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Suttons Bay educator wins 2024 Educator of the Year Award and $10,000 prize from Michigan Lottery

LANSING – A Suttons Bay educator has won the 2024 Educator of the Year award and a $10,000 prize from the Michigan Lottery’s Excellence In Education program.

The award winner, Samantha TwoCrow, is director of the Indigenous Education Program for Suttons Bay Public Schools.

TwoCrow, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, has worked in education for 18 years, the last four in her current position. TwoCrow says the opportunity to break the cycle of academic struggles drew her to a career in education.


“As a teenager and young adult, I was given the opportunity to have been put on a path where my mentors gave me the knowledge of the Anishinaabe people but the importance of getting an education to break generations cycles in academics. My drive to keep going has always been the thought of keeping our students in education and teaching them the knowledge they need to succeed by being strong indigenous learners in today’s society.

“I am honored to be named the Michigan Lottery’s 2024 Educator of the Year. Making an impact in my community is incredibly rewarding and I am humbled to be recognized with this award.”

“Congratulations to Suttons Bay educator Samantha TwoCrow,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Samantha serves not only the indigenous students of Suttons Bay, but also is a sought-out educator who provides support to all students in the district. Her work to facilitate opportunities for indigenous students to share their cultural heritage with others helps foster connections among students and community members. Samantha is a shining example of the amazing educators in Michigan who put their students first and go above and beyond to ensure they succeed.”

Lottery Commissioner Suzanna Shkreli recently presented TwoCrow with the award.


“The students’ reaction at Suttons Bay High School when I announced Samantha as the Educator of the Year was overwhelming,” said Shkreli. “Her work to ensure students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally is critical to their success. The support shown to Samantha from students, colleagues, and administrators highlights the impact she has on both the school and her community. I am extremely honored to name Samantha TwoCrow as the Michigan Lottery Educator of the Year.”

TwoCrow was nominated for the Excellence in Education award by a colleague, Christine Porter.

“Samantha TwoCrow has been with Suttons Bay Public Schools since 2019, serving as our Indigenous Education Director. We are fortunate to serve a very diverse student population, including significant numbers of Native American and Native Alaskan students from preschool through 12th grade. As the director of the Indigenous Education Program, Samantha is tasked with ensuring that our Indigenous students receive the support they need to not only succeed academically, but socially and emotionally as well. Samantha has worked very hard to expand the reach and resources of our Indigenous Education Program and this growth has had a tremendous impact on our students and district as a whole. As part of this effort, Samantha directs our Indigenous Education Program Parent Committee that meets monthly to discuss ways to improve culturally-responsive academic support and mentoring services to students, plus increase cultural identity and awareness within the district and throughout the community. Samantha is always looking for opportunities for our Indigenous students to share their cultural heritage with others and she also provides professional development opportunities for our staff each year. Samantha spearheads activities and events surrounding the celebration of Indigenous People’s Day in October and Native American Heritage Month in November where students can share food, clothing, dance, music, and other culturally important traditions. Samantha also plays a key role in organizing and presenting the Graduation Powwow held every spring.”

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 and a $2,000 cash prize. Each winner also is featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations, including 9&10′s WWTV-TV.


Each year, one of the weekly winners is selected as the Educator of the Year and receives a $10,000 prize.

Hundreds of educators from across the state were nominated for an Excellence in Education weekly award during the 10th year of the program and 34, including TwoCrow, were selected to win a weekly award.

Previous winners of the Educator of the Year award were:

2023 – Kathryn Kluzak, a kindergarten teacher with Robert L. Green Elementary in East Lansing.


2022 – Spencer Vanderheide, a high school teacher with Kenowa Hills High School.

2021 – Janice Smith, a school social worker at Fisher Magnet Lower Academy in Detroit.

2020 – Megan Sidge, an Autism Spectrum Disorder teacher at Hickory Woods Elementary in Walled Lake.

2019 – Stewart Kieliszewski, an Earth science, biology, mechatronics, and media teacher for eighth through 12 graders at the Ubly Community Schools.

2018 – Kerri Moccio, a first-grade literacy intervention specialist at Bedford Elementary School in Dearborn Heights.

2017 – Linda Holzwarth, a social studies teacher at Portage West Middle School in Portage.

2016 – Daniel Carr, a Spanish and sports marketing teacher at Waverly High School in Lansing.

2015 – Michael Craig, a special education teacher at the Charles Drew Transition Center in Detroit.

Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
  • Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
  • Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
  • Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts.
  • Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.

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