School district honors Standish resident
MIDLAND — For more than 55 years Midland Public Schools has awarded the Gerstacker Teacher of the year award to four of its more than 500 systemwide teachers.
The honor is awarded to two elementary teachers and two high school teachers annually, giving very few teachers the chance to be remembered as one the best ever to teach at MPS.
This year lifelong Standish resident and Midland Public School Longview Elementary first-grade teacher Kelly Kraatz was surprised with the award at the May 13 award ceremony at Northwood University’s Griswold Hall.
“It’s quite an honor. I was very surprised,” Kraatz said about the ceremony at which she had no idea she would be honored. “It’s amazing. It’s very exciting that I will be part of history for Midland Public Schools.”
Though she was attending the ceremony, the event was set up so that the award winners had no clue that they were going to receive anything.
Kraatz also did not know that the school had hidden her family and friends in a back room, so she couldn’t see them until they came out when she accepted the award.
“I was completely shocked that people took time off and that they all did it for me,” she said. “I was completely surprised, especially when people had to take time off from work.”
Tonya Heiner, who is also a lifelong Standish resident and dear friend of Kelly, was part of the surprise group of friends.
“They had (us) come in at a certain time and watch this video board in the back. Before she talked about her surprise reward, the family came out into the audience and surprised her,” said Heiner, who went to high school and attended CMU with Kraatz. “I am extremely proud of her. She’s one of a kind.”
Principal Greg Matheson, who stood up to nominate Kraatz at the ceremony, said that the award is very well deserved.
“She just does a great job of motivating students and showing that love for learning,” he said. “This is the 55th year for the district. This is quite a big to-do.”
Students past and present, along with staff and parents vote for their favorite teacher, to decide the award.
To Kraatz, just knowing that she is so highly respected by her peers is a great feeling.
“I am humble that my colleagues would select me for this award,” said Kraatz. “The most exciting thing is now my colleagues are putting together a memory book for me, with quotes from my past students.”
Though 14 years may seem like a long time for other professions, Matheson says that in teaching that’s not long at all.
“In her short time here she has been recognized as an excellent teacher, which is quite impressive,” he said. “She has shown she deserves this award.”