Top Teachers

Top Teachers

Do you know an extraordinary teacher who is currently making
a positive difference in the lives of their students? Or do
you work with a teacher who has a special knack for
encouraging and inspiring students? Show them your

Nominate a Top Teacher today!

Who are Top Teachers?

Top Teachers are the stars of our educational system. They touch students' lives in ways they'll never forget.
For some students, a teacher's patience and encouragement may have given them the boost they needed to tackle
a tough math course. For others, a teacher's enthusiasm may have helped them uncover a passion for
writing. For still others, a teacher's confidence in them may have inspired them to go to college.

In any case, Top Teachers are known for performing at the A+ level. They gladly put in the extra effort to help
students move along the path to becoming successful adults. Seeing their students reach new
levels of accomplishment gives them great pride. Let's show these dedicated teachers how much we appreciate
their commitment to giving our community's children a world-class education.

Teacher of the Year Criteria Weighting

Teacher of the Year Guidelines and Process

Jackson Community Foundation Teacher's Fund

Karen Brockie

Karen Brockie

Hanover Horton Elementary School

Whether her students are measuring their shadows on the playground or bouncing balls in the hallway, Hanover Horton Elementary School teacher Karen Brockie encourages the sense of discovery that makes learning fun.

“Karen realizes how much is accomplished when students take ownership of their own learning,” said Hanover Horton Principal Cindy Forgione. “She is the ultimate guide on the side encouraging inquiry and rewarding initiative.”

Her third-grade classroom features decorations that revolve around a camping theme. They help to set the tone for a sense of discovery and contribute to an atmosphere of fun, from the life-size silk trees and a reading nook sporting a pop-up tent, to the window shades designed to look like tree canopies.

Congratulations Karen!

Jonell Hasselback-Zenker

Jonell Hasselback-Zenker

Jackson High School

By empowering her students to take part in their own learning process through lesson planning, Jonell Hasselback-Zenker encourages students to own their thinking. Students are allowed to provide feedback on lessons and the classroom environment, which helps them relate it back to their own experiences.

Hasselback-Zenker, who teaches special education at Jackson High School, said teaching students with cognitive impairments present unique and distinctive challenges. Teaching in this environment requires more time and patience and the ability to veer from conventional strategies to be able to teach at their level. She is known at school for taking innovative steps toward making required material attainable for her students.

Hasselback-Zenker is a leader of a team of people who desire to give students the most positive learning experience possible. She explained that every person students come into contact with plays a crucial role in their educational journey. In a large collaborative effort, numerous special and general education professionals, doctors, family members and peers comprise the team that Hasselback-Zenker said lead students toward success.

Congratulations Jonell!

Joel Shaner

Joel Shaner

Jackson High School

At the annual Jackson High School Halloween Concert, music teacher Joel Shaner flexes his creative side by dressing in wacky costumes. And he is known for pulling stunts to top his performance from the previous year. This first performance of the school year packs the seats of the auditorium and gives all the school’s music students the chance to perform.

Known fondly as “Papa Shay” to many of his students, he has built a positive rapport with them. Due to his personal support of their musical aspirations and comprehensive teaching efforts, many of them continue with music into college and later as professionals. When students are highly engaged in their own learning process, they build a foundation to be lifelong learners.

“Rarely does one enter Mr. Shaner's classroom without noting students are always engaged in the musical process. As he fosters a respect for his content, purposeful instruction, and independence, evidence of his management skills are most apparent when there is a need for his absence,” said Principal Barbara Baird-Pauli.

Congratulations Joel!

Abby Tanner

Abby Tanner

Northwest High School

From college-bound seniors in Advanced Placement history to special-needs students in eastern world history; Northwest High School teacher Abby Tanner casts a wide net to meet the needs of all her students.

“Abby embodies the three Rs: Relationships, relevance and rigor,” said Principal Scott Buchler. “Her ability to develop and sustain relationships with her students is her greatest strength.”

For Tanner, building relationships with students enhances learning. “When they feel a connection to me, they’re more willing to take on the challenges I present them with,” said Tanner, who has taught for 12 years.

Her students read for historical understanding using a variety of materials and benefit from her individualized curriculum that focuses on the skills each student needs for their future.

Congratulations Abby!

Jessica Trefry

Jessica Trefry

Michigan Center

Math comes alive in Jessica Trefry’s seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms at Michigan Center, where students learn that math has real-world applications and is relevant and fun.

In class, her students calculated how much water flows over Niagara Falls in a year. At Michigan International Speedway, they determined the slope of the grandstands, steepness of the track, and size of the scoreboard.

Trefry uses inquiry-based learning in which students use their knowledge to solve math problems. “I love to watch the ideas come to my students and love being able to build their confidence when they come up with an idea,” said Trefry, who has taught for 15 years. “This is when real learning happens.”

Another key factor for Trefry that helps students learn is developing positive relationships. To accomplish that goal, she has the same students for two consecutive years. The result is stronger relationships with students and parents.

Congratulations Jessica!