Submitted by Optimist Club of Charlotte

(Photos provided – Above: The eight John W. Duris Scholarship winners
Below: Principal Helene McNeilly, Teacher of the Year Stephanie Normand, Optimist Rick Johnson)


The Optimist Club of Charlotte honored Teacher of the Year and eight John W. Duris Scholarship winners on May 11, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. at The Center. After appetizers and dinner made by Optimist member and Center manager Cindy Miller, 1st Vice President Don Jones welcomed the seniors, their families, and Optimists members and each person introduced themselves.

Rick Johnson, chair of the Teacher of the Year Award, introduced recipient Stephanie Normand, Kindergarten teacher at St. Mary School. Stephanie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education from Saginaw Valley State University and a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from Central Michigan University. St. Mary Principal, Helene McNeilly shared some heart-warming stories of Stephanie’s dedication and going the extra mile for students and staff over the last 15 years. Rick Johnson presented Stephanie with a Teacher of the Year plaque and Helene McNeilly received the traveling plaque of former teachers to be displayed at St. Mary. Stephanie shared the evening with her parents, sister, and aunt.

Duris Chair Cheryl Starr greeted the winners and shared a brief history of John W. Duris and the scholarship requirements. Don Jones had each senior come up to the stage and share their accomplishments. Starr presented each one with a framed certificate and then Jones asked further questions of each senior’s activities, community service, and work experience. A $750 scholarship will be sent to each student’s school of higher learning. Congratulations to: Justin Beck, Adelaide Shaver, Julia May, Koda Brandt, Esabelle Robles, Emily Driver, Hillary Davis, and Hannah Robinson.

The John W. Duris Scholarship began in 1984 and will be awarded to students from the school districts of Charlotte, Potterville and/ or Maple Valley but may not be limited to those schools. Scholarships will be awarded to deserving senior students planning to further their education beyond high school. Students planning to attend a technical school will be given preference, but scholarships are not limited to a technical school. These scholarships will be awarded to students that display drive, ambition, and an entrepreneurial spirit.