Lake Fenton High School instructor Kathy Kearns wanted to become a teacher all of her life.
Not only did she become a teacher, her fellow teachers selected her for Teacher of the Year.
"I feel so loved," Kearns said, after a dinner and awards ceremony on Saturday evening at Spring Meadows Country Club in Linden. "It's wonderful. I didn't know it was coming. It means a lot to me.
"I work with so many wonderful teachers, and you can't do it all yourself."
When she learned about the award, Kearns was surprised when Principal Todd Reynolds, Assistant Principal Tony Simmons and Superintendent Wayne Wright all came to her classroom.
"I must have done something really good, or I'm in really big trouble," she said to herself.
Then she learned about the award.
Her Advanced Placement students erupted into happiness and applause upon hearing about it. In addition, a former student who will graduate from West Point in 2013 told her the education he received at Lake Fenton schools was so important, and he wanted her to know. Kearns said that is what she finds rewarding about teaching.
"As a teacher, you never know when you are touching a student's life," she said. "It's a gift in itself. It doesn't come in a box with a bow."
But the best gift is when students come back and say, "I am successful and happy, I'm in a good place" and "thank you," Kearns said.
Kearns has been allowed to mentor new staff members, create brand new classes and work with phenomenal programs, she said. And her fellow teachers have become like family to her.
While working for Lake Fenton Community Schools, Kearns taught many subjects, including English, psychology, American history, government and more.
In addition, Kearns has been school newspaper advisor, a department head, class sponsor, Student of the Month coordinator, Crisis Team member, mentor for new teachers, and she organized the spelling bee for 20 years.
For nine years, Kearns was laid off from Lake Fenton schools when she worked for Michigan Community Services, as substitute teacher and taught adult education. She's worked for Lake Fenton Community Schools for nearly 28 years. The Veterans of Foreign Wars previously named her Teacher of the Year.
Board of Education President Bob Grubbs said Kearns has been a good teacher for a long time for Lake Fenton schools. Kearns is very, very professional, he added.
Other nominees for Teacher of the Year were Nicole Guiles, Lake Fenton Middle School language arts; Cheryl Arrowood, Lake Fenton Middle School math; and Joe Grigas, Lake Fenton High School science. A committee of three principals and three teachers looked at the nominations and selected Kearns.
Wright said it takes three things for students to do well. A school district needs quality students to begin with, have a curriculum that is well-aligned with what students need to learn, and have quality teachers.
"I couldn't have asked for a better career," Kearns said. "I found where I could do my best work and have the best people working alongside of me."