‘You’ll Never Be the Same’

Past Honorees Share Experiences, Advice with New MTOY

The Michigan Teachers of the Year who attended the gathering were, front, left to right, James Linsell (2001-02), Rick Joseph (2015-16), Luke Wilcox (2017-18), Matinga Ragatz (2010-11), Susan Gutierrez (2002-03); back, Melody Arabo (2014-15), Dan Schab (2005-06), Nancy Flanagan (1992-93), Jennifer Haberling (2008-09), Gary Abud Jr. (2013-14)
As Luke Wilcox enters a year where there will be lots of demands on his time, Gary Abud Jr., (not pictured) told him not to forget “You’re still Luke. Make sure you take time for Luke”

Being named the Michigan Teacher of the Year doesn’t come with a manual for how to navigate the year ahead, so you have to go talk to the “teachers” — as in former Michigan Teachers of the Year. Luke Wilcox, an East Kentwood High School Advanced Placement statistics teacher who was named the 2017-18 Michigan Teacher of the Year in May, sat down recently with a group of nine former designees for a “passing of the torch” luncheon.

To help him start his adventure, they offered helpful advice that came with a dose of humor.

“It never ends,” Matinga Ragatz told Wilcox of what to expect after earning the honor. “Once a teacher of the year, always a teacher of the year”

Susan Gutierrez, 2002-03 MTOY and a Forest Hills Public Schools principal whohosted the event, said “It’s like a 12-month steroid journey through education.”

Matinga Ragatz, 2010-11 MTOY, described it as “kind of like bringing a baby home from the hospital.”

Wilcox said he had few fears. “I always had ideas, but now I have this new voice I never much had before,” he said. “This is an opportunity to make some cool things happen.”

The Michigan Department of Education honors a top teacher annually to serve as a spokesperson for the 100,000-plus teachers in the state.

Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio

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