WMU grad and instructor is named state's top teacher

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Headshot, Laura Chang.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The state Department of Education announced May 18 that Laura Chang is the 2018-19 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

Chang is a second-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School in Vicksburg and a part-time instructor of special education and literacy studies at Western Michigan University. The two-time WMU graduate learned of her selection during a surprise visit from Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles while Alles was in Vicksburg May 18 to highlight the school's academic success.

"Educators like Ms. Chang are key in moving Michigan to become a top-10 education state in 10 years," Alles said. "She is knowledgeable and provides relevant and meaningful teaching and learning experiences to her students. She is a compassionate, positive and inspirational role model."

Chang earned a bachelor's and a master's degree from WMU before going on to teach in the Vicksburg school. She was chosen for the teacher of the year honor following a multi-level process that began with more than 430 teachers being nominated by students, staff and community members and included being one of the 10 people out of that pool to be named a Michigan Regional Teacher of the Year.

A panel of statewide education stakeholders interviewed the regional winners before naming Chang as its top pick.

Praised for talents, personality

Chang is the first person from Kalamazoo County to win Michigan's top-teacher award. In the announcement of her selection, she earned special praise from Gov. Rick Snyder as well as her colleagues in the Vicksburg Community Schools.

"Preparing our young people to succeed in a healthy 21st-century economy is becoming increasingly more important to their future achievement, and teachers like Ms. Chang—who are able to engage students at a young age—are exactly what our state and the students who call it home need," Snyder said in a written notice of her selection.

"I appreciate the incredible work that Ms. Chang has done, and will continue to do, to prepare Michigan students to be successful later in life."

Vicksburg Superintendent Charles Glaes described her as "that rare classroom teacher who principals rely upon, parents lobby for, colleagues admire and enjoy working with, and students love." In addition, Sunset Lake Principal Amie McCaw noted that Chang "has dedicated her life to education and helping others reach their goals" and despite serving in several roles, "never lets the pressure get to her."

Opportunity to share perspectives

The Michigan Department of Education uses the teacher of the year program to recognize outstanding educators across the state and create an avenue for them to share their voice with the department and other education stakeholders as they work to make Michigan a top-10 education state in 10 years.

As the state's newest top teacher, Chang will chair the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Committee, which is comprised of each year's cohort of regional teachers of the year. She also will have a nonvoting seat on the State Board of Education during its regular monthly meetings.

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