Michigan Charter School Teacher, Administrator of the Year both from GVSU-authorized schools
Both the Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year and the Michigan Charter School Administrator of the Year are from charter schools authorized by Grand Valley State University.
Jordan Dischinger-Smedes, an AP environmental science and human anatomy teacher at Grand River Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids, was named the 2021 Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.
Kimberly Llorens, principal at University Preparatory Academy Elementary – Mark Murray in Detroit, was named the 2021 Michigan Charter School Administrator of the Year.
Dischinger-Smedes and Llorens were selected from a pool of more than 700 nominations. This is just the third time that both awards have gone to educators representing schools authorized by the same entity. It occurred in 2019 and 2016, when both winners of those years also came from GVSU-authorized schools.
Dischinger-Smedes has been teaching at Grand River Prep for seven years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he redesigned his course, converting 99 required lessons into engaging 10- to 12-minute YouTube videos that students watch outside of class, allowing them to focus on asking questions and completing hands-on activities when learning in person.
“In addition to helping others, I was determined not to let the pandemic diminish my students’ opportunity to earn the college credit they had been working so hard for,” he said. “In some ways, COVID gave me a sabbatical to rethink how I teach, and I’m really grateful for what has come from it.”
Llorens began her career in education in 1995, serving as one of the founding teachers within the UPrep network and the founding principal for UPA Mark Murray 12 years ago. Under her leadership, the school’s reading and math scores are consistently higher than almost every other school in Detroit.
“Our students need to understand that all the adults in our building were once like them. Our school’s vision states that each member of our community – teacher, student, parent, principal – is called to focus on leading and learning. This is how each of us lives out the mission,” she said.
MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry said: “Michigan’s charter school sector is home to some of the most talented, creative and hard-working educators in the country, and Kim and Jordan represent the best of the best. They’re both extraordinary educators in any year, but this year, they’ve taken things to another level. We’re extremely proud of both of them.”
The pair will be honored at a ceremony later this spring or summer at the state Capitol.
To learn more about Grand Valley's Charter Schools Office, visit gvsu.edu/cso.
For more information on MAPSA, visit https://www.charterschools.org.