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Detroit — Jacqueline Waldron is a fifth-grade teacher who, in the words of one of her students, “sometimes makes jokes and other funny stuff."

Those words and others written by her Harms Elementary School students in letters to the Detroit Goodfellows, earning her the 2018 Teacher of the Year title. It is the ninth annual competition.

She beat out more than 800 other entries and was surprised by the president of Detroit Goodfellows, Marshall Hunt, as well as the school’s assistant principal and a cadre of media, who descended upon her Detroit Public Schools Community District classroom Tuesday to surprise her with the honor.

Her eyes widened as Hunt, followed by cameras, presented Waldron with a bouquet of flowers and a plaque.

"Each year, we recognize a Detroit teacher as teacher of the year, and I'm very glad to be here and to be part of the surprise," Hunt said. "You've been selected as the winner, and the competition was really tough."

As he handed her the plaque, which read, "Teacher of the Year 2018," her students smiled and applauded.

Waldron smiled broadly, accepted the flowers and plaque and said, “Thank you so much. I couldn’t do it without all these kids. This is a total surprise.”

Waldron, from Canton Township, has been a teacher with the district for 27 years and at Harms Elementary School for six years. She also was presented with a $250 gift card to buy classroom supplies, and she will be acknowledged at the Detroit Goodfellows Annual Tribute Breakfast this fall. 

She also said, "I had no idea these students took time to write these letters. In class, I try to teach them to respect each other and to be kind to each other, and I'm glad they've learned those lessons."

She continued: "I'm going to miss them because they will be going to middle school. I'm very proud of them."  

The Goodfellows Board of Directors selected the winning teacher from the 800 nominations by DPSCD students in grades 3 through 8 who designated their favorite teachers by answering the question: “Why is your teacher so special?” in 50 words or less. 

Harms is a pre-K-5th grade school with 458 students.

This year’s winning nominations were from two fifth-grade students in Waldron's class: Samiya Navarro, 10, and Bryan Melendez,11. Each winning entry is below:

“Mrs W. is my favorite teacher because she believes in me and has faith that I will do good. Another reason I think Ms. Waldron is a good teacher is because she gives me an education and makes it fun and helps make me want to learn and cares for me.” — Samiya Navarro

“My teacher is special because she is funny. She sometimes makes jokes and other funny stuff. Also, she's nice after long tests. She will give breaks during the test. She also makes learning fun. Sometimes she lets us play math games. She's the best teacher ever.” — Bryan Melendez.

Assistant principal Kathryn Herrera praised Waldron, saying, "A lot of parents bring their kids here so they can have her as a teacher. She does a lot of fun history activities, like when teaching about the American Revolution, she puts on a display board and students act out what life would be like back then."

The Goodfellows, founded in 1914,  sponsors the Goodfellow Teacher of the Year contest to "show its sincere appreciation and gratitude to DPSCD administrators, teachers and support staff who, each year, work so diligently to identify students in need of its holiday gift packages".  The charity’s mission is to ensure that there is “No Kiddie Without a Christmas.”

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