Over the next few months we will be introducing you to our nine award winners honored at our recent annual Champ Celebration. You won’t want to miss these special installments to our blog. Hopefully, you got a chance to read last week’s post which featured Kawyie’s speech. Today, we officially kick this series off with the winner of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. Retired Judge and CIS Board President, Carolyn H. Williams presented the award.
The late President Emeritus of Western Michigan University demanded excellence of himself and inspired and cajoled others to achieve excellence. Whether reflecting on his experiences as a 6th grade teacher, getting donations of winter clothing for Western Michigan University students from the Middle East or questioning what Communities In Schools was doing to support boys, Diether Haenicke was always in pursuit of ways in which the lives of young people could be improved so that they could demonstrate their own excellence. That trait of straightforward sense of determination is shared by this year’s recipient of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, Barbara Witzak.
A native of Kalamazoo, Barbara has served the children who attend the Kalamazoo Public Schools for more than four decades. Among the many attributes for which she is known, is a work ethic reflected in regular fourteen-hour days that often begin in her office at 5:00 a.m. and end well after dark. She has sustained an intense level of commitment to her profession, to the school district, to her educator team and to the children in KPS, whether as Principal of Oakwood Elementary and Washington Writers’ Academy over a 14-year period or in her subsequent administrative positions including the most recent, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. Among her most noteworthy accomplishments was the selection of Washington Writers’ Academy as a “Blue Ribbon School.”
Ms. Witzak consistently reflects the behavior of a servant-leader, always willing to jump in with her sleeves rolled up to enhance support for others or to fill in for someone attending to other needs. According to her nominators, Superintendent Michael Rice and School Board Trustees, “In her leadership roles, Barbara has been integrally involved in every major instructional reform of the last several years in the district.” The nomination goes on to indicate, “As Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Services, Barbara has been instrumental in helping to establish and build community partnerships in support of an urban literacy community and a growing college culture.”
Please join me in saluting the 2014 outstanding winner of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, Barbara Witzak.