University Musical Society honors 2022 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year

Local educator Emily Zdyrko (center) is recognized for her work in advancing the arts at Washtenaw Technical Middle College. (UMS)

ANN ARBOR – Washtenaw Technical Middle College teacher Emily Zdyrko has been named the recipient of the 2022 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year Award.

Presented by the University Musical Society and the DTE Energy Foundation, the award recognizes educators who advance arts education in their school communities.

Zdyrko was nominated by members of the public for the award, which is sponsored by the DTE Energy Foundation as part of its yearly grant support for Youth Education Programs at UMS. In addition to a $250 award honorarium, UMS will either provide an opportunity for Zdyrko’s class to meet with an artist next season at a UMS School Day Performance or bring an artist for a class visit, according to a release.

An accomplished theater arts educator, Zdyrko has fostered the performance-based study of drama at Washtenaw Technical Middle College in her English classroom. She created the student-led WTMC Writing Club, which she continues to sponsor, for at-risk, sensitive and creative students at the school.

According to a release, the writing club is a safe space for nonbinary and gender noncomforming students at WTMC. It also has become a space where students from rural communities and more conservative backgrounds can learn about and get to know their peers.

The club met uninterrupted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and produces a collection of original student work on an annual basis.

Zdyrko has played a formative role in WTMC’s theater arts curriculum. Each year, the school chooses a play production in the local area or the Midwest region to teach to the entire first-year cohort, who attend the performance and later discuss the play as an academic text.

“The DTE Energy Foundation is proud to support the University Musical Society and to honor Emily Zdyrko as the 2022 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year,” President of the DTE Energy Foundation Lynette Dowler said in a statement. “Her commitment to the WTMC Writing Club -- including making sure that students had an outlet during the pandemic, when social connections were particularly important and also rare -- shows her incredible dedication to her students above and beyond teaching English.”

“We’re so thrilled to present Emily Zdyrko with the DTE Educator of the Year Award for 2022,” UMS Vice President for Learning and Engagement Cayenne Harris said in a statement. “Each year, we’re inspired by the nominations for so many creative, resourceful and committed teachers who are making a difference in their students’ lives by incorporating the arts into their instructional practice.

“Emily Zdyrko stood out to us this year for her efforts to use the arts to create an inclusive environment for her students while giving them a creative outlet. We’re excited to see how her program evolves over the coming years.”

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.