Clarkston High School teacher Brian Zezula talks about his teaching philosophy for a television news segment airing this week. Photo provided
BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
As a teacher of modern U.S. history at Clarkston Junior High School, Brian Zezula invited veterans of World War II to serve as living examples of what the students were learning.
Now a social studies teacher at Clarkston High School, Zezula is a living example himself, having been honored with an Excellence in Education award by the Michigan Lottery.
“You always encouraged us to go above and beyond expectations,” said a former student in the nomination. “You gave us tips on life. You helped me realize that if you want something to happen, you must go out there and do it yourself. Now, I work above the normal and put myself in situations that will give me many opportunities. Thank you for all your wonderful advice and encouraging all of us to do our best.”
According to his nomination, “Brian demonstrates this attitude of going above and beyond in his teaching career. He served as the Student Council Advisor/LEADERSHIP class teacher. In that role, he has worked to oversee numerous fundraisers and a Red Cross blood drive at the school.”
Another student credited Zezula’s encouragement for keeping him in school.
“Every word of encouragement you threw at me made the difference and I can’t describe how thankful I am to have you as my teacher. Thank you for not giving up on me when everyone else thought I couldn’t stay on the right path,” he said in his nomination.
“It is the life lessons he conveys that former students often cite when they talk about their experiences with him,” said a colleague in Zezula’s nomination.
Zezula said he was attracted to a career in education because of the opportunities “to help young people realize their incredible potential.”
His favorite parts of being an educator are “seeing the smiles when students try something new and when they are so excited to have their dreams come true.”
His students motivate him to do his best each day.
“I know that the human connection between teacher and student is so important to young people and that how I interact with them can be so influential in their lives that it fuels me to push myself for their benefit,” he said.
Zezula also served as a varsity assistant football coach for six years at the high school and was a member of the staff that guided Clarkston to its first two state championships.
Outside the classroom, Zezula worked to support the passage of a school bond proposal and those funds “have allowed the district to perform major repairs and upgrades to the school buildings and grounds. He also served on the Parent Teacher Student Association legislative council and on Clarkston Coalition of Youth.”
Zezula earned a bachelor of arts degree from Albion College, an education certificate from Oakland University, and a master’s degree from Marygrove College. He has been an educator for 19 years, the past 17 with the Clarkston Community Schools district.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year. Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $1,500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Each winner also is featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations, WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, FOX 47 in Lansing, and WNEM-TV in Saginaw. The news segment featuring Zezula will air this week in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then in Saginaw and Detroit.
Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
• Excellence – their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement;
• Dedication – they consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed;
• Inspiration – their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
• Leadership – they demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts; and
• Effectiveness – the nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.
About 97 cents of every dollar spent on Lottery tickets is returned to the state in the form of contributions to the state School Aid Fund, prizes to players and commissions to vendors and retailers. In the 2018 fiscal year, the Lottery provided more than $941.2 million for Michigan’s public schools, its fourth record contribution in row. Since it began in 1972, the Lottery has contributed more than $22 billion to support public education in Michigan. For additional information, follow the Michigan Lottery on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and online at www.michiganlottery.com.