BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Faye Valtadoros won the lottery, taking home a $500 cash prize and $500 classroom grant. She didn’t have to buy a ticket – the Japanese teacher for Clarkston Community Schools just needed a nomination for an Excellence in Teaching Award.
“I got an email one day saying I was nominated by someone in the community,” Valtadoros said. “To be nominated by somebody, it’s thrilling, really exciting.”
The Michigan Lottery and WXYZ present the award every week to recognize outstanding K-12 teachers and staff who make a significant impact on the lives of their students.
In addition to the cash prize and grant, she’ll be featured during a WXYZ broadcast. She was interviewed for it by Tom Izzo.
“That was amazing, really cool,” she said.
After growing up in a bilingual family – English and Greek – Valtadoros started learning Japanese at her high school, Utica Ford in Sterling Heights. She continued her studies after graduation, earning a bachelor of arts degree in Japanese language and culture from Eastern Michigan University.
She went to Japan for a study abroad program, living there for three years.
“I was immersed in the culture,” she said. “It’s so different. I fell in love with it.”
Valtadoros, who earned a master of arts in teaching from Marygrove College and a master’s degree in library science from Wayne State University, has taught for 16 years. The last 10 have been in Clarkston at the high school, junior high, and Sashabaw Middle School.
In addition to teaching Japanese, she runs the high school Japanese Club. Activities include an exchange program in March, and trips to Japan, with one planned this summer.
This is her fifth trip with students – 17 are signed up this year. They will stay for two weeks in Japan with host families, including visits to Kyoto, Peace Museum in Hiroshima, and Clarkston’s sister school in Chiba.
“The students do really well. It’s amazing,” she said.
The teacher was nominated for the Excellence in Education award by a person who works in Japanese business in Michigan. The nomination said Valtadoros “is one of the few teachers of Japanese language in Michigan.”
“She uses her personal funds to ensure that her students have the proper class materials. She helps students understand the value of knowing multiple languages and recognize that will help prepare them to work in the increasingly global marketplace,” reads the nomination. “She is valuable to the community and her role is fundamental to the automotive industry and other industries in Michigan, because we need more Americans who know the Japanese language and culture.”
All Excellence in Education award winners will also be considered for the Michigan Lottery’s Educator of the Year Award and a grand prize of $10,000.
Nominate Michigan public school employees who demonstrate excellence, dedication, inspiration, leadership, and effectiveness at www.wxyz.com/excellence.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO