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February 3, 2023

Announcing the 2022 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year


The University Musical Society (UMS) and the DTE Energy Foundation are pleased to honor Washtenaw Technical Middle College teacher Emily Zdyrko as the 2022 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year.

The award recognizes and celebrates educators who value the importance of arts education and create a culture for the arts to flourish in their school communities.

Zdyrko is an accomplished theater arts educator who has deepened the Washtenaw Technical Middle College’s already strong performance-based study of drama in the English classroom. She is a dedicated educator and an inspiration not only for her students but the entire school community at WTMC.

Focusing on inclusion and belonging, Zdyrko created and continues to sponsor the WTMC Writing Club, a student-led writing group that has become both a refuge and a celebration for many creative, sensitive, and at-risk students in the school. The club is a safe space for many of WTMC’s gender nonconforming or nonbinary students, and it is also a welcoming place where students from more rural and conservative backgrounds participate and get to know their peers.

The WTMC Writing Club produces an annual anthology of original student work. The club maintained uninterrupted meetings through the pandemic, providing a crucial social and emotional outlet and source of interpersonal connections for their students.

Zdyrko continues to lead by example and contributes remarkably to the curriculum by bringing her background in theater arts to the school. Every year, WTMC chooses a local or regional production of a play and teaches that text to their entire first-year cohort, takes them to the performance, then discusses it afterward as an academic text. Through her dedication and care, she has expanded WTMC’s focus to include musical theater and has shared many innovative techniques with students.

WTMC teacher Emily Zdyrko stands with her students as she holds her award

WTMC Writing Club students highlight Zdyrko’s unconditional support and guidance.

“The DTE Energy Foundation is proud to support the University Musical Society and to honor Emily Zdyrko as the 2022 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year,” said Lynette Dowler, President of the DTE Foundation. “Her commitment to the WTMC Writing Club — including making sure that students had an outlet during the pandemic when social connections were particularly important and also rare — shows her incredible dedication to her students above and beyond teaching English.”

“We’re so thrilled to present Emily Zdyrko with the DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year Award for 2022,” said Cayenne Harris, UMS Vice President for Learning and Engagement. “Each year, we’re inspired by the nominations for so many creative, resourceful, and committed teachers who are making a difference in their students’ lives by incorporating the arts into their instructional practice. Emily Zdyrko stood out to us this year for her efforts to use the arts to create an inclusive environment for her students while giving them a creative outlet. We’re excited to see how her program evolves over the coming years.”

Read full press release (PDF)