LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A teacher at Wilcox Elementary is being recognized for her dedication to cultivating a classroom community.

Denis Schaffer was awarded the Michigan Lottery’s Excellence in Education Award. Along with a plaque, Schaffer was given a $1,500 cash prize and a $500 grant for her classroom, school, or school district.

Though Schaffer has been a teacher at Wilcox for 18 years, that wasn’t her first career.

“I made a mid-life career decision to become a teacher because I loved the idea of providing children with a foundation on which to build everything for the rest of their lives,” said Schaffer. “That is still what motivates me today.”

She is always trying to find new ways to creatively educate her pupils.

“This year, we are studying the Middle Ages, dinosaurs, and ancient Egypt. Finding ways to be creative and connect with students is something that I enjoy. We find ways to be creative together, whether that is singing a song or a special project, it helps the content come to life,” continued Schaffer.

A family member nominated Schaffer for going “above and beyond” for her students of all levels.

“She is always challenging her students to explore and grow using Michigan history, zoo trips, geology, and thousands of age-appropriate reading materials to support her mission,” her nominator wrote. “She is a true original and a wonderful friend to her kids!”