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Laura Penner Receives John Oster Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Longtime Sturgis educator Laura Penner has been selected to receive the John Oster Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award is given annually to one educator who is nominated by community members based on a dedication to professional development, community service, and teaching.

About Laura

A Sturgis native, Laura is a graduate of Sturgis High School and of Western Michigan University, where she earned her Masters degree in education. She has been an exemplary teacher with Sturgis Public Schools since 1997 where she is known for her genuine care and dedication to her students.

A leader in and out of the classroom, Laura has served as a coach to the Sturgis High School swim team and leader to the high school’s Business Professionals of America (BPA) program for more than 20 years. When she is not teaching or coaching, she volunteers with community blood drives, Thurston Woods Village, and numerous community fundraisers.

Nominations for Laura included many colleagues and community members with a common theme—a willingness to go “above and beyond” for her students. One nomination in particular noted,

“Mrs. Penner’s compassion for her students goes above and beyond any requirement of a teacher. She truly cares about the success of each of her students. She is an asset to the community and school.”

About the Award

The John E. Oster Award for Excellence in Teaching is funded through the John E. Oster Memorial Fund, a permanent endowment of the Sturgis Area Community Foundation.

During the lifetime of John Oster he was deeply interested and concerned with appropriate recognition and reward for teachers who taught in the Sturgis School District. Prior to his death he discussed the means of implementing a fund which would provide an endowment to be given each year to a teacher in recognition of the teacher’s outstanding contribution to the Sturgis community and to the education and training of students in the Sturgis School District. The vision of the award was to also provide all teachers with the incentive to strive to improve their professional training and to reward them for extraordinary contributions made to improve their level of education. John’s vision was made a reality by his wife JoEllen Oster when she established the fund 1981 in his memory.

Laura is the 40th recipient of the Oster Award.

As a leader and resource for local philanthropy, the Sturgis Area Community Foundation seeks to connect residents like you to meaningful projects and causes you care about. If you are interested in learning more about the needs of your local community or opportunities for giving through the Community Foundation, contact or call (269) 659-8508.

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