Laurie Pickell was teaching her wide-eyed kindergarten students about ostrich legs when a group of about 25 teachers, parents and members of the media walked into her Martell Elementary School classroom Thursday morning.
"OHHHHH," she was instructing the students, who were working on their letter of the week, "O."
And then, looking up from the carpet, where her students were gathered around, she had this to say to the visitors who were suddenly crowding her classroom.
Superintendent Barbara Fowler presented Pickell with Troy Schools' prestigious Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. She was named the Elementary Teacher of the Year and then the overall Teacher of the Year; along with the honor comes the one-year lease of a new car, provided by The Suburban Collection.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Pickell, in keeping with the "O" theme.
'It's all worth it every day'
This is Pickell's 27th year of teaching but her first year at Martell; she came to the school from Troy's Leonard Elementary because she wanted to be a part of the new all-day kindergarten program.
"I love having the first chance after the families," she said of her job. "That excites me the most. It's all worth it every day. I put my head on the pillow every night and think: it's all worth it."
Martell parent Jinah Kim, one of two parents who nominated Pickell for the award, said Pickell has brought a lot of energy to the school. "She's everywhere," Kim said.
Both nominators praised Pickell's boundless energy, her ability to connect with students at all levels and her willingness to go above and beyond to ensure her students excel.
Pickell lives in Washington Township with her husband, Mark and her children, Abby and Zach. She said she knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in high school and visited a special education classroom.
Also Thursday morning, Patrick Koneval, who teaches technology at Smith Middle School, was named Middle School Teacher of the Year and Omar Hakim, who teaches English at International Academy East, was named High School Teacher of the Year.
The Teacher of the Year is chosen by a committee of school district personnel.