Educator of the Year 20214 min read

Every year we lift up educators from around our District for annual awards recognizing the outstanding teachers, directors, and principals we have serving our Lutheran schools. This past year we were a little delayed in officially recognizing all of them in front of their congregations, but we are grateful for that opportunity to celebrate their ministry. The five recipients in 2021 are dedicated, spirit-filled educators that the Good Lord has used to be a blessing in the lives of so many students and families. We thank God for the impact they are having every day and for all our educators across the state.

Doug Guenther – 2021 Michigan District High School Teacher of the Year

Doug has blessed Lutheran Valley High School in Saginaw for many years. The following are some comments shared by those that nominated him:

In his 38th year of teaching in Lutheran schools and he continues to reinvent his classroom to be what students most need now… I so appreciate his willingness to try new things and to participate in professional development activities that are designed to benefit students.

When things get really tough (like 9/11 or the death of a student), Doug is the one we go to for a schoolwide chapel message as he has a true gift in being able to share God’s peace and comfort with all of us.

He has devoted his life to sharing the Gospel and educating young minds and provides an important example for younger teachers.

Doug’s ministry to the students, staff, and families at Valley is one that should be celebrated. Congratulations!

Justin Garcia – 2021 Michigan District K-8 Teacher of the Year

Justin serves at St. Paul Lutheran School in Bay City. It is our privilege to recognize him as the 2021 Michigan District K-8 Teacher of the Year. The following are some comments shared by those that nominated Justin:

Mr. Garcia goes above and beyond in education and professionalism. He is innovative in his education style. He challenges his students and supports them with the necessary tools they need to excel… he models a Christ-like attitude in everything he does.

He is a gifted teacher who serves with a humble heart. That is what makes his ministry so impactful for the students in his classroom… St. Paul is a better place because of how God is using Mr. Garcia.

We are thankful for Justin’s work both inside and outside of the classroom, and we look forward to hearing how he continues to have a powerful impact on those he has been called to serve! Congratulations!

Kristi Hill – 2021 Michigan District Early Childhood Director of the Year

We are blessed with many early childhood centers throughout the Michigan District, and they all have administrators that play a vital role in the success of Lutheran education. Each year we lift up an outstanding director who exemplifies what it means to be a servant leader. Kristi Hill serves at Community and Creative Learning Early Preschool/Daycare in Flat Rock. The following are some comments shared during the nomination process:

This woman is the picture of an Amazing Director… Boss… Friend! She defines the saying, “I have your back!”

Kristi has such a big heart for her staff and all the children and families involved in our school… even outside as well as past families that have gone through our school.

Her leadership during difficult times has been tremendous; she has been the consistent rock for our ministry.

Congratulations, Kristi!

Marianne Dougherty – 2021 Michigan District Early Childhood Teacher of the Year

Marianne Dougherty serves at Holy Cross, Onaway. The following are some comments shared by those that nominated Marianne:

Very dedicated. She is committed to offering guidance to every child at the school. She enjoys helping the preschoolers develop into students that will someday reach their full potential.

She sees needs and finds solutions. She helps her students and their families and finds time to help those in need in the community. She is extremely organized and is held in the highest regard by all with whom she comes in contact.

She is so very patient with the children and shares her love of God with them every day!

It is evident that Marianne’s ministry to the students, staff, and families at Holy Cross is one that should be celebrated. Congratulations!

Matthew Dummann – 2021 Michigan District Principal of the Year

Matthew Dummann serves at Guardian, Dearborn. He is an outstanding principal who exemplifies what it means to be a servant leader. The following are some comments shared during the nomination process:

Mr. Dummann navigated our staff and school through a very challenging year with patience and grace. His knowledge and expertise about COVID – 19 kept us safe and in school!

The one thing that makes Matthew Dummann stand out among other principals is his tireless work ethic. He works till the job is done. He does not settle for good enough. He does not go in unprepared… During this time our enrollment has risen, we have solidified our vision for the future, and we are better able to face the future.

We are thankful for Matt’s leadership over the years. Congratulations!

At the end of February 2022, we will begin the nomination process for our annual awards.

Photo of Marianne Dougherty courtesy of Holy Cross, Onaway. All other photos by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS. 

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About the Author

Travis is the Michigan District's Assistant to the President - Superintendent of Schools. But his more important titles are the husband of Lori and the dad to three crazy and lovable girls. The four ladies in his life are by far his most absolute favorite blessing!

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