Congratulations! Two Char-Em staff members receive OPIE awards

Two Char-Em ISD staff members will be recipients of an OPIE Award at the spring ceremony recognizing Outstanding People in Education, to be held on May 8, 2019, at the Odawa Casino in Petoskey. Tracy Tunison and Debbie Elzinga will both be honored, along with other area educators.

Tracy Tunison is speech pathologist for Char-Em ISD, serving Petoskey preschoolers ages 3 to 5. She has been a teacher for 20 years; 4 years in the K-12 setting and the most recent 16 years in early childhood. “I feel I am there to provide positive experiences for students as they learn the power of communicating and as they build confidence to be active and enthusiastic learners,” Tunison said. “Connecting with students, teachers and parents, and building relationships with those people, is critical and the most rewarding part of my job! You must also have fun, especially with young children.”

Tunison also participated in the Exceptional Riders program for about 15 years, which created opportunities for her to cross paths with many of her former students and families. She is a regular attendee of all Education Association meetings and events, and a great support of the association overall, noted Erin Broughman, EA President.

In nominating Tunison for the OPIE, Katie Monroe wrote: “Her commitment to children and their families is unmatched. Tracy possesses a wealth of knowledge in the field of speech and language therapy. She implements engaging and fun activities with children and knows just how to target specific skills to produce amazing growth and development, which has a positive impact for the rest of the students’ lives.”

Debbie Elzinga, a Char-Em ISD transporter, is also being honored with an OPIE award this year. Elzinga has worked for Char-Em ISD’s Transportation Department for 15 years, and she was nominated by fellow driver Terri Hilton.

In submitting nomination materials, Hilton and Transportation Supervisor Phil Haldaman stated: “Kind, caring and compassionate are three words among many that Char-Em ISD’s staff uses to describe Debbie Elzinga’s character of service as a special needs school bus driver.”

They noted Elzinga’s pristine safety record behind the wheel of the longest bus in the fleet.

“With a keen ability to maintain a calm demeanor in the face of complex challenges, she radiates a kind of confidence that is inspiring to both her comrades and students alike,” the nominator wrote. “A trusted and gentle confidant, she is frequently sought out for her safe wisdom and deep insight.”

Elzinga is known for her love of serving others, and she has many times volunteered to transport children and adult program attendees with developmental disabilities through the annual Spirit Day Camp, among other similar activities with family and friends.

“The epitome of a consummate professional, Debbie reflects great credit upon herself, on Char-Em ISD’s mission, and on the noble profession she so humbly serves,” Hilton added.

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