2021 TLES Educator Appreciation Award Recipients

award recipients

June 3, 2021

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Department of Teaching, Learning and Education Studies is honoring six outstanding educators with their 2021 Educator Appreciation Awards. Recipients are nominated by anyone in the College of Education and Human Development teacher education departments or local school partners. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Outstanding Late Career Teacher Award

The Outstanding Late Career Teacher Award is gives to someone who demonstrates teaching excellence in various ways, which may include but is not limited to use of technology in the classroom, innovative curriculum or course development or cross-disciplinary instruction, engages in creative teaching, displays enthusiasm and passion for teaching, and has been teaching for 10 years or more. This year’s recipients are Melissa Nimtz, Colin Killmer, Catherine Beiberich, and Marsha Hoenle.

Melissa Nimtz is an amazing educator who constantly goes out of her way to make her school a better place by mentoring new teachers, serving on numerous committees and making birthday signs to put in her students yards just to make them feel special. She makes parents feel as though their child is the only student in her class. She knows the needs of her students and makes sure they are met to the fullest.

Colin Killmer is a phenom. He serves as the district science chair to support and work with his fellow science teachers. He has numerous educational tech tools embedded in his teaching repertoire and loves to provide tech support the to his colleagues. He also developed a highly successful freshmen mentoring program. He has an unflappable sense of humor and amazing positivity.

Catherine Bieberich is extremely passionate about helping English learners and their families and goes above and beyond to make them feel welcome at school events and conferences. She spent her whole summer renovating the school library to make it functional. She also partnered with the local public library to get book donations and train staff to check out books.

Marsha Hoenle has an innate ability to make learning interesting and is always willing to take more time to ensure everyone understands the topics. She has a true passion for history and learning both in and out of the classroom. She organizes week-long history field trips for her students. She makes learning an immersive and exciting experience for her students.

Outstanding Intern Award

The Outstanding Intern Award is given to someone who demonstrates exemplary teaching skills, produces high-quality lesson plans, and assumes an active role in professional development or extracurricular activities. This year’s recipients are Gabrielle Sherwood and Dewey Bolz.

Gabrielle Sherwood is an amazing intern. She has constantly gone above and beyond the duties of an intern. Her lesson are high-quality, engaging, and cover multiple content areas. She helps with robotics, has volunteered to cover lunch help, and also helps with school fundraisers.

Dewey Bolz excels as an intern. He planned, prepared, and taught an entire unit on black history. He created it from scratch, and included ties to current events and musical genres. He also directs the after school men's ensemble on top of his daily teaching responsibilities.

Outstanding Mentor Award

The Outstanding Mentor Award is given to someone who serves as an outstanding teaching role model for interns, practices the highest standards of professionalism with colleagues, and clearly demonstrates a sustained and meaningful collaboration with WMU faculty and staff. This year’s recipients are Jenni McPherson and Amy Niewenhuis.

Jenni McPherson has always modeled the highest degree of teaching and mentoring professionalism possible. Jenni will be retiring this year with over 30 years of teaching success. Her spirit of joy, inclusiveness, positivity, persistence, and excellence have set the bar high for teachers around her as well as the many teacher candidates she has mentored. She thinks ahead, plans carefully, and is able to sort through potential problems before they materialize.

Amy Nieuwenhuis has been a mentor for the Physical and Health Education Teacher Education program for over 20 years and has been an inspiration the entire time. Her competence as a practitioner is shadowed only by her patience, compassion, and mentoring skills. Amy has been running a before school program, Jump Start, that addresses health-related fitness and physical activity with at-risk students. She continues to challenge herself and her teacher candidates.