Alums at the Top of their Fields

November 15, 2022

Alums from the Michigan State University College of Education are extraordinary. They are changing the course of their communities and our connected world each and every day through their professions in education, health and well-being.

We are honored to share highlights of just a few alums who have recently been recognized for their commitments to their careers and for their efforts at making a difference in the world.

Photo Credit: Ingham Intermediate School District

2021-2022 Michigan Teacher of the Year


Wilcox Elementary School, Holt, MI
MSU Alumna: B.A. ’04 and M.A. ’09 (Education)

Porter was selected from a list of more than 275 nominees for this Michigan Department of Education (MDE) honor, which recognizes outstanding educational leaders who elevate the teaching profession. 

IN HER WORDS: “In my greatest dreams, I see an educational system that allows each child the freedom to be themselves, to have security and trust in their learning spaces, and to be celebrated for all that they are.”

BUILDING CONNECTIONS: An educator for nearly two decades, Porter has been a kindergarten, reading recovery and intervention teacher in Holt Public Schools. Her teaching philosophy is rooted in building relationships with her students and greater school community. Among other initiatives, Porter developed and led an annual outreach program that provided experiential learning experiences for students during the summer months.

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Photo Credit: Christine Long Photography

2021 Michigan High School Teacher of the Year


Novi Virtual, Novi, MI
MSU Alumna: TCRT ’01 (Secondary Education – Science), M.A. ’02 (Curriculum and Teaching) and M.A. ’08 (Educational Technology)

The annual award from the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) recognizes outstanding educators who serve as leaders in their classrooms.

IN HER WORDS: “I am blessed to work in a field of passionate, lifelong learners who are innovative in their pursuit to support kids, using creative and flexible solutions. Ultimately, it’s the kids who help us to grow as leaders.”

NOTED EDUCATOR: Pohlonski, who has more than 20 years of experience in the Novi Community School District and became principal of Novi Virtual in 2021, was previously a finalist for Michigan Teacher of the Year (2015) and a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (2021).

2021 Michigan School Psychologist of the Year


Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District, Sault Ste. Marie, MI
MSU Alumnus: M.A. ’10 & Ed.S. ’12 (School Psychology)

This award recognizes school psychologists who demonstrate exemplary dedication to improving the well-being of children, families and schools, and in advancing the profession of school psychology.  

IN HIS WORDS: “Perhaps the most powerful and universally held core belief in the profession of school psychology is captured in the National Association of School Psychologists’ Vision Statement: that with access to the right learning, behavior and mental health support, all children and youth can thrive in school, at home and in life. This notion drives the work that we do, the way that we think and the way that we solve problems.”

FIELD LEADER: Sbar has worked on district-wide implementation of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) and served as the lead organizer of Eastern Upper Peninsula PREPaRE Crisis Response Team. 

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2022 Michigan Elementary Teacher of the Year


Central Elementary School, Muskegon, MI
MSU Alumna: Teacher Preparation Program, ’06

Since 1952, the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) has selected six teachers annually to be awarded Teacher of the Year for their outstanding work in the field of science education. 

IN HER WORDS: “No one can effect societal change more than teachers. This is the most important job in the world. We’re affecting people’s lives. Tomorrow sits in my classroom every day.”

FIND HER CLASS: Outside. It is not unusual to find Sandee and her class exploring nature, tapping into Sandee’s love of project-based and place-based learning. Getting out of the classroom opens students to a world of wonder, learning about birds, stars, science and history, among many other topics.

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2022 Michigan Principal of the Year


Novi High School, Novi, MI
MSU Alumna: TCRT ’99 & M.A. ’01
(Curriculum & Instruction)

The annual recognition from the MI Association of Secondary School Principals and the MI Association of Student Councils and Honor Societies celebrates Michigan principals who demonstrate collaborative leadership; involvement in curriculum, instruction and assessment; and a personal involvement with the school community. 

IN HER WORDS: “I look at it like I’m the lead learner [at my school]. I’m responsible for having a clear vision and sharing that vision with the staff so they can implement it with fidelity in the classroom. We want every student who walks into this space to feel respected, valued, honored, like they belong. Students are at the core of every decision we make.”

WHAT’S NEXT: In November 2022, Carter will represent Michigan during the national Principal of the Year competition, hosted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

READ MORE: Carter shares her insights on leadership with The SPARTAN Mentality, and you can learn about the MPOY honor here: