To borrow a phrase from Gomer Pyle: “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!”


Wattles’ Ms. Phillips reacts to the surprise news today that she had been selected the District’s Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Photo: Potter Productions

Congratulations to Troy’s Teachers of the Year! Surprise Announcements for Elementary, Middle and High School

By Kerry Birmingham, Director of Communications & Strategic Initiatives, Troy School District

Three outstanding Troy School District teachers were surprised in their classrooms today with the news that they had been selected as Teachers of the Year out of a record 47 nominations received.

Baker’s Ms. Becker named the District’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. Photo: Potter Productions

Kimberly Phillips, 4th Grade Teacher at Wattles Elementary School, was named Elementary Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Phillips received three separate nominations from parents, colleagues and students, who all praised the impact she had on their lives. Those who nominated her for this honor said, “Mrs. Phillips has found her calling in life as teacher where she cares for her students as if they are her own children. She teaches them to strive for excellence, to love math and reading, and to respect each other. She truly brings out the best in her students!” And as one parent put it, “Mrs. Phillips is building a foundation for lifelong learning, and I am grateful my son has the opportunity to experience that through her teaching.” As her own family and colleagues looked on, Mrs. Phillips was presented with a $500 check from the Troy Foundation for Educational Excellence today

Superintendent Dr. Richard Machesky surprises Wattles’ Ms. Phillips with the Elementary School Teacher of the Year announcement.  Photo: Potter Productions

Lindsey Becker, 7th Grade Math Teacher at Baker Middle School was named Middle School Teacher of the Year.  Mrs. Becker, who received two separate nominations, was praised for her energy and her passion to help students. She demonstrates that there are many ways to think mathematically and encourages students to understand the “why” behind a mathematical process rather than simply memorizing steps to reach the correct answer. Mrs. Becker has the courage to take risks and try new approaches and then assemble what has worked for her students into a very unique learning environment. As a parent said, “Mrs. Becker is helping our daughter develop skills she will use well beyond math class. Ally’s increased self-motivation, confidence and desire to learn is a gift that will continue to give throughout her TSD career and into her future. We are blessed to have her teaching Ally math and so much more!” Mrs. Becker’s family and colleagues were on hand as she was also presented with a $500 check from the Troy Foundation for Educational Excellence.


Athens’ Kristy Pierce is speechless after hearing that she had been selected the District’s High School Teacher of the Year, The Overall Teacher of the Year, and winner of a free car lease!  Photo: Potter Productions

 Kristy Pierce, Social Studies and Economics Teacher and Student Congress Advisor at Athens High School was named the High School Teacher of the Year AND Overall TSD Teacher of the Year. From students to parents to colleagues—the one thing that shined through most vividly in her nomination was her commitment to doing whatever it takes to help her students succeed. As a parent said, “The most important gift a teacher can give a parent is to truly get to know their child—as both a student and a person.  Kristy goes above and beyond to learn about every student—their strengths and weaknesses, their learning style, their goals and ambitions for the future. She uses that to nurture and encourage them, but also to help communicate and build partnerships with their parents.” But Kristy’s dedication goes beyond her classroom. As one of the advisors for Student Congress, Ms. Pierce’s leadership helped guide the students to raising more than $155,000 during Charity Week for the Jenna Kast Believe in Miracles Foundation. Her colleagues praised Ms. Pierce as “the kind of teacher you hope your own children will have as she demonstrates total commitment to them on a daily basis.” Because she was also awarded the Overall Teacher of the Year, Ms. Pierce also received a vehicle lease, courtesy of the Suburban Collection. Gary Allgeier from the Suburban Collection was on hand to present her with a car of her choice.

Athens’ Ms. Pierce with her free lease for being selected “Overall teacher of the Year” in Troy School District. Photo: Potter Productions

“We have so many phenomenal teachers in the Troy School District and out of all of our nominations from students, parents and colleagues, these three rose to the top,” said Superintendent Richard Machesky, Ed. D. “They each do a tremendous job of building a world class learning environment in their classrooms and it’s clear that they have a tremendous impact on those around them. Kristy, Kimberly and Lindsey bring with them a passion for learning that they pass on to their students. We are extremely proud to have them represent the Troy School District as our Outstanding Teachers of the Year.”

Thirty-five other outstanding TSD teachers were nominated by parents, students and colleagues. Each of them was singled out for the dedication and commitment they show every day for their profession. The other nominees, all of whom will be honored at a Board of Education meeting in April include:

Adam Burns (Athens)

Amanda Hazergian (Schroeder)

Anne Drogosch (Smith)

Betsy Kennedy (Baker)

Brandon Preblich (Athens)

Cindy Christiansen (Larson)

Collette Carlin (Hill)

Dawn Hayes (Athens)

Emily Beski (IA East)

Erica Conklin (Barnard)

Giovanna Marulli (Hamilton)

Gwen Simon (Barnard)

Harriet Clark (Troy High)

Jackie Losh (Schroeder) *

Jackie Skinner (Wass) *

Janet Schoon (Costello)

Janice Boyer (Hamilton)

Jennifer Deward (Leonard)

Julie Dagenais (Costello) *

Julie Marjamaa (Costello)

Katherine Grabowski (Larson)

Kimberly Phillips (Wattles) *

Kristen Marcaccio (Costello)

Kristy Pierce (Athens)

Laurie Bussell (Bemis/Martell)

Lindsey Becker (Baker) *

Lindsey Gerbe (Barnard)

Melinda Kaspari (Hill)

Melissa Geeraerts (Hamilton)

Melven Moffett (Leonard)

Nadeen Brown (Leonard) *

Nicole Given (Martell) *

Patrick Scott (Morse)

Scott Binford (Martell)

Shelley Hakala (Athens)

Susan Baran (Smith)

Suzanne Cowie (Barnard)

Trevor Potts (Larson)


*Received more than one nomination

The three winning teachers have been sent to Oakland County for inclusion in the county-wide Teacher of the Year competition. Nomination packets are available upon request.




Bemis has a different way to spread the love



For the last two years, Bemis Elementary decided to pass on their traditional Valentine Day classroom parties in favor of helping others. Fifth graders Jacob Ritter and Daniel Xiao pick up the story from here.

 by Jacob Ritter and Daniel Xiao, Bemis Elementary

Sandwiches are being bagged. Ham is going on the bread. Our class is making food for the homeless as a Valentine’s Day party. For all the kids attending the party, all were in favor of helping the homeless instead of having a normal Valentines party. Before making the sandwiches, for the meal, everyone decorated a bag and made a card for the receiver. Every meal also Included an orange, chocolates, water, granola bars, and chips. During the party we question several students and also get Mrs. Smiley’s  thoughts about the warm-hearted party. 


After careful questioning, we asked several students, “How does it feel to help those in need?” Most kids answered that it feels good to help and Zoie Shaw stated, “It benefits people that need it more.” We also asked,” What do you think of the party overall?” Arnav Lavanuru exclaimed, “It feels like double the party.”  

We did a survey and we find that all the kids enjoyed the feeling of making lunches for the homeless more than an average Valentine’s Day party. We hope to see other schools and classes do #hashtaglunchbag. 

To many kids, Valentine’s Day means a party with snacks and sweets. But 5th graders in Mrs. Kim Smiley-Nahhat’s class at Bemis Elementary decided to make lunches for homeless people. Photos: Darrel Ellis




A Look Back: What a Week!


Athens students Ellory Thill and Elise Leverenz reveal the Charity Week fundraising record!

Soon, district seniors will fly to their favorite Spring Break destinations. We’re not sure the seniors at Athens will need a plane, though. The Class of 2017 and the rest of the Red Hawks are still flying high from pulling off the seemingly impossible during Charity Week.

Continue reading “A Look Back: What a Week!”

Charity Week roars on with “Teacher Dance Battle”




Athens has transformed into a fundraising machine this week for Charity Week, which, this year, is dedicated to the Jenna Kast Believe in Miracles Foundation.  The super-high octane seven days wraps up Friday, Feb. 10 with the Pep Rally and BIG Reveal.

Last night, teams battled in a volleyball fundraiser.  Today, more money will be raised with “Jail &Bail,” “Parent Cook-off,” and the “Mr. Athens” competition tonight.

Students Jacob Kachert and Karim Soliman enjoy the performance of the History Dance Crew at the Dance Battle.

Tuesday afternoon of Charity Week was dedicated to the Teachers Dance-Off, pictured here. It was a competition which put academic departments against one another to see who had the best moves.

Members of the Math dance crew and the Red Hawk mascot perform at the Dance Battle during Charity Week Tuesday

After each group, people had two minutes to walk up and down the aisles collecting donations for Charity Week. The amounts represented votes for the winner: more donations meant more votes.

Students count up donations from the audience at the Teacher Dance Battle Tuesday. All donations from Charity Week go to the Jenna Kast Believe In Miracles Foundation.


Buck Wilder (aka Tim Smith) visits Bemis


Bemis’s Ella McAllister covers her mouth as she and classmates laugh at the title of Buck Wilder book “Who Stole the Animals Poop?”

Bestselling children’s author Tim Smith stopped by Bemis Elementary to visit with students as part of the school’s author series.

Continue reading “Buck Wilder (aka Tim Smith) visits Bemis”

“We are raising a ton!”

Athens Charity Week is off to a great start with the week long fundraising activities continuing today.

On Monday, the annual fundraiser kicked off with a delicious pancake breakfast and a generous serving of school spirit. The cafeteria was beautifully decorated with banners, streamers, and colorful tablecloths. Students were dressed for Comfy Day — some in PJ’s, some in robes and slippers.

A cheerful team of greeters welcomed every person who walked into the school. Student council members sold “passports” for unlimited admission to all Charity Week events.

“Everything has been a huge hit and we are raising a ton of money,” said senior Katie Prebelich.

Charity Week continues through Friday, February 10, with a wide variety of fundraising activities. Come back often to School Life Troy for more coverage, and to find out if the Red Hawks can raise $100,000 for the Jenna Kast Believe In Miracles Foundation!

Jenna Kast would have been a senior this year at Athens.  “She passed away when she was 11 from multiple brain tumors throughout her life,”  said senior Nina Como, who was one of Jenna’s close friends growing up.





Passing With Es

“You should be grateful for your sight,” said Olivia Essebaggers as she checked out the boxes, rows and letter Es in a vision screener.
(photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

In a tiny room back behind the office at Leonard Elementary, the Titmus V3 waited for students. On only the third sunny day of the year so far, Lisa Arden — a vision technician with the Oakland County Health Division — tested students with the Titmus vision screener. Continue reading “Passing With Es”

The Impact of an 11-Year-Old Girl

Three of the many organizers of Athens Charity Week; Nina Como, Joey Stark and Aubreigh Wachowski show their support for Jenna Kast.
(photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

You may have seen the shirts or jerseys around town, at a local restaurant, on the football field.

J. Kast, 24, W.E. Believe in Miracles

It’s all about a young girl who left Troy and this world far too soon. But she also left an unforgettable mark. Continue reading “The Impact of an 11-Year-Old Girl”

Super Reading Powers

Wass Elementary kindergartner Cristian Petrous activates his Super Reading Power in a “secret hideout,” while third-graders Evan Dow and Marco Iaquinto listen. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

Kindergarten teacher Amy Kendall walked around the room in a cape and mask, spraying Whisper Power Activator. Thus, three classrooms at Wass Elementary were transformed into super power lairs. Continue reading “Super Reading Powers”

Prepping for Charity Week

Athens High freshmen Ella Cavellier and Jaclyn Hermiz paint a poster for the school’s upcoming Charity Week. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

With a little over a week to go, Athens High School students gathered on the floor after school to paint posters and prep for their upcoming Charity Week. This year, the proceeds will benefit The Jenna Kast Believe In Miracles Foundation, named after a student who would have graduated from Athens in 2017. Continue reading “Prepping for Charity Week”

Pelts, Not Pellets

Working hard for the money, er, pelts, Elyse Lazrabo sold chocolate pretzels, “one for one beaver pelt, four for three beaver pelts and seven for five beaver pelts” at Wattles Elementary School. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

Brownies will set you back one beaver pelt each. Paper plate creations will cost you one or two pelts. Hair clip wrist bands run about three beaver pelts. And for each origami creation, it’ll cost you four. Rice Krispie treats are two pelts each and getting your nails done is four, but if you decide to spring for both, you get one beaver pelt off.

Confused? You’re not alone. Initially, we thought kids were trafficking in beaver pellets. Continue reading “Pelts, Not Pellets”