Winner of Fourth Annual Goodfellow Teacher of the Year Contest — Mr. Illya Tolbert, an Art teacher at Harms Elementary School!

DETROIT, June 12, 2013 – The Detroit Goodfellows announced today the winner of the fourth annual Goodfellow Teacher of the Year contest — Mr. Illya Tolbert, an Art teacher at Harms Elementary School! 

Detroit Goodfellows board members surprised Tolbert at a school assembly with the news and presented him with a $200 gift card to buy classroom supplies. Additionally, he will be acknowledged at the Detroit Goodfellows Annual Tribute Breakfast this fall.

The Goodfellows Board of Directors selected the winning teacher from nominations by Detroit Public School students in grades 3 through 8 who designated their favorite teachers by answering the question: “Why is your teacher so special?” in 50 words or less.  There were the most entries ever received this year with over 800 submissions. Tolbert received 18 nominations.

This year two 10-year-old Harms Elementary students, third grader Yazmine Cirne and fifth grader Melody Rose Andino, have been acknowledged with winning entries.

Yazmine Cirne’s entry says “My teacher is so special because he teaches art.  Mr. Tolbert is so special because he smells like fresh almonds.  He is creative which I like about him.  He is very smart in art.  I also appreciate Mr. Tolbert because he spends all his money to buy art supplies to make some clay masks and other projects.  Another thing that makes Mr. Tolbert so special to me is that he is not mean to me when I mess up in class.  That’s why Mr. Tolbert is so special to me!!! (plus a smiley face)”

Melody Rose Andino’s entry says “My favorite teacher is Mr. Tolbert.  He is very creative.  His paintings are better than the Mona Lisa.  His jokes are very funny.  He also works very hard to make everyone smile.  He also solves all your problems to make you happy.”

Tolbert has been with Detroit Public Schools at Harms Elementary for 14 years. The art teacher and his wife, who is also a teacher at Harms, are residents of Detroit.

The Detroit Goodfellows sponsors the Goodfellow Teacher of the Year contest to show its sincere appreciation and gratitude to Detroit Public School administrators, teachers and support staff who, each year, work so diligently to identify students in need of its holiday gift packages.  The 99-year-old charity’s mission is to ensure that there is “No Kiddie Without a Christmas.”

Founded in 1914, the Detroit Goodfellows is the original and oldest Goodfellow organization and is not affiliated with any other Goodfellow group. It also sponsors an emergency dental program for children, awards scholarships through Wayne State University, provides free shoes to children in need and helps send hundreds of needy children to camp each summer.

For more information about the Goodfellow Teacher of the Year contest or the Detroit Goodfellow organization, please contact Sari Klok-Schneider at (586) 775-6139 or via email at For more information, visit

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