It would be natural to recognize a teacher for work inside the classroom, but this year's Marquette Area Public Schools' Teacher of the Year has been recognized for her work outside of school.
Marquette Alternative High School English teacher Cindy DePetro won the award this year, rising to the top of a district full of talented teachers by teaching her students how to organize and lead community events.
DePetro's students at MAHS were active in the Marquette community this year through two big initiatives that they undertook on top of their mandatory academic requirements. MAHS students organized a fundraiser for Marquette General Hospital's Oncology Department and led a community-wide walk that drew 400 participants to a march through town Marquette protesting bullying.
The fundraiser collected money for a cancer patient who wouldn't have been able to pay for treatment, while the walk strove to raise awareness about bullying - an issue that students correctly felt was a problem much bigger than their school.
In both cases, the projects began in the classroom but reached far beyond it. Both the fundraiser and the anti-bullying walk grew out of discussions in DePetro's classes. But DePetro nurtured the kernels of change in those discussions and helped them flower into community action.
DePetro was honored at the district's May 29 board of education meeting, recognized by the board along with finalists Superior Hills Elementary School special education teacher Amanda Erspamer-Berry and Marquette Senior High School Spanish and English teacher Holly Warchock.
DePetro told The Mining Journal she wanted to share the honor with the students and staff.
"It was very hard for me, uncomfortable for me to accept because it felt like I needed to share my award with the amazing people I work with," DePetro said. "Alone, you're just one piece of the puzzle, but together, you're a team."
Strength in numbers - if people act together, they can make a big difference in the world - maybe that's the real lesson Cindy DePetro's been teaching her students.
And the real reason she richly deserves the award she received.