10/10/18 ASHLAND, Ohio – AU alumna Michelle Koussa, a sixth-grade teacher at Independence Middle School, has been named the Educator of the Year by the Ohio Middle Level Association (OMLA). This award is the most distinguished honor the OMLA can bestow upon an individual to recognize his or her contributions to middle level education.
Koussa’s students, staff, administrators, board members, family and OMLA representatives all were present to witness this recognition on Oct. 5 in the Independence Middle School auditorium. In order to receive this award, an educator must promote the middle school concept through involvement in exemplary programs, leadership, and research that serves the needs of middle level students. He/she also must be involved at the local, regional and state levels. Koussa has been actively involved with OMLA since she was in college and will soon be named president of the organization.
Koussa received her bachelor’s degree (2005) and her master’s degree (2010) in middle education from Ashland University. She served on the Ashland University Alumni Board from 2011-2018 and also was the president from 2016-17.
She has taught at Independence Middle School since 2006 as a sixth, seventh and eighth-grade teacher, as well as a media specialist. A strong believer in community engagement, Koussa has partnered with local businesses, the Cleveland Gladiators, Cavs, Captains and even local shipwreck survivors for classroom lessons and activities.
She also is one of the founders of the Independence Middle School sixth-grade iMovement Program where students and staff go out into the community and complete service projects. To date, iMovement has raised more than $10,000, cleaned up more than 50 yards, hosted senior luncheons and volunteer appreciation lunches for more than 1,000 people, passed out thousands of gift cards, sent cookies to homeless shelters, baked goodies for local organizations, provided breakfast and lunch for local schools, volunteered time at Cornerstone of Hope, and cleaned up litter at local parks. A fall leaf rake is being added this year.
Koussa has been a seventh-grade volleyball coach, fifth and sixth grade Student Council advisor and is currently the Kiwanis Builders Club adviser.
This is not Koussa’s first award as she was the Ohio Lottery Teacher of the Month, Newschannel 5 Teacher of the Month, and an Independence Local Schools’ iPride Star of the Week. She also was a recipient of the Plain Dealer Crystal Apple Award, OMLA Regional Award, OMLA Team of the Year and OMLA Service Learning Award.
Koussa has presented at every OMLA state conference since 2004. She has also presented at the National Conference for Middle Level Education in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Louisville, Philadelphia and Columbus. Her writings have been published in the Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE) Middle Level Journal as well.
Here are excerpts of Koussa’s nomination:
Jeff Cicerchi, OMLA Northeast Associate Representative, says, “Michelle is a committed middle school teacher who constantly advocates for middle level best practices, programs, policies and most importantly, kids! Her leadership is second to none in the Northeast Region. The events, programs and service she provides to middle level educators and students across the state of Ohio continue to get better and better each year. It is without a doubt that Michelle is a superstar. She certainly is the type of teacher, professional and person that all around her strive to be. I have no doubt that she has had a positive impact on the students in her class as well as across the state. She certainly has made the difference for middle level teachers and students in Ohio, which is why I cannot think of a more deserving person for the Educator of the Year Award.”
Ken DeAngelis, a sixth-grade teacher at Independence Middle School says, “Michelle Koussa is one of the most caring educators I have ever worked with. I've had the pleasure of teaching on the same team as her for almost 10 years. She cares for all of her students as if they were her own. You can tell she truly loves what she does and makes a significant impact on each of her student’s lives. The biggest compliment I could give her is that I would love for my own children to have her as a teacher. She cares enough to make a difference every day.”
Kevin Jakub, former principal of Independence Middle School said, “Michelle is the embodiment of the student-centered educator. She is consistently willing to take risks in the classroom that push the boundaries of traditional pedagogical practices and excitement and engage students from reading Frankenstein to participating in an Escape Room lesson to teach not only English Language Arts standards but critical thinking. Most importantly her message of kindness, compassion and community does not just resonate in the middle levels but throughout the student’s life.”
Ben Hegedish, superintendent of Independence Local Schools says, “Michelle has consistently and compassionately approached her calling as an educator with a focus on her students. Her perspective on each child is that they are a special person, worthy of her attention, focus and commitment. Michelle pours her heart into her work and makes a difference for our students. I could only hope that my own children have teachers as dedicated and caring as Michelle Koussa.”
Ed Vittardi, former principal of Independence Middle School says, “Michelle’s passion, energy and dedication toward middle level education is easily caught by all she comes in contact. From the day I met her as a college student officer, I knew she would be somebody special. Michelle is the type of star teacher that makes everyone better. Her dedication to middle level students has made all she touches grow and develop. In my 36+ years in education she is at the top of the list of outstanding middle level educators.”
Nick Discenza, OMLA Northeast Associate Representative, says, “Michelle is a tireless advocate of serving middle level students appropriately through engagement, collaboration, teaming and advocacy.
Becky Reese, OMLA Northeast Associate Representative, says, “She is committed to OMLA by continually blazing new trails to recognize not only professional educators but college students and middle school students as well. We are all proud to be a part of the Northeast team with her as she is the glue of our region.”
Koussa will be recognized once more at OMLA’s annual state conference later this month. There are more than 9,500 individuals who are members of the organization.
Ashland University, ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2018, is a mid-sized, comprehensive private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Religiously affiliated with the Brethren Church, Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###