BY TEREY DeLISLE
Debbie Thomas, a Trenton educator who recently retired after more than 27 years of teaching, has been awarded the prestigious Michigan Council for History Education’s James McConnell Elementary Teacher of the Year Award for 2017.
She will be honored at the annual Great Lakes History Conference to be held Oct. 20-21 at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids.
Thomas, who was featured in the Trib’s July issue highlighting her career accomplishments, was notified of the award last month. The award recognizes outstanding K-12 American history teachers across the country, and includes a monetary award.
The Council was especially impressed with the work Thomas has done for the Memorial Day Tribute for the past several years. She organized a project for the entire fifth grade that involved the students presenting in an Expo-type atmosphere. Additionally, the class participated in the Disabled American Veterans “What Does Memorial Day Mean to Me?” essay contest, invited the Disabled American Veterans to the Expo, and included a Q/A afterwards with the Veterans.
“When I think about the McConnell History Educator Award, it is something I never expected to win,” said Thomas. “I feel so incredibly honored to be receiving such an award. Teaching history is something I love to do. To me, history is a story that I want kids to take part in. I want them to experience how life might have been in earlier times and also have a better understanding of the struggles/sacrifices others have made which have led to the freedoms we have today. With so many great teachers in our state of Michigan, I am very fortunate and humbled to be recognized for such a wonderful honor.”
Douglas B. Mentzer, principal at Trenton’s Anderson Elementary School, spoke highly of Thomas’ dedication to teaching.
“Mrs. Thomas has been a tremendous teacher throughout her career.” Mentzer said. “She has touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of children. It has always been evident that her greatest passion is a love for kids, (and) this fueled her energy to give her all to them. She coordinated fifth grade camp, directed student exhibitions such as the colonial expo, and other engaging activities.
“Lastly, her class also raised the American flag every day and cited the Pledge of Allegiance. With all the negative scrutiny we hear about concerning public schools, Mrs. Deborah Thomas is an example of everything that is right about public schools. We are very proud of Debbie and will miss her.”