Michelle Blazek is the 2018 recipient of the Joseph and Anna Marie Karaffa Award for Excellence in Education. Ms. Blazek was hired in Toronto in the summer of 2014 to replace longtime science teacher Barbara Pritts. She currently teaches Biology and Anatomy and serves as the advisor for the National Honors Society and the National BETA Club at Toronto Jr.-Sr. High School. Michelle worked for the American Red Cross but changed careers when she discovered her love of teaching while working at the Greater Cleveland YMCA. From 2008-2014, Michelle taught for the Mt. Anthony Union High School in Bennington, Vermont.
She received numerous nominations for the award from current students and colleagues. Susan Karaffa Schnell, daughter of Joseph and Anna Marie Karaffa said, “Michelle is dedicated to her students, flexible, and hard working. She is especially talented at forming connections to students’ life experiences, creating hands-on learning activities, and using variety, inquiry, and group work to engage students.” According to one nominator, “Ms. Blazek has had a profound impact on my life.”
Ms. Blazek graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and from Cleveland State University with a Master’s Degree in Education. Michelle and her dog Teela reside in Wintersville, Ohio.
The Joseph and Anna Marie Karaffa Award for Excellence in Education is presented annually to a teacher or administrator active in Toronto City Schools. The award was established to recognize the efforts of an outstanding teacher or administrator for creating an environment where teaching and learning are valued. Past recipients include: Rick Hlivko (2017), Cindy Hinerman (2016), Kirk George (2015), Sally George (2015), Jane Brower (2013), Jennifer Dickinson (2012), Donna McCasland (2011), Ellen Hughes (2010), Mary Jo Kuhn (2009), Lynda Glenn (2008), Charlene Starr (2007), Linda Blair (2006), Linda Antonucci (2005), Gary Fisher (2004), Maureen Taggart (2003), James Ray (2002), Susan Buckham (2001), Barbara Carter (2000), Kirk George (1999), and Barbara Pritts (1998). Nominations for the award were accepted from students, teachers, administrators, parents, and alumni.