GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A teacher at Kenowa Hills High School has been named the 2022 Educator of the Year and will receive $10,000 from the Michigan Lottery’s Excellence in Education program.

Spencer Vanderheide was nominated by a family member for the award, recognizing him for his creation of a new class focused on students’ emotional intelligence and wellbeing.

“A new course called Knight L.I.F.E. (Leadership. Innovation. Future. Education) was born under his leadership. It wasn’t just born, it thrived,” the nomination reads. “184 students used their one elective credit to sign up for the course, which was enough for school administration to create four entirely full sections of the course. The positive effects were seen immediately in the hallways.

Vanderheide has been a teacher at Kenowa Hills for nine years. He said he originally chose a teaching career so that he could help students reach their full potential.

“Teaching is a career that gives me the opportunity to support and encourage students while empowering them to recognize and then reach their full potential,” said Vanderheide in a statement. “I often remind students: ‘You are enough. You matter. You are worth it. You are known and loved.’ By doing that, it helps students learn to be comfortable in who they are and builds their confidence.”

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Hope College and a master’s from Western Michigan University.