MSU alum named Michigan Teacher of the Year

May 18, 2021

Leah Porter, a kindergarten teacher in Holt Public Schools and a Michigan State University College of Education alumna, has been named the 2021-2022 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

Photo: Ingham Intermediate School District

Porter was chosen from a list of more than 275 nominees for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) honor. She was named one of the state’s 10 Regional Teachers of the Year in April 2021 before being selected with the statewide award, recognizing Michigan’s most outstanding teachers.

“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,” said Porter, B.A. ’04 and M.A. ’09 (Education), in her application materials. She learned of the designation during a virtual meeting with MDE leaders, including State Superintendent Michael Rice, on May 13, 2021.

In her more than 16 years of teaching Porter, now at Wilcox Elementary, has held a variety of roles, including as serving as a Reading Recovery(C) teacher, teacher leader and interventionist. In a press release from Holt Public Schools, Porter is also described as having a “passion for serving the underrepresented and is an active member of the Holt Equity and Access Team.”

Watch the 2021-2022 Michigan Teacher of the Year announcement on YouTube.

According to a press release from MDE, Porter, with her fellow Regional Teachers of the Year, will serve on the 2021-22 Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Committee, working directly with MDE and other educational stakeholders “to develop solutions to issues facing the state’s education system, to ensure that the voices of teachers are present in these discussions.”

In addition, Porter will advocate and serve as representative for more than 86,000 teachers in public schools across the state by serving as a non-voting member on the State Board of Education and the Governor’s Educator Advisory Council.

“Thank you, Leah, so much for the important part you play in our students’ lives,” said MSU College of Education Dean Robert E. Floden. “I take great pride in knowing that you are an alumna of our college.”

Porter inside her classroom at Wilcox Area Elementary School. Photo: Ingham Intermediate School District

Porter joins several alumni from the MSU College of Education who have been recognized as statewide or regional honorees. Melody Arabo, B.A. ’01, and Dan Schab, M.A. ’91 (K-12 Educational Administration), both earned the statewide honor, sponsored by the Meemic Foundation, in 2014 and 2005, respectively. Regional teacher of the year honorees include fellow Holt educator Tricia Zeman (2019), Chelsee Schram (2020) from Laingsburg Elementary, Shantel VanderGalien (2020) from Wyoming Public Schools and Bethany Vonck (2021) from Washtenaw International Middle Academy.

Porter and fellow 2021 Regional Teacher of the Year awardees will be formally recognized during a future State Board of Education meeting.

“Ms. Porter is a life-changing educator who has been serving her community for 16 years and counting,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a press release announcing Porter’s honor. “We are thrilled to honor Ms. Porter as Michigan’s 2021 Teacher of the Year and are grateful to educators who consistently go above and beyond for their kids every year.”