Detroit Goodfellows surprise DPS teacher of the year

Sarah Rahal, The Detroit News

Detroit — Each year, Detroit Goodfellows honors a teacher who has positively impacted students and their school.


In its eighth year, the contest asked students grades three through eight to nominate their teacher by answering the question: “Why is your teacher so special?” in 50 words or less.

This year’s teacher was chosen for her dedication and drive. She came out of retirement to teach her special needs class when the school could not fill her space.

Gladys Clark, an eighth-grade teacher at Thurgood Marshall Elementary-Middle School, was surprised in her classroom on Tuesday morning when she learned she had become Goodfellows teacher of the year.

By winning favorite teacher, she received a $200 gift card to purchase supplies for her classroom and a commemorative plaque. She will also be acknowledged at the Detroit Goodfellows Annual Tribute Breakfast this fall.

Clark, 53, has been a teacher with Detroit’s public schools for 32 years and has been at Thurgood Marshall for six years. She teaches special needs grades five through eight in every subject. The Detroit resident retired last year and came out of retirement for one more year to help her students in room 214.

“It makes me feel phenomenal. I’m just shocked. I’m so surprised they nominated me,” Clark said.

“Thurgood Marshall to me, means we are a family, we are all one, we are all team players, we all listen to one another, we all give critiques and take them… we are all one big happy family.”

Out of 700 student submissions, two significantly contributed to Clark’s win. Eighth-grade students Jakyria Hodge, 14, and Leah Denmark, 13, were also chosen as winners for their nominations.

“Ms. Clark got me where I need to be because I am going to high school in the fall. She’s special to me because she’s like my second mother. She makes sure I stay focus and complete all my work in complete order. She also listens to us and we can talk and work out problems. She will also tell us, we can be somebody,” Hodge wrote in her submission.

The winning students received a Barnes and Noble gift card, a plaque and candy.

Last year’s winner, Theresa McCants, won a $200 gift card for her 30 years of service with DPS. She used the money to buy classroom supplies for her fourth-grade class at Fisher Magnet Lower Academy.

“We need more pencils, more paper, more notebooks, more markers because I’m writing in blue and my Expos are all running out,” Clark said.

Clark will be retiring after this school year and said it will be difficult because she is a second mother to her students.

Principle Sharon Lee said it was a surprise, but not a big surprise because she believes her staff, especially Clark, is wonderful.

“Each one of my staffers is a lemon and while working together, they make lemonade,” Lee said.

The Detroit Goodfellows is more than a century old and is known for “No Kiddie without a Christmas” in which it distributes gifts to Metro Detroit children.

Detroit Goodfellow’s director, Sari Klok-Schneider, said the organization started the teacher of the year to thank teachers for helping it identify needs each holiday season.

“We have partnered with the Detroit Public Schools for decades, and the teachers are really the eyes and ears in the buildings helping us to honor our mission of No kiddie without a Christmas each year,” Klok-Schneider said.

“They help make sure that no child is forgotten by ensuring that our holiday gift applications are distributed in their classrooms each fall.”

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