Outstanding Teacher of the Year

Celebrating teachers, our everyday heroes.

The Oakland County Outstanding Teacher of the Year Awards program was established in 1987 to recognize and reward Oakland County’s public school teachers who have achieved the highest standards of excellence in their profession. 

2018-2019 Outstanding Teachers of the Year

Zach Rondot, Elementary Teacher of the Year

4th Grade, Castello Elementary School, Troy School District
2019 Zach Rondot, Elementary Teacher of the Year

Educational Background
Bachelor’s Degree, Central Michigan University
Master’s Degree, Central Michigan University

"I like Mr. Rondot because he always challenged me. He would push me to my limit so I could become a better student. Also, I like that he's always trying to make a positive impact on the school."
-Former Student, Keegan Hsu

"Mr. Rondot is the profile of the kind of teacher every student should have. He is admired and respected by students, teachers, parents and educators from around the globe. His goal each day is to inspire kids." -Principal Tammy Diponio

"His focus is not just on academics but also on life skills and being kind. He taught the kids that everyone has a story, everyone is different, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and that is OK." -Parent Becky Witmer

David Kniaz, Middle School Teacher of the Year

8th Grade US History, Novi Middle School, Novi Community Schools
David Kniaz, Middle School Teacher of the Year

Educational Background
Bachelor’s Degree, Hope College
Master’s Degree, Marygrove College

"Mr. Kniaz is very skilled when it comes to interacting with each and every student. When it comes to his personality, he is always kind, even if a student is not. He is willing to help with anything we are working on." 
-Student, Scott Aucott

"A wonderful trait Dave has is that he is very humble and approachable. He is very respectful to all staff and students. He is an incredibly positive person and his positive attitude transfers to his teaching in the classroom."
-Colleague Andrea Kohls

"History can be difficult to teach in a way that will capture a child’s interest, but Mr. Kniaz has a style that is open and caring. He treats our students equally and with fairness. This creates a fun, open and helpful atmosphere that improves his students’ ability to learn."
-Parent Karen Aucott

Julie Anne Smith, High School Teacher of the Year

7th-12th Grade Choir Teacher, Berkley High School, Berkley School District
Julie Smith, High School Teacher of the Yearv

Educational Background
Bachelor’s Degree, Eastern Michigan University
Master’s Degree, Oakland University

"Julie Smith had a large impact in my life as a student at Berkley High School. She has boosted my confidence and helped me make connections to better my singing ability. But, mostly, she has helped me believe in not only my abilities, but in myself."
-Student, Abby Williams

"Julie Smith strives for perfection in every aspect of her professional career. From concerts or festivals to her day-to-day instruction, Ms. Smith does everything with a purpose."
-Principal, Andrew Meloche

"Julie Smith has a devotion to teaching, to music, to her students that goes so far and above what is expected. Her willingness to go beyond to the unexpected for us at the success of a nationally-recognized music program, that she helped to build, is a testimony to the educator she is."
-Parent Arianne Alderman

Elementary Nominees

Gina Lantz
R. Grant Graham Elementary School
Avondale School District 
3rd Grade

Lisa Arnold
Greenfield Elementary School
Birmingham Public Schools
2nd Grade

Barbara Winkfield
Lone Pine Elementary School
Bloomfield Hills Schools
3rd Grade

Jodi Demorest
Botsford Elementary School
Clarenceville School District
3rd Grade

Lori Karam
Kenwood Elementary School
Clawson Public Schools

Nancie Jahshan
Lanigan Elementary School
Farmington Public Schools
5th Grade; 3-5 Curriculum Coach

Michele Harris
Upper Elementary School
Ferndale Public Schools
4th Grade

Christine Widdis
Rose Pioneer Elementary School
Holly Area Schools
1st Grade

Marie Waters
Lakewood Elementary School
Huron Valley Schools
3rd Grade

Erin Kawamoto
Stadium Drive Elementary School
Lake Orion Community Schools

Jennifer Creamer
Lessenger Elementary School
Lamphere Schools
5th Grade

Tina Gurganus
Madison Elementary School
Madison District Public Schools
5th Grade

Jodi Balconi
Novi Woods Elementary School
Novi Community School District
2nd Grade

Jennifer Goshorn
Pepper Elementary School
Oak Park School District

Jennifer Kontry
Daniel Axford Elementary School
Oxford Community Schools

Kara Daunt
Keller Elementary School
Royal Oak Schools
Response to Intervention and IB Coordinator

Patricia Raines
Salem Elementary School
South Lyon Community Schools
Reading Recovery/Literacy Support Teacher

Kelly Powers
Keith Elementary School
Walled Lake Consolidated School District
K-5 basic classroom for students with autism

Alex Vellez
Houghton Elementary School
Waterford School District
5th Grade

Annette Hans
Gretchko Elementary School
West Bloomfield School District
Kindergarten - 2nd Grade

Middle School Nominees

Amy Thornton
Avondale Middle School
Avondale Schools
Advanced Math 6th & 7th Grade

Julia Kettner
Norup International School
Berkley Schools
6th Grade Science

Jay Leitz
East Hills Middle School
Bloomfield Hills Schools
Grades 6-8 Physical Education

Sarah Spencer
Brandon Middle School
Brandon School District
Advanced Math 6th & 7th Grade

Erica Sowders
Clarenceville Middle School
Clarenceville School District
7th Grade Math

Jill Gordon
Clawson Middle School
Clawson School District
6th Grade Math

Keichea Shauntee-Wilson
Power Middle School
Farmington Public Schools
7th Grade Social Studies & 8th Grade US History

Michael Sigler
Ferndale Middle School
Ferndale Schools
6th Grade Math

Monica Turner
Holly Middle School
Holly Area Schools
Grades 6-8 EL Resource Room

Kathy Lukes
Oak Valley Middle School
Huron Valley Schools
8th Grade Math & Honors Algebra

Nick Coccia
Waldon Middle School
Lake Orion Community Schools
7th Grade Math

Erin Garvey
John Page Middle School
The Lamphere Schools
Grades 5-8 Band

Shalana Stewart
Oak Park Preparatory Academy
Oak Park Public Schools
6th Grade Language Arts

Josh Smokovitz
Oxford Middle School
Oxford Community Schools
8th Grade ELA & Co-Teacher in all core subjects

Amanda Abernathy
Kennedy School
Pontiac School District
ASD Special Education Teacher

Karina Landis
Royal Oak Middle School
Royal Oak Schools
6th Grade Math & EL Coordinator

Lela Davis
Kennedy Learning Center
Southfield Public Schools
CI Special Education Teacher

Suzanne Domin
Park Middle School
Troy School District
7th Grade Language Arts

Kristen Dudzinski
Sarah Banks Middle School
Walled Lake Consolidated School District
Grades 6-8 Band

Karen Dilaura
Mason Middle School
Waterford School District
Grades 6-8 World Language

Jennifer Barshaw
Centennial Middle School
South Lyon Schools
8th Grade Social Studies

Christopher Finneran
Abbott Middle School
West Bloomfield School District
8th Grade Social Studies

High School Nominees

Ann Fredrickson
Avondale High School
Avondale School District
Grades 9-12 Spanish & Leadership 101

Stephanie Bevier
Bloomfield Hills High School
Bloomfield Hills School District
Grades 9-12 Media & Technology

Matt Prevost
Brandon High School
Brandon School District
Grades 9-12 Social Studies

Megan Homanick
Clawson High School
Clawson Public Schools
Grades 9-12 Art & Yearbook

Mary Sheltrown
Farmington High School
Farmington Public Schools 
Grades 9-12 Physical Education

Leslie Handyside
University High School
Ferndale Public Schools
Grades 9-11 Math

Christine Claussen
Holly High School
Holly Area Schools
Grades 9-12 Special Education

Kim Behen
Harbor High School
Huron Valley Schools
Grades 9-12 CTE Courses

David Whitaker
Lake Orion High School
Lake Orion Community Schools
Grades 9-12 Physical Education

Jennifer Smith
Lamphere High School
The Lamphere Schools
Special Education & Social Studies

Danny Fulks
Madison High School
Madison District Public Schools
Grades 9-12 Mathematics & Robotics

Shannon Hadley
Novi High School
Novi Community School District
Grades 9-12 ESL & 11th Grade ELA

Jessica Martiny
Oak Park High School
Oak Park School District
Grades 9-12 Art

Nicole Barnett
Oxford High School
Oxford Community Schools
Grades 9-12 Mathematics

Elizabeth Cusick
Royal Oak High School
Royal Oak Schools
9th Grade Earth Science and
Grades 11-12 AP Biology & French 1

Michele Marshall
Southfield High for the Arts & Technology
Southfield Public Schools
Grades 9-12 English

Rebecca Tincknell
South Lyon High School
South Lyon Community Schools
Algebra 2 & Geometry

Josh Pudaloff
Athens High School
Troy School District
Computer Science

Sandra Brough-Gresh
Walled Lake Central High School
Walled Lake Consolidated Schools 
General Physics & Honor Chemistry

Monica Bandlow
Waterford Kettering High School 
Waterford School District
9-12 Grades Math

Stacey Weller
West Bloomfield High School
West Bloomfield School District
Grades 9-10 English & Social Studies