Educator Testimonials

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning is successfully piloting an innovative, cost-effective way of improving student learning in our state. Among its strengths, CETL leverages one of the K-12 education system’s most powerful assets – a school’s best educators – and empowers them to be leaders for improvement.

By building the capacity and support for teachers and principals in high-poverty schools, in close partnership with district and school leaders, CETL is demonstrating that Michigan’s teachers can generate major gains in student learning.

Here are some of their voices.

Bernice Wisniewski
Teacher Leader

The benefits of this program take on so many different faces. For one, it gets the teachers out of the classroom, so we don’t have that myopic vision of the building; we get a more global vision. And I used to think being a committee chairperson made me a teacher/leader, but, boy, I discovered that there are so many different qualities and characteristics of a teacher/leader, like someone who takes the initiative to bring other people around toward the vision of the school.

I just feel like I’m a better teacher, a better colleague and a better friend. It’s not so much telling but showing, more a modeling and being a leader by example, by what I do and not what I say.

The CETL program has made me more aware of best practices. One of the benefits for myself has been working with a leadership coach, and looking at strategies to help engage my students. We’ve learned to model for each other; we’ve learned to collaborate with each other even when we disagree; and we’ve learned how to have our voices heard to make meaningful changes in our school.

Paul Debri
Fifth-Grade Teacher

You get to learn more about who you are; you learn more about your staff members; learn how to strengthen skills you already have that you don’t know you have; and that’s only going to be better for the students. I’m seeing the benefits from working with colleagues to help understand my own teaching so much better, and I’m looking to implement that with my students.

Jacob Downey
Sixth-grade teacher


It allowed me to get outside of my classroom, to see what other teachers and other districts are doing. That’s a luxury that a lot of teachers don’t get, to see how others are working on their craft.

My student teacher and I had the opportunity to do this together and really enjoyed getting to know the other teachers as colleagues. It was a very positive experience, getting to know how other teachers approach the craft of teaching.

Mindy Harris
Fourth-Grade Teacher

Many times as teachers we go to professional development that lasts a day, or three, and then it’s done. I feel like this was a partnership with other knowledgeable professionals for an extended time. With the children in my own classroom, I feel like this program has made me a more efficient teacher, which gives me more time to work individually with students and small groups of students who may need additional help.

If a colleague asked me if they should participate, I would say a resounding yes. You have a partnership with many different professionals; you get to learn from other teachers who are dealing with the same things you’re dealing with, who can help you work through problems from an objective lens.

David Lyon

I saw a great collaboration between the people who drove the program from CETL and the teachers and staff who participated. Just having the opportunity to connect with them as a first-time leader, and have their mentorship and their ear and their perspective, really helped me a lot. For teachers, it gives them an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone, it gives them time to talk about deeper pieces of the classroom and instruction and how we communicate with each other. It teaches them to be a team and not to be alone inside their classroom, trying to figure it out on their own. The teachers were learning how to grow their ability to learn from each other and help each other and that went directly back into the classroom, and their work in front of kids.

Angela Clum
Second-Grade Teacher

There are several benefits that I have experienced from having the privilege of being part of the Education Trust training and leadership team. It has been invaluable in helping us develop a new lens in both our approaches to teaching our students and collaborating with our colleagues. The staff have trained us in productive reflective processes with protocols which are adaptable for multiple types of data analysis, problem solving and planning purposes. My skills as an educator have been fine tuned in numerous areas because of the guidance and feedback.

My next steps in the teaching and learning continuum for students are based on specific data and the analysis of that data. Emphasis is always on continuously fostering student growth. My confidence in being an integral part of committee meetings and grade-level collaboration has strengthened as we have been empowered to listen to, question, and lead those we work with in ways that empower our school as a whole.

Kristi Lohman
Kindergarten Teacher

I have grown in a number of ways that I never realized I was capable of growing. The research and the findings have helped me improve my teaching to meet the needs of the at-risk community in my classroom. I believe that the community that surrounds my students comes to school with them and there are needs that I can help my families with that will in turn help my students succeed in life. I have grown through the relationship that I have built with my CETL coach, and been able to find a new passion in my teaching and laying the educational foundation for my students.