Kalamazoo teacher wins national Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim award

Kalamazoo physics teacher Mike Sincair was recently announced the winner of the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award.

MEA member Mike Sinclair, a physics teacher at Kalamazoo Area Math & Science Center, has won the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award.

The national award recognizes teachers who have made an “extraordinary impact on the lives of students.” Recipients are nominated by former students.

“I am incredibly humbled and honored by this award; it is especially wonderful to be recognized by a former student for this,” said Sinclair, a 25-year member of the Kalamazoo Education Association.“It has been an amazing privilege to teach many very bright, very motivated students over the years without expectation of such a reward. It’s nice to be recognized by them for doing something I love.”

Sinclair, who is one of only seven teachers to receive the $10,000 award this year, has developed a reputation among current and former students as an “intimidating” teacher — a reputation that he embraces, to a degree.

“I guess I have developed that over the years because I believed it was one of many techniques that aided me in motivating my students to give me their very best,” he said. “I think the ‘intimidation’ is more an aspect of my personality — although I must admit, I can be pretty demanding at times. I am fairly certain that, once my students get to know me, there’s less intimidation and much more learning going on.

“Unfortunately, my daughter might disagree with some of that, as I did yell at her the first week she was in my physics class. Not that it damaged her emotionally or academically; she’s a geologist in Oklahoma and regularly calls me to tell me about her newest geological ‘adventures.’”

Sinclair attributes collaboration with his fellow educators as being critical to achieving a successful teaching career.

“I have been a member of the Kalamazoo Education Association for 25 years and appreciate my colleagues more each and every year,” Sinclair said. “I have a core group of friends that are teachers — as well as many outside of the field — and I enjoy ‘talking teaching’ with them.”

Sinclair urges younger teachers to get involved in their union and“talk to those of us who’ve been around for a few years.”

“We’ve been through the grinder — bad times and good — and us ‘older’ teachers are more than willing to help you in your career. Just show us you’re as dedicated to it as we’ve been!”

“Teaching is a difficult and often frustrating profession, but it has tremendous personal satisfaction in the long run,” Sinclair said. “The vast, vast, vast majority of teachers I’ve had the privilege to know are hard-working, seriously dedicated, and highly motivated professionals who are constantly striving to change the world, one student at a time.

“It’s not just my job — it’s my passion.”