Montrose Elementary School counselor Michelle Hipsley said she was surprised and honored when she learned she had been selected to receive the Bexley Education Foundation's 2016 Bexley Educator of the Year Award.

Montrose Elementary School counselor Michelle Hipsley said she was surprised and honored when she learned she had been selected to receive the Bexley Education Foundation's 2016 Bexley Educator of the Year Award.

Foundation board members, Montrose staff and parents surprised Hipsley by announcing the award during the school's morning news program April 20.

"Our Bexley schools staff is such an amazing group of professionals," Hipsley said. "To be selected for this honor means so much because there are so many wonderful educators in this community."

The Bexley Education Foundation presents the award annually to a Bexley educator whose leadership, dedication, achievements and commitment to the classroom and the community have made a difference in children's lives, said Pamela Glasgow, the foundation's executive director.

"It's important to know that educators come in all shapes and sizes," she said. "It doesn't just mean that you're a teacher, it means that you're an advocate. If you are doing great things for kids in the schools, then you truly are an educator."

In nominating Hipsley for the award, parents, colleagues and representatives of other community agencies cited Hipsley's commitment to helping vulnerable children and families. She is co-founder of the Developmental Assets Resource Network, a local volunteer group that offers support to families in need throughout the Bexley City Schools.

Writing on behalf of the organization's board, DARN President Marguerethe Jaede said Hipsley was the catalyst for the organization's founding following her work as a facilitator of the 2002 committee formed to identify the needs of youth in Bexley.

"Without Michelle Hipsley, there would be no DARN," Jaede wrote.

Projects Hipsley has spearheaded, as cited in numerous letters of support for her nomination, include an after-school tutoring program at Montrose that also offers snacks and transportation; the DARN Summer Food program, providing nourishment to families in need during the out-of-school months (often delivering the food herself); and a Christmas gift initiative, among others.

"We recognized there was a need in our community, so we worked together to start to fill that need," Hipsley said of her work with DARN. "Bexley's such an amazing community of caring people. Everybody wants to find ways to help others. It gives people a central place to do helpful things."

Hipsley also helps children daily in her role as school counselor at Montrose. She works with students one-on-one and in small groups to address issues such as anger management, anxiety and coping with family issues such as divorce.

"I spend lots of time in the classroom doing skill development and teaching social skills and teaching kids empathy and ways to calm their body and about friendship," she said. "I work with parents and teachers to create that caring and sharing environment."

Originally from the Cleveland area, Hipsley received her bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Kent State University. She joined the Bexley schools in 1999. She and her husband, Victor, have a son and a daughter.

"Being part of such a wonderful family and having children of my own helps me relate to kids and what they're experiencing," Hipsley said.

The selection committee for this year's Educator of the Year Award was led by Bexley Education Foundation board member Drew Stark, chairman, and included members of the foundation's board of governors and representatives from the Bexley Board of Education, Capital University and the community at large.

On May 4, Hipsley will be recognized publicly and presented with a $1,000 cash award and a commemorative crystal apple at the Bexley Education Appreciation Banquet at Capital.

The Bexley Education Foundation Educator of the Year Award is funded by the Glick Family Endowment for the foundation at the Columbus Jewish Foundation. For more information, visit bexleyeducationfoundation.org.