Farmington Schools honors two teachers with heart

Farmington Public Schools officials surprised teachers at Wood Creek Elementary and North Farmington High School Thursday with the Judy White-Ora “Teaching with Heart and Soul” award.

Superintendent George C. Heitsch and Director of School/Community Relations Diane Bauman presented the awards to Greg Drozdowski at North and Kim Zell at Wood Creek.

Heitsch, Drozdowski, Greene
George Heitsch, Superintendent, (left) and Joe Greene, Principal of North Farmington High School, (right) with the newest Judy White-Ora winner Greg Drozdowski. (Farmington Public Schools)

Drozdowski has for 23 years impacted the lives of students as a social worker and a restorative practice facilitator at Harrison High School, East Middle School, Wood Creek Elementary School, Forest Elementary School, and North Farmington High.

He co-wrote a Smaller Learning Communities grant implemented for three years at Harrison and wrote the curriculum and co-taught a class called SAIL (Success in Academics and In Life), which was recognized by the Oakland Press Excellence in Education Program. Many at risk students graduated as a direct result.

In addition to founding Harrison’s Senior Honors Night, now in its 20th year. Drozdowski wrote and implemented the JIMINEY student-to-student mentoring program and the GANDALF teacher-to-student mentoring program.

One colleague wrote, “He accomplishes tasks with great initiative and with a very positive attitude, yielding high success for all the students he works with on a daily basis.”

A student wrote, “Greg is a big part of North Farmington’s staff because he helps people when they feel like life is getting hard.”

Zell and Wiercinski
Nominator Melissa Wiercinski, right, congratulates Kim Zell. (Farmington Public Schools)

Zell has been teaching with Farmington Schools for 14 years, starting as a second grade teacher at Kenbrook Elementary School. Since 2010, she has been a second grade teacher at Wood Creek.

During the first few weeks of school, Zell’s mission is to learn everything she can about her students. She seeks out opportunities to connect with each one’s personal interests and background, and infuses learning with these insights.

Zell’s students have a master teacher who creates lessons that are child-centered and engaging, and student choice is a driving force in her classroom. She also has compassion for those who don’t come to school with everything they need to be successful and has purchased clothes, winter gear, food, snacks, lunch, boots, and shoes for her students. 

One colleague wrote, “On top of all the academic learning, she guides and empowers students to be themselves.”

Another colleague wrote, “When you enter Mrs. Zell’s classroom, you can see where her heart is! She shines when she is with her students or our larger Wood Creek community.”

The “Teaching with Heart and Soul” Award was created in honor of retired assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Judy White-Ora, who passed away on January 6, 2006. During her years in education, she developed a pledge for teachers and her ultimate goal was to receive one million signed pledges from educators around the world.

Following White-Ora’s death, members of the Farmington Schools community created the “Teaching with Heart and Soul Award” for teachers that lead their lives by the words of the pledge, which reads:

Today I will:

• Respect the uniqueness of each child

• Ignite the joy of learning

• Listen to their voices

• Put human connections first

• Encourage the spirit and let their light shine

• Create a caring learning community

Both 2018 honorees will be recognized at the Farmington Public Schools’ Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 15. The Board meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. and be held at the Lewis Schulman Administrative Building at 32500 Shiawassee, Farmington. This meeting will also be cablecast on TV-10.

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