Kelley Cusmano Named 2024-25 Michigan Teacher of the Year

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May 8, 2024

Rochester High School teacher Ms. Kelley Cusmano is the 2024-25 Michigan Teacher of the Year, an award sponsored by The Meemic Foundation.

State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice announced the honor May 8 during a visit to the school.

Blue confetti representing the school color shot into the air as a crowd of 1,600 students, coworkers and family cheered.

Cusmano praised other teachers at her school, her administrators, students and family.

“I’m not the best teacher in Michigan, but I have a really loud voice,” she joked. “I love this job. I love what I do and who I do it with.” Cusmano teaches English Language Arts and will be entering her 20th year as a teacher next fall. She also is adviser of the school’s student council.

“It’s important for the Michigan Department of Education to recognize the outstanding work that our teachers do and to hear their voices as we work collectively to make our schools even better,” Dr. Rice said. “Ms. Cusmano is going to be a strong representative of our teachers.”  

Since 1952, one of Michigan’s outstanding teachers has been named Michigan Teacher of the Year and been offered opportunities to serve as an advocate for the teaching profession at the state level. The Michigan Teacher of the Year program is not about finding the “best teacher.” It is about celebrating an outstanding member of the teaching profession and giving Michigan teachers a voice at the state level.

Cusmano’s selection comes after a months-long, multi-level competitive process that started with the nomination of more than 700 teachers in fall 2023. The field was narrowed twice, and Cusmano was named one of the state’s 10 Regional Teachers of the Year in April. Each of the 10 then interviewed with a panel of statewide education stakeholders, where each presented a short professional development module and answered questions on topics relevant to issues faced by teachers today.

“Rochester Community Schools is honored to celebrate Kelley Cusmano as Michigan’s Teacher of the Year,” said interim Superintendent John Silveri. “In this role, Kelley has the opportunity to expand her reach when advocating for students and the teaching profession. We couldn’t be more proud.”

In a letter recommending Cusmano for Michigan Teacher of the Year, Rochester High School Principal Joshua Wrinkle said students know her for always pushing them to do more than they believe they are capable of doing.

“Kelley is passionate, nurturing, and relentless in her efforts to support our students,” Wrinkle said. “Some of the most inspiring work that I’ve witnessed in education includes Kelley’s ability to encourage and support students who may be struggling, have disabilities or are not excited about the course work. She is always looking for ways to motivate her students to achieve more than they ever thought they could. She seeks ways to not only better her own instruction, but to also support her colleagues in their growth. The future of education is strong because of dedicated teachers like Kelley.”

Cusmano has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, both from Michigan State University. She also has an administrative K-12 certificate from MSU.
The 10 Regional Teachers of the Year will work together during the upcoming school year as the 2024-25 Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council. During their year of service, group members work directly with MDE and other Michigan educational stakeholders to address issues facing the state’s education system to ensure that the voices of teachers are present in these discussions.  

In addition to her work on the committee, Cusmano will serve as an advocate for and representative of the more than 80,000 public school teachers statewide and will engage in discussions on how best to continue to improve Michigan's schools with a non-voting seat at the State Board of Education table every month and as a member of the Governor’s Educator Advisory Council. She is also the state’s candidate for the prestigious 2025 National Teacher of the Year honor. 
Program expenses for the Michigan Teacher of the Year, Regional Teacher of the Year, and Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council are offset through the support of The Meemic Foundation, now celebrating its 18th year as the program’s sponsor.

Cusmano and her fellow Regional Teachers of the Year will be formally recognized by the State Board of Education during a future board meeting. To learn more about the Michigan Teacher of the Year program, the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council, and MDE’s other educator recognition efforts, visit MDE’s Recognition Programs webpage.

Expenses for the Michigan Teacher of the Year, as well as the Regional Teacher of the Year and MTLAC programs, are offset through the support of The Meemic Foundation.

“The Meemic Foundation celebrates Kelley as the new Michigan Teacher of the Year as well as recognizing the exceptional achievements of the other nine Regional Teachers of the Year,” said Pam R. Harlin, director of The Meemic Foundation. “Meemic proudly serves as the sponsor of this exceptional teacher recognition program for our 18th year. We are confident that these outstanding teacher leaders will work hard to put voice and attention behind important topics that impact all educators throughout Michigan.”