LANSING, Mich. — Amy Smith, of Whitehall, Mich. has been named the 2020 Michigan Virtual Online Teacher of the Year — an annual distinction given to an online instructor who has demonstrated excellence and made a positive impact in the online classroom.

“While the past and upcoming school year have presented challenges for all educators, Amy has done an outstanding job in demonstrating her competency in instilling a thirst of knowledge and passion for the language and culture in her students in an online environment,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Michigan Virtual. “As we look toward the future of education, we’re incredibly proud to honor an instructor who sets such a strong example for the role virtual education can play in students’ success.”

Since 2009, Michigan Virtual has annually honored an outstanding online educator through this award. Smith, a French language and health instructor, was praised for her passion at being able to translate virtual teaching to true student success. Increasingly, many Michigan high schools are not able to offer a variety of world language courses, compared to Michigan Virtual which offers courses including Spanish, French, German, Latin, Japanese, Chinese, and American Sign Language.

“I know firsthand through my own students’ feedback that a positive relationship with an online teacher has an enormous impact on the students’ wellbeing and success, both at a personal level and on an academic level,” said Smith. “I have come to truly appreciate the adaptability and flexibility of online learning to meet both learner and teacher needs, circumstances and aspirations.”

Smith, holding degrees from Hope College in Holland, Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, and Western Governors University in Utah, has been a Michigan Virtual instructor since 2015. She previously held positions as an adjunct French professor and teacher with Muskegon Community College in Muskegon, Hillcrest High School in Utah, Canyons Virtual High School in Utah and Lakeview High School in Battle Creek.

In congratulatory letters from state leaders, Governor Gretchen Whitmer noted that over the course of this past year’s events, Amy has shown exceptional commitment and dedication to her students and to building a strong educational foundation in Michigan. Further, State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice indicated the outstanding praise that she has received from students and mentors alike is proof of the tremendous impact that teachers can have on their students, whether they teach in a face-to-face environment or a digital one.

Since its inception in 2009, 14 teachers have received the distinction of being named a Michigan Virtual Online Teacher of the Year. To be selected, key criteria include a positive impact on students, continuous improvement of practice, and a vision for the future of online education. This distinguished award was created to set a bar for excellence and put a face to the incredible teachers in the digital learning community.