Kindergarten teacher Susie Hollingshead of St. Brigid Catholic School, Midland, was named Best K-12 Educator in the 2023 Midland Daily News Readers Choice Awards.
With 30 years of education experience, Mrs. Hollingshead lives by the statement she tells parents during the annual kindergarten open house: “This is your child’s first year, and I want it to be exceptional.”
“The Reader's Choice Award acknowledges the hard work she does to develop relationships, because it is the parents and students who get to vote for her to win this award. Even the Facebook posts that St. Brigid did to acknowledge her award were full of positive comments from teachers and students,” said principal Laura Wilkowski.
Mrs. Wilkowski noted that during the school assembly celebrating the award, students were, “terrifically excited and cheered loudly and often!”
“It means so much to receive this award because it validates that I have made a difference in a child’s life,” Mrs. Hollingshead shared. “However, I do not do this job alone. Our kindergarten has a fulltime paraprofessional, Heather Crawford. Heather and I have been a team for the past 11 years. She is the second teacher in the room. I have also had so many mentors in the past, as well as currently. Our principal, Laura Wilkowski, is a strong educational leader.”
Mrs. Wilkowski notes that in Mrs. Hollingshead’s 22 years of teaching at St. Brigid, she has adapted her teaching style to use the best practices currently available and encourages her colleagues to do the same. She also recently piloted a new math program based on best practices, and the entire school has now adopted this program.
“Susie teaches using a centers-based approach so that she can reach each student at their current level and help them to grow. She emphasizes a growth mindset and incorporates social-emotional learning into each day,” Mrs. Wilkowski explained.
For example, her classroom has a ‘calm corner’ where students can learn to identify what they are feeling and learn strategies to calm down.
Both academic and social-emotional learning continues with support for families with a monthly newsletter, frequent progress updates and specific feedback on ways to follow up on academic or behavioral topics and to ensure that parents and the school use the same language with a child.
“Within the school environment, we know the positive impact that Mrs. Hollingshead makes in the lives of her students and their families,” said Cormac Lynn, superintendent of Catholic schools. “The Readers Choice Award validates and reaffirms what we see every day in the vocation that Susie carries out in her classroom. The recognition is also a sign of how appreciative and supportive our parents are of the education and formation occurring in Mrs. Hollingshead’s classroom.”
Mrs. Hollingshead says she is grateful to teach at St. Brigid, where her opinions as an educator are valued, she is encouraged to use best practices as well as share her faith with students.
“We become a family with God as our leader,” she said. “I am very blessed.”
The feeling is mutual.
“We are truly blessed to have [Mrs. Hollingshead] as a part of our phenomenal staff,” said Mrs. Wilkowski. “She has truly heard and acknowledged the call to ‘Go make a difference!’”