2023 TEACHER & EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR
The Duneland School Corporation is proud to announce the winners of the 2023
"Teacher of the Year" and "Employee of the Year" Recognition Program.
The winners are:
ELEMENTARY TEACHER OF THE YEAR
EZRA BURKE - Westchester Intermediate School
Ezra Burke is a fifth grade teacher at Westchester Intermediate School (WIS). He graduated from Smith College in Northampton MA in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and completed his Masters in Education in 2008 from Framingham State College, Framingham, MA in Special Education (5-12 Moderate Disabilities).
Ezra spent the last 10 years teaching special education at WIS with the first six years primarily co-teaching direct reading/language arts and mathematics classes at both the fifth and sixth grade levels. During the last four years, he has taught fifth grade math, and this year he switched content areas to Language Arts to support staffing changes within the school.
Prior to coming to Duneland, he taught 11th/12th grade special education students at a therapeutic day school in Arlington, MA from 2006-2012 and from 2002-2005 he was the Outreach Director leading experiential education programming for middle and high school students in San Francisco, CA.
During his time as a teacher at Duneland, Ezra has had the opportunity to serve both his school and the district in a variety of roles. He has developed standards-based curricula for his own direct special education classes and has served over the past year on a fifth grade math course build for the development of DSC’s Guaranteed Viable Curriculum (GVC). He was one of the founding members that developed a Special Education Parent/Teacher Group that brought various speakers, programs, and an annual ‘Special Education Resource Fair’ to the district (which is currently the only event of its kind hosted in Porter County). He also helped lead an Advisory Board for the past three years while vetting and developing a weekly curriculum using the “Second Step” K-8 Social Emotional Learning Curriculum that was approved and adopted in 2021 by the Duneland School Board. He has participated in and graduated from the Duneland Mentor Training Academy in 2022 and has also completed a yearlong graduate program through the University of California extension program gaining certification in Social Emotional Learning.
One of Ezra’s many strengths is working with children,” said WIS Principal Shawn Longacre. “I’ve spoken to numerous children, of all ages, and parents who could not wait to tell me about their favorite teacher, Mr. Burke. During those interactions, I could feel the respect and love between the child/family and Ezra. I believe children/parents can relate to him so well because of his caring nature, and his ability to be a wonderful leader and mentor. He will never give up on a child. Ever. He is the true definition of a child advocate.”
“I am a teacher that leads by example,” said Ezra. “I believe that leadership is built from experience. I know the benefits of being a lifelong learner and am always looking for ways to improve and build upon my teaching methods and pedagogy.” Above all, he believes that his experiences as a special education and general education teacher and many leadership experiences throughout his years at Duneland have made him a strong teacher, leader and mentor to faculty, staff, students and their families.
SECONDARY TEACHER OF THE YEAR
RENAE MICCHIA - Chesterton High School
Renae Micchia is a Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Teacher at Chesterton High School. She received her Bachelor of Science in Consumer and Family Education and a minor in Child Development from Purdue University in 2008. She is a certified ServSafe Instructor and Registered Examination Proctor (March 2023) and a ServSafe Food Protection Manager (February 2023). Prior to coming to Duneland Schools, Renae worked as a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at a Tri-County Junior-Senior High School, Wolcott, Indiana from 2009-2013.
She currently serves as the department leader of the FACS and Industrial Tech departments, a department of six CTE teachers in the areas of FACS and Industrial Technology.
According to CHS Principal Brent Martinson, “Renae works diligently with CHS Administration to ensure that her teachers and the administration are working together for what is best for all students. Renae has built many positive relationships with students, parents, and staff members since she has been at Chesterton High School and has created a culture with all of our students and staff that all individuals are valued and loved.” In this leadership position, Renae has updated department course offerings to reflect student needs, interests and alignment to post secondary needs. She also teaches up to nine different courses including two levels of introductory Culinary Arts courses.
Additionally, Renae also serves as the unified track coach. She expressed that her time coaching unified track has been one of her best experiences. “It is all about building relationships and being a team,” said Micchia. “Outside of team building, one thing that I love about unified track is that everyone has a chance to be successful.” This also coincides with one of the most important things she does as an educator - build relationships with students. “I truly feel lucky that I get to spend each school day with my ‘kids’, said Micchia. “I am lucky that my students feel comfortable enough to ask questions and admit that they are stuck or having a problem, and better yet - when they feel comfortable enough to excitedly tell me about something new that they learned. I have found that the best way to eliminate problems in my classroom is to get to know the kids in it, and to build community in that classroom.”
Renae was flattered and humbled to be nominated as Secondary Teacher of the Year. She is truly grateful for the support of her students, peers and community. She hopes that every one of her students can look back on their time in her classroom and feel like they were important, successful and could use the knowledge gained in their own lives.
EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR
APRIL WILSON - DSC Transportation - Bus Driver
April Wilson, a 1994 Chesterton High School graduate, has worked as a bus driver for the Duneland School Corporation (DSC) for 20 years. She joined DSC in 2003 as a substitute driver and in 2006 was hired as a full-time driver. She has juggled several jobs outside of Duneland as a school bus driver for the Dunes Learning Center in Porter (2016-2020) and as the head cook at Discovery Charter School (2010-2019).
April expressed how much her life has changed since becoming a bus driver for the Duneland Schools. “My first bus was a stick-shift, and now my bus has heated seats!” said April. Over the years, she has had the pleasure of knowing and working with and for some extraordinary people, most of which she calls friends. She drives the same bus route, which happens to be the same school she attended many years ago.
Building friendships with all of her families is an important aspect of her job. “April works hard to build strong relationships with her parents. This job just comes so naturally to her and she makes it look so easy because, to her, it is second nature to care for people and her students," said DSC Transportation Director Ben Armstrong.
“I like to treat all my ‘bus babies’, as she endearingly refers to them, as my own,” said April. “I have attended many graduations, birthdays, talent shows, ball games, and unfortunately, a funeral over the years. I also have the joy of driving the children of my former students, which is very cool.”
Having five children of her own, April realizes how important it is to have kind, inspiring adult figures in children’s lives. “Being a bus driver we are the first and last face our children see each day. I treat all of my students with respect and make sure to greet everyone by their names and with a smile and ask about their day. I remind them daily to be kind to each other and I challenge them to say something kind to someone as they might brighten someone else’s day,” she said.
According to Armstrong, April is a prime example of the Transportation Department’s core values: Safety, Teamwork, Attitude, and Responsibility. April has logged approximately 154,800 miles driven in her 20-year career. To put this in its proper perspective, that is over six trips around the earth! During her driving career, she has not had any major accidents which is an impressive safety record.
“The responsibilities of driving a school bus are many and April faithfully takes on this substantial responsibility every day," added Armstrong. “She knows the importance of her job and performs it with ease. She is a highly valued member of the transportation department who is a motivator and well respected by her coworkers. April is not just a school bus driver, in essence, she is a conduit to her students. She is one of the unsung heroes who gets up, gets out, and passionately sets the stage for her students. April is a silent benefactor who makes a daily deposit into the lives of her students.”
The winners were awarded at their respective school/work locations by DSC administrators.
Each of the winners received a $500 monetary award from the following local sponsors:
NorthShore Health Centers– Elementary Teacher of the Year
1st Source Bank – Secondary Teacher of the Year
Ellis Electric Inc. – Employee of the Year
The 2023 winners will be recognized at the May 1, 2023 School Board meeting, Beginning of the Year Programs in August, in DSC publications, website, and social media and on a plaque displayed at Central Office. Winners will also receive a classroom/office door banner along with a monetary stipend of $500. Thank you to 1st Source Bank, NorthShore Health Centers and Ellis Electric for sponsoring the recognition program. In addition, both the elementary and secondary winners will represent Duneland teachers in the Indiana Department of Education’s statewide Teacher of the Year Program.
Link to the announcement with winner and finalist photos: Special DuneNews Edition
2023 TEACHER & EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
ELEMENTARY TEACHER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Liberty Intermediate - 6th Grade
Bailly Elementary - 3rd Grade
Yost Elementary - 1st Grade
Brummitt Intermediate - 2nd Grade
Liberty Elementary - Art
Jackson Elementary - Reading Specialist
SECONDARY TEACHER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Chesterton High - Instructional Coach
Chesterton High - Special Education
Chesterton Middle - Science
Chesterton High - Science
Chesterton Middle - Math
EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
DSC Custodian - Brummitt Elementary
Administrative Assistant - Jackson Elementary
DSC Custodian - Chesterton High School
DSC Technology - Systems Administrator
DSC Technology - IT Support Coordinator
DSC Custodian - Bailly Elementary