July 16 • 06:45 PM

Almont grad named 'Teacher of the Year'

June 11, 2008
ALMONT — The area can lay claim to yet another award winning educator whose foundation was laid at Almont Community Schools.

Karla Halvangis—Karla Steinke when she graduated from Almont High School in 1986—was named Livonia Public Schools' Secondary Teacher of the Year in May. She's the daughter of Phil and Marilyn Steinke, who still live in Karla's hometown.

Almont graduate Karla (Steinke) Halvangis with husband Bill and sons Steven and Nathan Pellerito.
Karla, an English teacher at Churchill High School in Livonia, says she found herself gravitating toward a teaching career around her sophomore year at Alma College.

"I started to take a real interest in English and I had some great teachers in high school like Dean Sousanis and I started to think that could be a route I could take," Karla recalls.

"Plus I knew I couldn't sit in an office all day either," she chuckles.

So it seemed fitting that Karla's first full-time teaching stint was at the Almont Jr./Sr. High School, where she was hired in 1992. She worked there until landing a job at Churchill during the 93-94 school year. Fourteen years later Karla still recalls making the move.

"It was a huge culture shock to go from Almont to Churchill," Karla says, noting that Churchill's 2,200 student body outnumbers that of the college she went to.

Now a seasoned veteran of the classroom, Karla says she's still passionate about teaching and despite the award is constantly motivated to do better.

"All teachers who care about their job work hard and put in a lot of hours," she says. "I'm so very flattered by the award. I work with so many great educators and it's just a great honor to be recognized."

Recognition aside, Karla's motivation is the students themselves, especially those who are struggling. A few years ago she began teaching lower level English classes and it's given her a second look at varying levels of learning and comprehension.

"I'll have some kids say 'how come when you read it I get it and when I read it I don't,'" Karla says. "I began to look at the problems these students have and find ways to help them progress."

One of those ways was to begin a reading workshop class for struggling readers. The experience has honed her skills in dealing with students who'd been frustrated with a system that hadn't worked for them.

"A lot of times the kids are not very motivated, there is a lot of anger and frustration there and now I'm better equipped to deal with them," Karla says, "to take them from where they are and move them ahead."

Karla, who's chaired Churchill's English department for the past 12 years, says she continues to look for ways to help students progress.

"I'm so honored to have won the award but I still feel there is more I could be doing and it keeps me motivated," she says. "Education is so important and so many students need help."

Karla, 39, and her husband Bill live in Novi with young sons Nathan Pellerito, 10, and Steven Pellerito, 8.

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