Working with kids is her passion and Allie Rittenhouse was honored for her exemplary work by being named the 2023 Educator of the Year for Otsego, an award sponsored by the Otsego Plainwell Chamber of Commerce.
“I was very surprised and honored to earn this award. Inclusion is something that I am very passionate about and to be recognized for doing something I love and am passionate about feels amazing,” Rittenhouse says.
Allie Rittenhouse is in her 9th year of teaching, just her 3rd year teaching at Otsego. Since she arrived, she began making an incredible impact on her students, the high school student body, the staff and the school. Allie just made the switch to be the Early Childhood Special Education preschool teacher at Dix Street Elementary, but was the Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 3, Special Education teacher at the high school the previous two years. “Allie's commitment to the inclusion of all students is on display every single day,” says Otsego’s Director of Special Education, Alice Hoekstra, who helped in presenting her with her award. “Allie's passion for teaching and her dedication to the teaching of students with autism is unmatched,” she adds.
Allie supported the peer to peer program that we call Links, she started Otsego High School's Unified Champion Schools Bocce Ball team last school year and added soccer this year. She organized and implemented Inclusion Week at Otsego High School focusing on the celebration of disabilities and the inclusion of students with disabilities in all areas of education. The students from her level 3 class and the level 2 class led an Inclusion Assembly in front of the entire student body.
“I truly believe that all students can and will learn and that they deserve to be included and treated with respect and love. All students deserve opportunities to participate in school and extracurriculars and if I have to be the one to help make it happen I will,” Rittenhouse says. “Also the joy and excitement that the students feel and express makes it worth it. Additionally, the comments I get from parents on how amazing it is for their child and how they see the excitement and joy in their children for getting to be a part of something just feels right and fills my cup. I do it for the students and their families.”
Rittenhouse’s commitment to her students extends far beyond the school day in order to give them the full school experience. “Allie went above and beyond in every aspect of her job here at the high school. She spent nights here with kids getting them ready for dances and games, attended the dances, helped with concessions, handled tough discipline situations with grace, and picked up a lot of extra duties when a co-worker went on maternity leave,” says Otsego High School Principal, Thomas Reed. “She's also responsible for keeping such an inclusive environment going here at OHS.”
Rittenhouse praises the entire high school special education team in conjunction with this award. Together, they’ve been able to create and expand upon programs to impact the lives of everyone at OHS. “The OHS RISE (RISE stands for Reaching Independence through Support and Education) students are getting to experience more outside their classroom within the school and community and the rest of the high school is learning how to help and support all students and people,” adds Rittenhouse. “I have even had several of my graduated Links choose to go into special education because of their work with the program. We are creating a generation of inclusion and acceptance in the world that will make it so that all people regardless of disability can thrive.”
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Congratulations to OHS Special Education teacher, Allie Rittenhouse - the 2023 Educator of the Year.
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