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You Make A Difference Award

Kalamazoo Promise “You Make a Difference” Award celebrates exceptional Kalamazoo Public School teachers and staff.  The Kalamazoo Promise asked each school in Kalamazoo Public Schools to select one individual that is truly “making a difference in the lives of young people” and have demonstrated creative and innovative services that have assisted their school to far exceed its goals.  The award criteria allows for all school staff including contract staff to be nominated.  All teachers, bus drivers, custodians, administrators, secretaries, counselors, food service workers are eligible to receive this award. Each award winner was nominated and selected by their peers and colleagues at their school.


Below are the 2017 "You Make A Difference" Award winners:


Debora Gant, Arcadia Elementary School


"The students in Ms. Gant's classrooms are enveloped in a learning culture.  Ms. Gant uses fun, catchy songs and rhymes in her teaching to help students learn concepts.  They remember those songs and rhymes as they move through their educational lives.  She has made a difference in so many lives."


Jane DeRight, Edison Environmental Science Academy

Behavior Interventionist

"By virtue of her caring nature, students having a difficult day would seek out Mrs. DeRight for a caring ear, a hug or a pep talk aimed to help the child return to the classroom and experience success in his or her learning. . . Her actions are all directed to help a child graduate - with good experiences and fond memories of their time in the Kalamazoo Public Schools . . . She has certainly made a difference!"


Alma Robles, El Sol Elementary School


Kindergarten Teacher

"Alma is continuously researching new innovative ways to assist second language learners at El Sol . . .Alma advocates for her students that need additional support in and out of the classroom . . .Students benefit daily from the best practice solutions that she implements."



Amanda White, Greenwood Elementary


"Mrs. White has been an asset to Greenwood Elementary. As a new employee, she exceeds the job expectations . . . She puts children first and continually monitors their progress.  Mrs. White has a positive attitude that raises the morale of students and staff" 



Melinda Long, Hillside Middle School


"Ms. Long goes above and beyond her duties . . . and beyond her required hours and stays until work is complete . . .She is our leader with our tardy/incentive program called HERO . . .staff regularly come to Ms. Long for assistance and advice and she patiently helps out will all requests."


Gini Rakowski, Indian Prairie Elementary School

Speech Therapist

"Ms. Gina goes beyond what is expected to create a positive home/school connection with parents . . . The kids feel safe and happy working with Ms. Gina . . . She sends the message to students that they are liked and successful . . . Ms. Gina is a valuable member of our staff."


Leslie Church, Kalamazoo Central High School


"Ms. Church exceeds expectations for working with students.  She extends herself beyond the traditional hours and utilizes personal resources to connect students to learning opportunities.  She is a safe haven for students ."

Susan Fisher, Kalamazoo Math & Science Center

Outreach Coordinator

"Ms. Fisher has been coordinating community outreach efforts at KAMSC for over twenty-five years.  She is responsible for the ongoing success of our Sizzlin' Summer Mathematics and Science Program, a tremendous opportunity for students in grades K-8 to engage in science, mathematics, and technology over the summer months. . . Susan Fisher is, indeed, one of the foundational blocks of the KAMSC program and its role in the community."


Jennifer Diget, King Westwood Elementary School

Activity Helper 

"Jen is that person that always comes through with an extra opportunity to listen to the child to get his/her story told . . . She works diligently to understand and make sure the decisions made are in the best interest of the child and the well-being and safety of all of the other children . . . Jennifer gets it"


Elaine Willis, Lincoln International Studies School

Special Education Paraprofessional

"Mrs. Elaine Willis exemplifies honesty and integrity.  She shows great concern for students . . .She helps students demonstrate a high level of self-esteem and respect . . . She is always giving words of encouragement to the staff, students, and parents.  Mrs. Willis always remains humble . . .She has great concern for others and she wants nothing but the best for everyone."


Courtney Eiseler-Ward, Linden Grove Middle School

Spanish Teacher

"Mrs. Eiseler-Ward is a staff member beyond dedicated to student success.  With her organization skills, she can successfully run all these programs flawlessly and still give highly effective classroom instruction.  This is beyond the mold of what is expected of teachers. . . No matter the student she gives her all"



Rebecca Layton, Loy Norrix High School


"Under Ms. Layton's supervision, we have a record number of students now staying after school for academic support.  She has developed creative ways to reach students . . . She provides strength, guidance, and support to all the students she encounters."


Joshua Johnson, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts

Special Education Teacher

"Mr. Johnson is able to provide excellent service to our students because he is a true servant leader at heart.  When working with him you get a clear understanding that he always seeks to do what is in the best interest of the students . . .Mr. Johnson is a pillar of compassion and consistency for all of our students . . .He brings so much positive energy to our building every day.  He works very hard in order for his students to be successful."


Andrew Muysenberg, Middle School Alternative Learning Program

Math Teacher

"Mr. Muysenberg is nurturing.  He works hard to foster safe spaces where students feel welcomed.  He advocates for students and engages parents in providing support to students . . . Mr. Muysenberg consistently provides support and encouragement to his colleagues . . . He is an invested educator who diligently works to improve student academic outcomes . . . It has been a privilege to know and work with such a dedicated teacher."



Heidi Ali, Milwood Elementary School

Special Education

"Heidi provides advice, recommendations, and new approaches for all students.  She has an open door policy that allows others to bounce ideas around and provide a more comprehensive program for our students. . . Heidi is the pillar of what the next generation of teachers needs to be like.  Her willingness to share, collaborate and provide leadership really inspires myself and others to be better educators."


Rana Findling, Milwood Magnet School

Video Production Teacher

"Mrs. Findling infuses her students with confidence, a sense of accomplishment, and skills which are far beyond those typically acquired in middle school . . . Much as the Kalamazoo Promise does, her one-of-a-kind program and personality help to prepare students for what lies ahead.We are proud of her and thankful for her connection to Milwood Magnet School."


Karen Wright, Northeastern Elementary School

5th Grade Reading & Read 180

"Ms. Wright works daily to push all students the extra mile to success . . . She is one of the cornerstones of Northeastern.  She is here early, works hard daily, spends time with her students above and beyond, and stays in touch with their families.  She gives of herself without question."


Amy Callahan, Northglade Montessori Magnet School

4th/5th Grade Teacher

" I saw her come to work ready to help students with learning challenges and behavior problems with a smile and a caring heart . . . She goes the extra mile!"


Mindy McNulty, Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School

Upper Elementary Special Education Teacher

"Mindy's calming presence is noticed by all.  She is helpful to not only her students but all students in the building.  She is willing to help in any capacity to improve the quality of each students experience."


David Staiger, Phoenix High School

Social Studies Teacher

Karen Spencer, Prairie Ridge Elementary School 


"Karen Spencer has tirelessly put the students first during her time as Principal . . . She continually works at finding ways to help children in our building be successful and college ready . . .Karen is retiring after this school year.  We feel it is a perfect time to recognize her for this very special award.  She has been an exceptional academic leader for teachers and an unwavering support for the students at Prairie Ridge Elementary".


Sheila Sherwood, Spring Valley Center for Exploration

Special Education Teacher

"Ms. Sherwood goes above and beyond in her service to her students . . . She is an exceptional educator.  Her empathy and support for our children ensure their success!"


Angela Davis, Washington Writer's Academy

Behavior Support Specialist

"Mrs. Davis works with teachers, students, and parents to create success plans that help strengthen academics, climate, and culture. She is in constant contact with our families to keep a positive home/school relationship. Mrs. Davis stays after hours to support our students and families in ANY way that is needed including home visits. I am thrilled and excited to share more about this amazing woman and educator!"


Kristin Youngs, Winchell Elementary School

4th Grade Math Teacher

"Mrs. Youngs created a before school zero hour to allow students below grade level to get extra help in math.  She does this without compensation . . . Mrs. Youngs works constantly to help all of the children in her math block to achieve ."


Carolin Humphrey, Woods Lake Elementary School

"Ms. Carolin Humphrey makes a difference at Woods Lake Elementary, daily!  In addition to expertise in her field, Carolin sparks passion in others with her infectious spirit.  Her positive attitude, devotion, and dedication to the students and staff at Woods Lake are why we, Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts are elated at the opportunity to recognize Carolin Humphrey, one who MAKES A DIFFERENCE!"




Camila Stewart, Woodward School for Technology and Research

Special Education Teacher

"Mrs. Stewart is an invaluable resource to our building. . . Mrs. Stewart has helped to create new positive behavior supports throughout the building . . . she treats students with love, care and respect . . . Mrs. Stewart is overwhelmingly deserving of this award.  She does most of the big things at our school but it's all of the little things that she does daily that put her ahead of the many educators I have worked with over the last 15 years."


Zadie Jackson, Youth Advancement Academy


"Ms. Jackson has been a true mentor, volunteer, and school saint since she started working with students.  She helps each one learn on their own terms while holding them accountable for their work.  She has truly made a difference with students at Youth Advancement Academy."