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Seniors Honored for Academic Excellence

Excellence in Education recogExcellence in Education logo nizes the top-achieving high school seniors from Kalamazoo County’s public and non-public high schools. This year, 43 seniors were selected for the honor, which comes with a $1,200 scholarship. Each student recognized an educator who significantly impacted their K-12 education.

Watch a video of the pre-recorded awards program online here.

The Excellence in Education program has also awarded three Educator Incentive Grants. The grants provide funding for teachers and administrators in Kalamazoo County schools 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 designed in 1986 to focus community attention on the academic and professional excellence of graduating high school seniors and educators within Kalamazoo area schools.

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 information on the 2021 awardees and their significant educators, view the pre-recorded 2021 Student Presentation available at

2021 Excellence in Education Grants

Portage Public Schools
Michelle Braat, Central Elementary
Michelle plans to take two courses to support her Young-5’s classroom. The courses support early childhood math and literacy through project-based learning that is appropriate for this age group. Michelle is stretching her instructional repertoire through these courses and will be able to complete this learning online. Michelle also plans to share this learning with her entire Young 5s team in Portage.

Rose Hellmers, North Middle School
Rose plans to attend the Westminster Conducting Institute at Rider University in New Jersey this summer. The Institute includes a week-long intensive training with the world’s leading choral conductors. She is hoping to build her conducting, warmups, and many other best practices for the choral classroom. This course will benefit all of her middle and high school choral classes and will allow her to increase her students access to more unique compositions.

Vicksburg Community Schools
Jennifer Rodas, Allie Lamars, Mary Zemlick, and Emily Chabert
The foreign language department at Vicksburg, which consists of three Spanish teachers and a French teacher, will attend the 2021 American Council of Teaching a Foreign Language (ACTFL) workshop and convention in November. The event is scheduled for November 19-21, 2021 in San Diego, and is offered to educators around the world. They plan to advance their teaching methods while networking with other World Language teachers to hear about how they inspire their students.