It’s May, which means there is so much to celebrate among the flowers! Not only are we nearing the end of a challenging school year, May is Teacher Appreciation Month in Michigan, a time to recognize the incredible people who serve our children and their families every day.

All of us have an educator who stands out in our own memories from going to school, and below we highlight a few of our staff who remember teachers who made a difference to us.


Executive Director Dr. Tina Kerr: Mrs. Davis
My 6th Grade teacher, Mrs. Davis helped inspire me to be a teacher. She saw the best in me and challenged me every day in school. She had high expectations and I always strived to meet those expectations, and in turn, I followed that when teaching. I always worked to push my students beyond what they thought they could achieve. She was a fantastic role model and taught me a love of learning!


Deputy Executive Director Peter Spadafore: Jan Kesel
My AP English teacher, Jan Kesel. I learned a lot in her class, but she was always pushing us to be better in our own ways. As an adviser for student government she stoked my interest in committees (a life skill that turned out to be more valuable than I ever could have guessed). And thanks to her, I’ll never forget that William Shakespeare was born and died on the same day, April 23rd.


Chelsey Martinez, Chief of Staff, Director of Communications: Mrs. Haase
We know that sadly not all children enjoy school, but I absolutely loved being in the classroom. So much so, that from a young age I aspired to become a teacher. Even in my tiny bubble I knew deep down that educators were people who made a difference and who others looked up to. I was the kid who shrieked, “THAT’S MY TEACHER!” if I ever saw her/him in public. Mrs. Haase at Howard-Ellis Elementary in Niles was one of those people. She was an incredibly kind and a wonderful educator who truly made an impact on my life. I still remember so much about her teaching style, her mannerisms, even the classroom set-up, even though it was so many moons ago when I was just a first-grader. More than a decade after I left her classroom, I chose to shadow Mrs. Haase for my dual-enrollment cadet teaching program in high school. She was my mentor for two years and I was able to work with her at both the second- and third-grade levels. It was a great experience to see her as both my former teacher, but also from a more “grown-up” lens and as someone who was inspiring my next steps. I went on to earn different degrees in college and ultimately did not end up in the classroom. However, I truly believe it’s because of people like Mrs. Hasse (and the myriad of other impactful teachers I was lucky enough to have), that education and serving those who work hard every day to positively impact the lives of our next generation continues to be my niche and passion.


Member Services and Partnership Coordinator Danielle Bach: Mr. Neal
Mr. Neal at Wacousta Elementary School. He was SO nice to everyone and was calm, no matter what. He would also bring in his guitar and sing “Return to Pooh Corner” to the class. I love listening to that song with my kids now.


Conference and Event Planner Diane Dick: Lyle Brooks
Lyle Brooks, Corunna High School’s Band Instructor during my high school years of 1975-1978 as a Cavalier, had a very positive impact on me and all those who were lucky enough to have him as their instructor. He was passionate, driven, tough, but yet very caring. We were one of the only high step marching bands around (not the drum and bugle core) but high step, which was a very enegetic type of marching band. Going to Holland for the Tulip Festival each year to compete in their marching band competition was a highlight. Getting a 1 (which we did frequently) was the best feeling in the world – that meant your band was an excellent representative of your school district and town and made him and us very proud. We also had an excellent concert band due to his hard work and dedication (and of course the students as well).

One highlight for me was that on Memorial Day during the parade (my junior year) I believe, he chose me to play taps at the cemetary. It was such an awesome experience for me, and my Mom still talks about it to this day. She was proud and so was I.

Thank you, Mr. Brooks, you made us strive to be better each and every day and I thank you for your dedication to your students and Corunna Public Schools. Go Cavaliers!


Creative Strategiest Phil Marrah: Mrs. Caszatt
My English and Rhetoric teacher Mrs. Caszatt at Owosso High School. She always read stories to us in character even at a high school level. She was able to make the content so interesting by immersing students into the story that way. I realized from her that the delivery of content is just as important as the content itself. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelue.


Accounting Specialist Kathy Taskey: Mrs. Hernandez

Growing up I was what most people would call introverted, a nerd, geek and, of course, chubby. I was never bullied, but never really fit in with the popular kids or the athletic kids. I loved sports but never felt I could play because I was chubby and did not fit in.  I had a love for History and still do especially World War II. I was spending a lot of time in my history class asking questions and of course my teacher, Mrs. Hernandez, loved the fact that someone was interested. She was also a PE teacher and girls softball coach. She asked me to meet her at one of her practices and while talking history she handed me a glove and started throwing the ball to me. It took one catch and one throw to realize how much I wanted to play. She realized this long before me but needed me to realize it as well. I did not think I could play because of words I used about myself and assumed others were saying about me.

She continued to work with me, and I continued to work on myself. She moved from Junior High to High School, and I moved right with her playing short stop and third base for one of the top-rated women’s high school softball teams in California. I also received a scholarship to play softball at a California University. After college I did some coaching and ended up coaching her daughter. I continued to play women’s softball until I was injured at the age of 42.  She listened, took the time, and believed in me and knew I just needed to believe in myself. I made assumptions that could have cost me what I believe to be some of the best times of my life, but she saw through them and helped me to be better.


Marketing & Digital Media Specialist Haley Jones: Mrs. Smith
I was the kind of student who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up from an early age – a reporter. My elementary teachers helped fuel my love for writing, and a summer school newspaper class showed me a whole new style, but it was Brenda Smith at Grayslake North High School who gave me the encouragement and education I needed to pursue journalism in college and after. Mrs. Smith was my high school newspaper teacher all four years. She was funny, laid back, kind, and every day was just fun. It helped that two of my best friends were in the class, too, and it was during a lunch period so Mrs. Smith would let us go to the cafeteria to interview students for articles (a.k.a. spend $1.50 on a big, soft cookie and talk to my friends).

I learn by doing, and Mrs. Smith took that to a new level by signing me up for journalism competitions and driving a short bus across Illinois and Wisconsin so we could compete against other high schools in writing and editing challenges. Those experiences – along with the awards I won – gave me the confidence to keep going, and she encouraged me to attend a newspaper summer camp at the University of Iowa before my senior year. She believed in me and gave me the resources to do it.

After graduation, she invited me to speak to her class about my experience as a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. We’re still friends on Facebook!