Alumna Sarah Soper (ABEd '05, TeachCert '05) was named the 2020–2021 Regional (Region 8) Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and now is in the running for Teacher of the Year. Region 8 includes the schools in Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, and Washtenaw counties.
Soper teaches English at Northwest High School in Jackson, MI, where she has worked for her entire 15-year career. She is active within her school community, serving as a Link Crew advisor, English department chair, and as a member of the School Improvement Team. Soper also earned the Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan State Lottery last November.
“I always loved English," Soper said in an interview for MLive.com. "I loved reading and writing. I loved how it relates to people and I feel like that’s why I chose English. I feel that it gives me a really interesting and unique inside look into my students’ lives. We talk a lot about world issues and things going on through literature. It’s hard to say why I started, but the bigger thing is that I’ve stayed in it for 15 years.”
Outside of school, she is involved in the Advanced Placement Community, including presenting at Advanced Placement Conferences and grading thousands of essays as an Advanced Placement reader. She also writes for the blogs AP Lit Help and #Teachlivingpoets. Soper has presented at multiple conferences, including the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention, and has taught English at Baker College.
The ten Regional Teachers of the Year were selected from more than 400 Teacher of the Year nominations submitted by students, staff, and community members across the state. Those nominees participated in a multi-part, competitive application process through which the winners were ultimately selected. The 2020–21 honorees were chosen for their dedication to the teaching profession, as evidenced by their commitment to their students and record of service to the teaching profession.
“Amazing work is happening in public education—even amidst our current crisis—and these dedicated educators are living proof,” said MEA President Paula Herbart. “Students are having their diverse learning needs met every day by innovative teachers like these 10 individuals. MEA is proud of all of them—and we are committed to advocating for the resources they and all their school colleagues need to open the doors of learning for every Michigan student.”
The next step in the process is for each regional award winner to interview with a panel of statewide education stakeholders. The Michigan Teacher of the Year has a seat at the State Board of Education table for its monthly meeting as a non-voting member; attends several national conferences with Teachers of the Year from other U.S. states and territories, representing the experiences of Michigan’s teachers and students; and is Michigan’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year.
“I want to personally thank each of the Regional Teachers of the Year and all educators across Michigan for their creativity and passion to educate our children in these tough times,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “If there is one thing the last several months have taught us, it’s that our teachers will go to the ends of the earth and back to ensure their students are receiving the best education possible from afar, while supporting parents and guardians who are trying to juggle work and their children’s education.”
The notifications took place in May and were captured on video.