Toronto teacher gains Karaffa award

HONORED — Michelle Blazek, right, was presented with the 2018 Joseph and Anna Marie Karaffa Award for Excellence in Education by Susan Karaffa Schnell during the recent senior honors assembly at Toronto Junior/Senior High School.

TORONTO — Michelle Blazek was named this year’s recipient of the Joseph and Anna Marie Karaffa Award for Excellence in Education during the recent senior honors assembly.

Blazek was hired in Toronto in the summer of 2014 to replace longtime science teacher Barbara Pritts. She teaches biology and anatomy and serves as the adviser for the National Honor Society and the National BETA Club at Toronto Junior/Senior High School.

Before coming to Toronto, she worked for the American Red Cross but changed careers when she discovered her love of teaching while working at the Greater Cleveland YMCA, she said. From 2008-14, Blazek taught at Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, Vt.

Susan Karaffa Schnell, daughter of Joseph and Anna Marie Karaffa, for whom the annual award is named, 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.”

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. She lives in Wintersville.

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 an administrator for creating an environment where teaching and learning are valued. Past recipients are 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.