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Fenton InPrint Online

The student news site of Fenton High School

Fenton InPrint Online

The student news site of Fenton High School

Fenton InPrint Online

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FHS Special Education Teacher Tracy Skene wins Teacher of the Year Award

PHOTO Shea Temrowski

Fenton Area Public School’s (FAPS) Teacher of the Year was announced on Oct. 12. This marks the second year the district has named a teacher of the year. The process takes about four to five weeks. First a Google Form is sent out to all of the teachers from every building to make initial nominations and then the administrators pick one person from each building to be a candidate. Lastly, the district administration picks a winner from the six buildings. Named as Teacher of the Year 2023, was Fenton High’s very own Tracy Skene. 

Skene is not only a special education teacher but is also a department chair as well as a transition coordinator. She has been a teacher for 28 years and 25 of those have been at Fenton. Skene has had many accomplishments while working at Fenton but she considers the biggest to be starting the transition program for the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) population at Fenton.

Twelve years ago, I was asked to start a program. I went to my boss and I said, ‘How do you want me to run this?’ And she said, ‘I don’t care. Do what you want.’ So I started a transition program that taught autistic kids job skills, right out of the gate as freshmen.” 

The transition program helps the ASD students to be competitive in the workforce. Their first two years of high school they learn useful skills to use in the workforce. The rest of the high school career they venture to real job sites to prepare them for work after high school. Skene networked and had many community sponsorships which allowed her to take her students to different job sites. 

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“She has been groundbreaking,” Principal Michael Bakker said. “She was one of our first ever team teachers for Fenton Schools when she started the Autism Program, the ASD program that we have here. She was the ASD lead for years and years and has helped not only develop our consortium program that we use with Linden and Lake Fenton but she started the program here and got it up and running. She was responsible for getting the Peer-to-Peer LINKS program going here as well. She’s been huge and proactive in working with outside agencies and services to help special education students attain jobs for after high school. She works with Michigan rehab services which helps the community in many different ways. And she’s helped those students go through transition programs to help them get jobs for after school.”

Bakker also added that she has helped other schools to set up a transition program similar to the one at FHS.

Superintendent Heidie Ciesielski also spoke highly of Skene. She mentioned Skene’s role in the Community Share Room.

“Skene was pivotal in getting our Community Share Room up and running with some of her students who really put in a ton of work to enable community members to come into the room to get things they may need and not necessarily have the means to find,” Ciesielski stated. 

Ciesielski also mentioned Skene’s dedication to Fenton and her students which she has helped time and time again.

Skene was given a two-year lease on a car from the LaFontaine car dealership in Fenton, for her hard work and dedication to Fenton schools. 

Ciesielski was the person who came up with the idea for a Teacher of the Year award and was able to get the sponsorship from LaFontaine. 

“I met with the LaFontaine family who has always been very supportive of our efforts, and especially creating that family vibe in our district and community,” Ciesielski said. “They were elated to help us reward our Teacher of the Year with a free two-year lease to help show how special teachers are.”

The main purpose of the Teacher of the Year award is to reward teachers and honor their hard work in and outside of the classroom. Teaching—though it can be rewarding—can also be challenging at times.

“Getting the kids to a point in their lives where they can be competitive—to employment. To the point where they can compete on the same level of any other kid that doesn’t have struggles,” Skene said. “When I get to see kids get a job and they’re excited about getting into the workforce, that’s what makes it so rewarding for me.”

Overall, Skene was very touched to have won the award this year. 

“When I was nominated, I was blown away,” Skene said. “It’s very humbling and I’m very grateful. I feel very blessed.”

For 25 years, Skene has made Fenton a better place for not just students, but also for those in the community. The Teacher of the Year Award has brought light to her, as well as other teachers’ commitment to the district.

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