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Otsego Middle School

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Outstanding People for Education

This award, typically awarded in the spring, is sponsored by the Allegan County School Boards Association. Each school in the AAESA district participates in this award and can choose up to three winners. It honors anyone, not just classroom teachers, involved in the education of our students and/or educational quality of our district. 

For the 2019-20 school year, Otsego had 32 nominees from across the district. All were recognized initially during the June Board of Education meeting on YouTube, with a live announcement of three winners; but, with gathering restrictions lifted, OPS Superintendent Jeff Haase and Board of Education members wanted to present the winners with their awards this fall in person. 

Here are the 2020 nominees:

  • Kristin Alkire, High school science teacher
  • Kathy Austin, Learn ‘n Grow preschool classroom aide
  • Jesse Blanchard, Youth Wrestling Coach
  • Britiany Bowers, Special Education Teacher at Dix Street
  • Robin Cleypool, High School business teacher
  • Bri Crandall, high school math and health teacher
  • Ashley DeLaat, Alamo tutor
  • Judie DeWaard, Special education parapro at the high school
  • Christy Drumm, middle school math & ELA teacher
  • Lisa Eldred, Special education teacher at the middle school
  • Matt Fielbrandt, parent volunteer for OMS robotics
  • Dawn Griffith, 1st grade teacher at Washington Street
  • Sarah Hubbard, Special Education parapro at OMS
  • Lissa James, bus driver
  • Sara Jewett, 1st grade teacher at Alamo
  • Melissa Koenig, Middle School principal
  • Heather Kortlandt, OPS Director of Instruction
  • Chad LaRowe, middle school social studies teacher
  • Elizabeth Lincoln, ELA teacher at the middle school
  • Amanda Metz, 1st grade teacher at Washington Street
  • Deb Misner, Learn ‘n Grow preschool teacher
  • Amber Neal, Administrative Assistant at Dix Street
  • Heather Phillips, Tutor at Dix Street
  • Justin Scott, Social studies teacher at the high school
  • Kim Seger, 3rd grade teacher at Dix Street
  • Brandy Serrano, parent volunteer at Dix Street
  • Anna Starr, social worker at the middle school
  • Jon Throop, social studies teacher at OMS
  • Michelle Triemstra, Director of Technology
  • Rita VerHage, Tutor at Alamo
  • Katie Wideen, high school math teacher
  • Nichole Wisinski, special education/ASD teacher at Dix Street 

Winners are selected by a committee that is made up of at least one board member, an administrator, a teacher and a support staff employee. This is a different group each year and they have an extremely tough task of choosing three of our nominees to receive the award. 

The winners are:

Jesse Blanchard, youth coach

Jesse’s nomination was full of praise for his commitment to the boys he coaches, not just in the sport, but in the life lessons he teaches and models. The initial nomination came from an adult who sees the impact Blanchard has on his athletes. This person notices a difference in the behavior, focus and attitude and noted that the boys feel good about themselves, and know they’re valued regardless of their athletic ability. Several of his athletes also wrote paragraphs to share why they think he deserves the award. They expressed how hard he works them, but that it makes them better and that he teaches them to strive to be a good, hard-working person and know what they’ll need in life for a good future. 

Judie DeWaard, Special Education Parapro

Judie is a parapro in the Level 2 classroom at the high school, but as her nomination states, she is so much more. She not only cares for the students in her room, but on her own time making sure they - and their families - get what they need. When a student suffered a stroke, Judie was there for the family at the hospital and there every step of the way when the student returned to school to help her maneuver through the school, meet her daily needs and help her get her mobility back. She’s an advocate for their education and an encourager. Judie was right by this student’s side when she crowned the homecoming queen in the fall of 2019. Judie means the world to her students and their families.

Melissa Koenig, Otsego Middle School Principal

Melissa’s positive impact on the middle school staff, students and families, comes with a long list of adjectives in her nominations: Hard worker, great role model, problem solver, motivator, innovative, dedicated, a true servant’s heart, listener, kind and patient and has a “whatever it takes” mentality. Melissa’s nominations shared several examples of how she has built a culture at OMS that makes others want to be better. She sets high expectations of herself and others and is right there with them, asking how she can help in their success. She never asks anyone to do more than she would ask of herself. She has a knack of knowing just what people need. She stays up to date on the latest educational trends along with the latest social media/music/dance/lingo trends of middle schoolers. She takes time to personally show her appreciation for her staff and students - with notes and phone calls - but is also willing to have difficult conversations. She has a genuine interest in people and how they are doing; she has an electrifying smile, joy in her voice, and people learn from her every day.

We want to give a special thank you to Starr Machining for creating our awards this year. Due to the pandemic, the traditional awards could not be created as our students at the tech center and local schools put those together.