Bobbi Jo Kenyon said she knew at age 5 she wanted to be a teacher. Now, the Ottawa Hills High School biology teacher has been named the 2012 Michigan Teacher of the Year.
The Grand Rapids native has been a teacher in the Grand Rapids Public School system for 16 years. She was surprised at a school assembly May 17 when state Superintendent Mike Flanagan made the announcement.
“I was shocked when I realized what was happening,” said Kenyon. “I am part of the instructional leadership team and was told the team was receiving an award. Then, Superintendent Flanagan said a special teacher was going to be honored. A fellow teacher nudged me and then I knew.”
Kenyon has taught a mixture of math and science classes and developed a forensic science program used throughout the district. “The television program CSI was becoming very popular,” she explained. “I wanted to help students better relate to science, so the school program shows how science relates to law and crime solving. It’s been rewarding to see former students go on to pursue careers in pathology; one student accepted a position with the FBI forensic program.”
Kenyon earned a master’s degree in education from Grand Valley in 2002 and has stayed connected to the university. “I loved attending Grand Valley. I make a point to recommend Grand Valley to other teachers thinking about getting a master’s,” she said. “My classes were relevant, my professors were knowledgeable and the information I learned was usable.”
Kenyon has hosted Woodrow Wilson Fellows from Grand Valley in her classroom as part of the Woodrow Wilson teaching program which helps future teachers gain real-world experience in the state’s neediest schools.
She said she can’t imagine doing anything else in life. “Teaching is not a job for me, but a way of life,” she said. “My dad was a science teacher, and when I was little, I would set up classrooms to teach my family and friends about science. I love what I do.”