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Excellence in Education Winners

This year 12 Kalamazoo Public Schools seniors were selected for Excellence in Education, a program which recognizes the top-achieving high school seniors in Kalamazoo County high schools. This year, 43 seniors were selected for the honor, which comes with a $1,200 scholarship. 

A collaborative effort among all Kalamazoo County public and non-public schools, local foundations, educational groups and the business community, Excellence in Education was designed in 1986 to focus community attention on the academic and professional excellence of graduating high school seniors and educators within Kalamazoo area schools. 

The Excellence in Education program is supported by a permanent endowment established at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. Funding for the endowment was raised through the leadership of the MonroeBrown Foundation, with strong support from local foundations, businesses, organizations and individuals.

Read more about the awards. 

Anna Buck 

Loy Norrix/KAMSC 

Parents: Rob and Jackie Buck 

College: Undecided 

Major: Mathematics and Biochemistry 

Significant Educator: Modhi Alshehri 

“Mr. Alshehri has been my mathematics teacher for the past three years at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center, and a very influential figure in my education. I had always enjoyed math, but his classes taught me how powerful mathematics can be and the beauty behind numbers. He has always encouraged me to do my best in his class and continue with my education. I have taken his pre-calculus, advanced placement calculus, and advanced calculus classes and every year I feel welcomed, appreciated, and challenged. Thank you, Mr. Alshehri, it has been with your support that I have gained the skills needed for higher mathematics and the confidence to achieve my goals.”

Elijah Duguid 

Kalamazoo Central 

Parents: Jessica and Matthew Duguid 

College: Undecided 

Major: Political Econ/ Economic Development 

Significant Educator: Eric Soulie

“Mr. Soulier provides his students with every opportunity to learn, creating a curriculum based in helping each student through consistent courseindividualized adaptations. Beyond the classroom, Mr. Soulier works tirelessly to answer student inquiries, while also providing additional resources to help students as they progress toward future academic and career-based ambitions. Through the teachings of Mr. Soulier, I have learned skills that transcend the walls of academia. Stemming from an applicationbased teaching of Advanced Placement Statistics, Mr. Soulier taught us how to analyze and interpret data quite extensively. This ability has helped me vastly as I continue to learn more about the world and the data-driven nature of the modern system within which we live.”

Jane Heystek 

Loy Norrix/KAMSC/Education for the Arts 

Parents: Ryanne and Jason Heystek 

College: Univ. of Michigan 

Major: Biochemistry 

Significant Educator: Mark Cardwell 

“Mr. Cardwell is truly one of the most remarkable teachers I have ever had. His warmth and friendliness make every student feel welcomed at KAMSC. Whether he is teaching Information Technology or Precalculus, Mr. Cardwell's dynamic, passionate teaching style inspires his students to go the extra mile and genuinely enjoy learning. Most importantly, Mr. Cardwell's valuable advice can be taken outside of the classroom, as he teaches his students to be kinder to themselves and others. I'm so grateful to have been taught by Mr. Cardwell during high school, and future students will be lucky to learn from him.”

Keegan Hughes 

Loy Norrix Parents: Megan Reynolds and Sarah Hill 

College: Kalamazoo College 

Major: Pre-Med 

Significant Educator: Brad Schmidt

“Coach Schmidt has been an academic, athletic, and life mentor for me through my 4 years at Norrix; he is an incredibly outgoing, thoughtful, humble, and compassionate person. Coach Schmidt is very devoted to teaching a variety of math classes at Norrix, as well as coaching the cross country and track teams. His impact on his students and these programs really show the kind of quality person he is.”

Freya Kailing 

Kalamazoo Central/KAMSC 

Parents: Binney Girdler and Timothy Kailing 

College: Undecided 

Major: Undecided 

Significant Educator: Rex Hafer 

“One of Hafer's greatest strengths as a teacher is the degree to which he respects and listens to his students. He allows us to learn from the insights and experiences of our classmates, and empowers us to become confident and knowledgeable citizens of this country and the world. His classes have encouraged me to see my learning not only as an end in itself, but as a way to gain the understanding necessary to effect change and have a positive impact on society.”

Xavier Langsdale 

Kalamazoo Central/KAMSC 

Parents: Lisa Langsdale and Greg Langsdale 

College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Major: Computer Science 

Significant Educator: Modhi Alsherhi

“Throughout the three years I've had him, Alshehri has taught for an in depth understanding of the curriculum. He's always encouraged us to ask questions and for clarification. But he has also worked hard to ensure his students understood the applications of their studies. There are very few better examples of teaching beyond the test. He has made learning calculus and intuitive and fun process, and for that I thank him.”

Ava Loncharte 

Loy Norrix/KAMSC 

Parents: Beau and Julie Loncharte 

College: Kalamazoo College 

Major: Anthropology and Biology 

Significant Educator: Colleen Chapoton 

“Mrs. Chap is an incredible teacher who truly cares about her students. She values grit and hard work above test scores, and taught me to focus on learning instead of just earning high grades. Her classroom is always full of life and learning. In the spring, during the KAMSC research season, her classroom after school is teeming with science experiments and students doing research and having fun together. She is a mentor for students both in science and in life. I value all the time she has invested in my education, and everything she has taught me throughout high school.”

Kearney Miller 

Kalamazoo Central 

Parents: Geanice and Jerald Miller 

College: Albion College 

Major: Integrated Marketing Communications 

Significant Educator: Dylan Patterson

“Mr. Patterson values relationships with students over everything. The way that he connects with the Kalamazoo Central community shows how much he cares for every student that walks through our halls. Through my time working in our Athletic Department, I was able to find my place in our school community and feel more confident and connected thanks to the support of Mr. Patterson.”

August O’Neil 

Kalamazoo Central/KVCC 

Parents: Theresa Coty O’Neil and John O’Neil 

College: Undecided 

Major: Business and Psychology 

Significant Educator: Harold Swift 

“Dr. Swift has been an incredible program director to not only the youth in Jeter's Leaders, but Kalamazoo's youth in general. His caring (and sometimes humorous) nature radiates outward, always making people feel more comfortable and open; and I’ve had the privilege to be surrounded by his presence for the past three years.”

Matthew Salinas 

Kalamazoo Central/KAMSC 

Parents: Carlos and Jayme Salinas 

College: University of Michigan 

Major: Earth Science 

Significant Educator: Shannon Houtrouw

“Having had his classes for three years, I can safely say that Mr. Houtrouw is one of the most passionate teachers I have met. He has put tremendous time and effort into building up his Computer Science program and it shows. USACO, ACSL, and NCWIT are just a few of the many different opportunities and experiences Mr. Houtrouw provides for his students. During this past year, with all of the help he gave me on different scholarship opportunities and college applications, was when I realized how much Mr. Houtrouw cares for each and every one of his students individually.”

Joshua Schaefer 

Loy Norrix Parents: Jon Schaefer and Holly Schaefer 

College: Univ. of Michigan 

Major: Business 

Significant Educator: Sveri May 

“While I never had Mrs.May as a teacher in a classroom, I was with her almost every day. She is the leader and sponsor of the volunteering club, PeaceJam, and the Loy Norrix class of 2021 Executive Board. Mrs. May showed me how I can help the community in and out of school, whether that was through our PeaceJam clothing drive or our literacy project at Edison Elementary. In Executive Board she taught me how to get involved and be a leader at school. If it wasn't for Mrs. May I wouldn't be the person I am today.”

Kinsey Skjold 

Loy Norrix/Education for the Arts 

Parents: Brian Skjold and Brandy Pleasants 

College: Undecided 

Major: Undecided 

Significant Educator: Matthew Porco

“I had Mr. Porco as a teacher for both AP US History and AP European History. I used to think history classes were boring and tedious. However, being in his class made history interesting and fun for me. I always looked forward to going to class because of the dynamics between students and teacher, as well as the debates and projects we did in class. Mr. Porco's class was challenging, but I am glad that he pushed us to excel and grow.”