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Birmingham — A teacher at Birmingham Covington School was named Michigan Teacher of the Year for 2015-16 during a visit Thursday by state school Superintendent Mike Flanagan.

Rick Joseph, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher who has 20 years of classroom experience, was selected from 487 applicants statewide.

"Rick is an energetic example of our Michigan teachers," Flanagan said. "He believes in connecting with individuals and challenging them to reach their highest potential. We look forward to his continued contributions to teaching and learning."

Joseph said he became a teacher because he wanted to use his talents and skills to close achievement and socioeconomic gaps and help struggling students.

"As an educator now in a privileged community, I am keenly aware of the need for my students to be sensitive to the economic inequities that exist in our region and the world," Joseph said. "The greatest reward I find in teaching is when a child tells me that they have stood up for injustice and have fought for equity."

As part of Joseph's recognition, Birmingham Public Schools will receive $1,000 and he will get the use of a car for a year. Joseph also will get a seat at regular meetings of the State Board of Education.

The other finalists for the award were:

Michael Craig, special education and agriculture teacher, Charles R. Drew Transition Center, Detroit Public Schools.

Emily Pohlonski, science teacher, Novi High School, Novi Community Schools.

David Stuart, history and English teacher, Cedar Springs High School, Cedar Springs Public Schools.

Luke Wilcox, math teacher, East Kentwood High School, Kentwood Public Schools.

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