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Kim Zell selected to receive the 2018 Judy White-Ora “Teaching with Heart and Soul” Award - WCK

Kim Zell - Wood Creek Elementary School

Kim Zell holding award

Kim Zell and Melissa McDermitt

Kim Zell has been teaching with FPS for 14 years. Kim started as a second grade teacher at Kenbrook Elementary School and since 2010, she has been a second grade teacher at Wood Creek Elementary School. 

Kim loves her students. She has cultivated relationships that go beyond her classroom. During the first few weeks of school, her mission is to learn everything she can about her students. Kim has the perfect mix of gentle "press" and patient "push" for each of her children. She seeks out opportunities to connect with each one's personal interests and background, and infuses learning with these insights. Kim honors each child and their passions.

Her students have a master teacher who creates lessons that are child-centered and engaging. She is thematic and has items around the room for every sense to explore!  She makes students want to share what they have learned with family and friends. Her students come back to school craving more! Kim has contagious passion and energy! It is Kim's passion for children and teaching that drive her to create a loving, nurturing, and respectful environment that supports learning.

Kim can often be found having lunch with students or staying after school. Kim is both a supreme listener and a fierce advocate for each of her children. She will stand up when needed to represent those who cannot give their voice, and she celebrates the growing independence of each child. 

Kim is a consummate cheerleader for those "a-ha" moments when a child discovers success. She seeks opportunities to let each child engage in their own learning, and to celebrate the shining "triumphant" moments. Student choice is a driving force in Kim's classroom. She can often be found sitting on the floor with a child, guiding a student at her reading table, or giving a hug or high five to a child. Kim beams with pride over her students!

Kim Zell does not teach for recognition or fame. She teaches because she is an incredible human being who loves her students and loves the joy of experiencing their growth in learning.

Her heart has compassion for those who don't come to school with everything necessary to be successful. Kim has been known to purchase clothes, winter gear, food, snacks, lunch, boots, and shoes for her students. When she sees the need, she creates solutions.  

One colleague wrote, “On top of all the academic learning, she guides and empowers students to be themselves.”   

Another colleague wrote, “When you enter Mrs. Zell’s classroom, you can see where her heart is!  She shines when she is with her students or our larger Wood Creek community.”                                             

The "Teaching with Heart and Soul" Award was created in honor of retired assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Judy White-Ora, who passed away on January 6, 2006. Judy believed in investing in other people and relationships. During her years in education, she developed a pledge for teachers and her ultimate goal was to receive one million signed pledges from educators around the world. Following her death, members of the Farmington Public Schools’ community wanted to make sure the torch that Judy lit was passed onto the new generation of teachers, thus creating the “Teaching with Heart and Soul Award” for teachers that lead their lives by the words of the pledge. The pledge reads as follows:


Today I will:

  • Respect the uniqueness of each child
  • Ignite the joy of learning
  • Listen to their voices
  • Put human connections first
        • Encourage the spirit and let their light shine 
         • Create a caring learning community


Greg and Kim will be honored at the Farmington Public Schools’ Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. The Board meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. and be held at the Lewis Schulman Administrative Building at 32500 Shiawassee, Farmington. This meeting will also be cablecast LIVE on TV-10. 

Congratulations to both of our Judy White-Ora winners! Thank you for serving our students.