A Southwest Detroit educator known for valuing and encouraging inquisitiveness has been honored with an Excellence In Education award from the Michigan Lottery. The award winner, Tracy Ortiz, is a sixth-grade science teacher at the Clippert Multicultural Magnet Honors Academy with Detroit Public Schools.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence In Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public- school educators across the state during the school year.
Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $1,500 cash prize, and a $500 grant
to their classroom, school, or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Ortiz credits a high school teacher for inspiring her to pursue a career in education.
“A teacher I had in high school inspired me to become a teacher. She was a teacher that I looked up to, and who always encouraged me to do my best. I was able to participate in a variety of activities with her encouragement and support. This teacher looked out for me and many other students, and we knew that she truly cared about each one of us. Our teacher set an example by genuinely caring for us. This teacher made a difference in my life, and in turn, I would like to pay it forward. My students keep me going.”
Ortiz says using project- based learning is one of her favorite activities to do with students.
“In my class my students are offered many opportunities to engage in several challenging projects throughout the school year. Project-based learning also allows students to demonstrate leadership and perseverance within the classroom, and in all the extracurricular activities that we participate in outside of class. Taking students outdoors to learn and having our schoolyard pollinator garden that they planted as the center of our outdoor classroom offers numerous learning experiences for my students. I have also trained students in water quality testing through the Rouge Education Project while making connections with content in the science curriculum. … Outdoor and environmental education provides the opportunity for children to learn by doing.”
A colleague nominated Ortiz for the award. The nomination cited her dedication and enthusiasm for science education.
“Tracy Ortiz is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic science educators that I know. She has made it her mission to ensure that every one of her students enjoys an authentic, three-dimensional learning experience in her classroom, where their inquisitiveness is not only valued but encouraged. Mrs. Ortiz motivates her students to become independent and innovative thinkers while allowing them to explore their natural world and begin solving the problems of tomorrow. Mrs. Ortiz has a sincere passion for educating and inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and citizens who will change the world. She coaches, manages, and facilitates award-winning teams in STEM enrichment programs such as SeaPerch Underwater Robotics, Destination Imagination, Metro Detroit Science and Engineering Fair (DAPCEP), and Ecoworks. It is her goal is to extend learning beyond the classroom and provide experiences that will shape the future of her students. … Tracy regularly assists the DPSCD Office of Science in promoting the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards by participating in curriculum initiatives, co-facilitating professional developments, and serving as a mentor to other science teachers.”
Ortiz earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Detroit and a master’s degree from Wayne State University. She has been an educator for 23 years, 19 in her current position.