GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — Two Grand Rapids Public Schools teachers were recognized at Monday night’s school board meeting in honor of a former teacher who dedicated her life to educating children in Grand Rapids.

Ms. Stephanie Nielsen and Mr. Joseph Westover were recognized with the Jean Hamilton Cope Teachers of the Year award for their excellence in the classroom.

The funds for the award are donated annually by Mrs. Cope’s daughter and son-in-law Laurie and Mark Grand. They provide each winner with a $1,000 award to recognize their efforts.

Ms. Nielson teaches kindergartners at Shawmut Hills with impressive results. She has played a major role in kindergarten recruitment and is credited with helping Shawmut Hills beat projections for incoming kindergarten enrollment several years in a row.

“She is an amazing teacher and a foundational piece of our school community and makes Shawmut Hills the type of school that anyone would be lucky to have their children at,” said one of her colleagues who nominated her for the award.

Mr. Westover teaches social studies at Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy. His colleagues nominated him because of his leadership and commitment to scholar excellence. He has spearheaded efforts at the school to help scholars prepare for graduation from high school, spending time outside of school hours to help scholars tie up loose ends that are an inevitable part of the end of their high school career.

Colleagues say Mr. Westover’s work inspires others to come alongside him for the benefit of GRPS scholars. Outside of the classroom he continues to build positive relationships with scholars by coaching cross country and track.

“These teachers embody the Grand Rapids Public Schools spirit,” GRPS Superintendent Dr. Leadriane Roby said. “We are so proud of the work they do and the inspiration they provide to all of us. Their commitment to our scholars shows and we are grateful to Mrs. Cope’s family for providing a way to give them the extra recognition they deserve.”