arjav Patel 

Jonah Pilnick


Schoolcraft High School

Andrew Smedley 

Dani Warnaar 


Vicksburg High School

Jenna Beach 

Lindsay Fleck 

Dawnara Rollins 


Congratulations to the 2020 Excellence in Education grant recipients:
Kalamazoo Christian Schools
Christine Webb, Teacher at Kalamazoo Christian Middle School

Christine Webb, a math teacher at Kalamazoo Christian Middle School will attend the 14th International Congress on Mathematical Education in Shanghai China. Webb will bring back learning on gifted education to improve offerings for high achieving students in preparation for their high school academic career. She will present this to staff in her building during professional development days. She is also aiming to have her learning published in Christian Educators Journal and elsewhere.


Kalamazoo Public Schools
Robin C. Greymountain, Homeless Liaison & Title I Literacy Facilitator

Robin Greymountain plans to attend the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) conference in Dallas, TX on Oct. 31 – Nov. 3. The association helps to provide professional development for serving the needs of children who are suffering from homelessness. This conference will help Greymountain and Kalamazoo Public Schools ensure homeless youth have transportation to and from school and are able to fully participate in school activities by removing barriers to identification, enrollment, attendance and success.


Carrie Cook, Music Teacher

Carrie Cook plans to attend the First Steps in Music and Conversational Solfege training through Feierabend Association for Music Education (FAME). This training will provide Cook with the knowledge and skills to support students’ musical ability throughout the learning continuum. Cook will share her learning with fellow music teachers during professional development activities. The strategies used in the course will increase the ability of Kalamazoo Public Schools music teachers to create opportunities for students to engage with music.


Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency
Mikel Vallier, Kalamazoo RESA Math Consultant

Mikel Vallier will attend the U.S. Math Recovery National Conference in Chicago. The conference will equip him to lead and facilitate future Math Recovery courses throughout the region. These Math Recovery courses focus on developing number sense, fraction concepts, math intervention and development facilitators. Expanding this capacity will provide our region with high-quality professional learning in the math content area for K-12 teachers.


Parchment Public Schools
Hillary Campbell, Cathy Stone, Marcy Patterson, Teacher and Principal at North Elementary

Hillary Campbell, Cathy Stone and Marcy Patterson will attend the Ron Clark Academy Teacher Training in Atlanta, GA. The Ron Clark Academy (RCA) educates 4th – 8th grade students from various socio-economic and academic backgrounds in a metro region. RCA is widely recognized at the national and international levels for its success in educating students with academic rigor, passion and creativity. They will be trained through classroom observations and workshops on how to increase student engagement, ensure academic rigor, and create a climate and culture that leads to success.


Amy Sue Manley, Media Specialist at Central Elementary

Amy Sue Manley plans to attend the Book Expo America 2020 in New York City. Book Expo America is an event where librarians, booksellers, publishers, agents and authors can network to learn about what is current, including upcoming titles in the publishing world and resources aligned with the titles. Upon return from the Book Expo, Manley will continue to build author relationships and get students excited about reading through author connections. The newest trends and resources in both publishing and reading will be shared with staff.


Kim Palms, Kindergarten Teacher at Northwood Elementary

Kim Palms will attend the Acadience Super Institute in Dallas, TX this summer. Acadience is a mathematics and literacy screening and diagnostic tool used in Parchment. As a member of her building’s Student Achievement Leadership Team, she will bring back knowledge on the use of data from the Acadience screener to respond to student mathematics needs in kindergarten. She is intentionally bringing training back for her fellow kindergarten teachers and is looking forward to seeing a positive impact on student learning.


Portage Public Schools
Josh Bartz, Music Teacher at Portage Northern High School

Josh Bartz will attend the Teaching Guitar Workshop and Trauma-Informed Schools Training. He will develop a course proposal for a guitar class for at-risk students at Portage Northern High School. The course will be designed to give students an opportunity to learn guitar while fostering rich student engagement. This course will be a creative outlet to connect with skill development in their intervention and core academic classes. This unique blend of training will serve as a model for the integration of Trauma-informed instruction and music.


Schoolcraft Community Schools
Dr. Donya Dobbin, Teacher at Schoolcraft High School

Dr. Donya Dobbin will attend the annual National Science Teaching Association conference in Chicago. She will learn about improved instructional strategies for the classroom. With the implementation of Next Generation Science Standards and the Michigan Science Standards, this conference will allow her to create opportunities for students around science inquiry and phenomena. She will support her peers in her district through their professional learning support website, posting her new ideas and instructing others.