Cassandra (Casey) Joss

Position: Third Grade Teacher School: Burr Elementary School

School District: Utica Community Schools

City, State: Sterling Heights, Michigan

About the Nominee: Casey Joss was nominated by a colleague, Annette Christiansen, who was also named a 2015-16 LifeChanger of the Year Award winner. This is the second year Ms. Joss has been nominated for LifeChanger of the Year. She was previously nominated in 2015-16.

Ms. Joss exemplifies the power a classroom teacher has in making a positive impact on kids. As a proponent of a "whole child" philosophy, she works tirelessly to ensure that her students' needs are met academically, socially, physically and emotionally. As a curriculum expert who serves on the district's curriculum council, Ms. Joss is able to use her expertise to help guide the instruction of Utica Community Schools' 29,000 students. She regularly reviews math curriculum and was a Master Teacher in the NEA's Better Lessons program, where she helped countless teachers from across the country improve their instructional strategies.

Ms. Joss understands that students cannot learn effectively if their basic needs are not met, so she continually adjusts her instruction to serve the social, physical and emotional needs of her students. For example, this year, she will offer flexible seating in her classroom. Although good teachers work hard to make the school environment the best it can be for their students, Ms. Joss takes it one step further. She partnered with a local dental college to bring dental services to students at Burr Elementary School. She hopes to expand the program within the district and is looking into adding additional support services for her students.

Not only is Ms. Joss an amazing and compassionate classroom teacher, but she is also a leader in her school and district. She has helped implement programs in her district that serve and support new teachers and a program that brings teachers together to be of service in the community. Last year, this group adopted the local Ronald McDonald House and collected books and aluminum tabs. They also served dinner to families staying at the House while caring for their ill children. In addition to these projects, Ms. Joss works as a facilitator on the NEA's edcommunities website offering her expertise on "whole child" teaching and is on the state ESSA transition team. With all of these wonderful attributes, it is no surprise that Ms. Joss was a finalist for Michigan Teacher of the Year 2016-2017. She is an inspiration to educators, students and the community.

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