Okemos educator makes history with Michigan Charter Teacher of the Year award

Schools Rule: Okemos educator wins Teacher of the Year award
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 6:11 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - There are more than 10,000 charter school teachers in Michigan. This year, one of them is being recognized as the 2022 Michigan Charter Teacher of the Year -- and she made history.

Amy Dunlap, of Michigan Connections Academy, has been named as the 2022 Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year. She is the first-ever online educator to receive this award.

Dunlap was selected out of five finalists throughout the state. Each finalist was nominated by fellow teachers and community members.

Dunlap always dreamed of being a teacher and when started, it was a childhood dream come true. Until it wasn’t.

“I bounced around from school to school trying to figure out where my fitness was in education and try to find my home,” said Dunlap.

She just couldn’t seem to find the right fit. She was almost ready to leave education altogether until she found Michigan Connections Academy.

Michigan Connections Academy is a free online public school charter school run by Ferris State University. At first, Dunlap was skeptical when she was told about it. But she took a leap of faith and never looked back.

In her decade as a teacher, Dunlap has been inspiring, encouraging, and supporting students that can’t be physically present in the classroom.

“For some of our students it may be a hospital stay or they might be traveling for missionary work or their family might be in the military,” Dunlap said. “Whatever it may be, there’s some adaptability there for our families which is exciting.”

In Michigan, nearly 500,000 students attend virtual schooling. Nearly half of all high school in-person students attend some form of online schooling. However, even with widespread practice, Dunlap said misconceptions are still out there. At one time, she was told she isn’t a “real” public school teacher.

“That one hurts because we are certified Michigan educators that work here -- every last one of us,” said Dunlap. “Making that choice, you also know what comes with it. You know that you’re going to fight for equity in education every single day. You know you’re going to fight for choice every single day.”

Her family was with her to celebrate. Dunlap said she hopes this paves the way for more virtual public school educators.

“Finally we’ve been given a voice.. we are a real school we are real teachers.. we are doing really amazing things.”

In addition to serving as a teacher at Michigan Connections Academy, Dunlap also used to serve as a board member for the Michigan Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options.

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