Detroit district teacher named Michigan Teacher of the Year

A woman wearing a black dress and a dark blue jacket stands to the left of a man in a suit standing at a lectern. Behind them are colorful flags.
Candice Jackson, a third grade teacher at Mann Learning Community, was named Michigan Teacher of the Year Thursday. (Ethan Bakuli/Chalkbeat)

Candice Jackson, a third grade teacher at Mann Learning Community in Detroit, was named Michigan Teacher of the Year Thursday. 

Jackson is the first teacher from the Detroit Public Schools Community District to receive the state’s highest teaching honor since the 2006-07 school year. She learned she was selected during a surprise visit to Mann by State Superintendent Michael Rice.

“Congratulations to Ms. Jackson, who represents all of the terrific teachers that we have in every corner of Michigan,” Rice said in a news release. “The Michigan Teacher of the Year is an important advocate and ally for teachers and students. We appreciate greatly and will benefit from Ms. Jackson and her experiences as we work to improve Michigan public education.”

As Jackson walked into the lunchroom Thursday afternoon, she was met with a roar of applause and cheers from Mann students and staff.

“I am just humbled and amazed to be here,” she said. “I hope that I don’t let you guys down, and way to go, Mann Learning Community.”

The Michigan Department of Education recognizes the state’s top teacher each year for their dedication to the teaching profession, commitment to students, and track record in teaching. The selection process begins with nominations from students, staff, and community members.

Third grade students at Detroit’s Mann Learning Community cheer on their teacher Candice Jackson as she is named Michigan Teacher of the Year. (Ethan Bakuli/Chalkbeat)

In April, the MDE announced the 10 regional teachers of the year. The top teacher is chosen from the regional selections.

“This is such a beautiful and important day for us as a district and for you Mann Learning Community,” said DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. “There are thousands of teachers in Michigan, and we have the proud distinction of having the best teacher in Michigan right here.”

Mann principal Lakeisha Simpson beamed with pride as she watched Jackson accept the honor. The two of them have known each other for the past 15 years and came up in the Detroit school district together as novice teachers. She said Jackson’s soft demeanor and pride for her work have served as inspiration to other teachers.

“She does everything with excellence,” Simpson said. “She brings a wealth of expertise in being a practitioner. She’s able to share her research. And by her still being in the classroom, she’s able to go back and say, ‘Hey, I tried this with my students. So I know that it works,’ or, ‘Hey, let’s try to work through this.’”

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Back at her classroom, the excitement and cheers continued as Jackson and Rice fielded questions from students. “I have the largest class in the building,” Jackson said of her 34-student classroom. “The largest and the best.”

A few desks away from Jackson, third grader Nylah Brown drew a picture of a big red heart as a gift for her teacher, writing at the top, “I love you. You are the best teacher so we love you Mrs. Jackson.”

“I love Mann Learning Community, because we learn the Mann Way,” Nylah said. 

“What’s the Mann way?” asked Rice.

“I’ll be respectful, I’ll be responsible, and I’ll be safe,” she said.

The best advice Jackson has received as an educator is to “connect to the children and connect to the parents before you connect to the curriculum,” she said.  “The children do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

The Michigan Teacher of the Year spends a year speaking for teachers from across the state and has a non-voting seat at State Board of Education meetings.

Here are the other Michigan regional teachers of the year:

  • Gina Pepin, a reading teacher at Lemmer Elementary in Escanaba Area Public Schools.
  • Brandi Clark, a mathematics teacher at Kalkaska Middle School in Kalkaska Public Schools.
  • Stephanie Nielsen, a kindergarten teacher at Shawmut Hills Academy in Grand Rapids Public Schools.
  • Bridgit Sova, a special education teacher at H.H. Dow High School in Midland Public Schools.
  • Jennifer Senkmajer, a fourth grade teacher at Yale Elementary School in Yale Public Schools.
  • Nicole Minor, a mathematics teacher at Lansing Eastern High School in Lansing School District.
  • Jaime Hilaski, a mathematics teacher at Schoolcraft Junior-Senior High School in Schoolcraft Community Schools.
  • Lori Richert, a second and third grade teacher at Childs Elementary in Lincoln Consolidated Schools.
  • Vanessa Robert, a kindergarten teacher at Canton Charter Academy in Canton.

Ethan Bakuli is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering Detroit Public Schools Community District. Contact Ethan at

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