LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Leah Mattise

Position: Project SEARCH Instructor
School: West Bloomfield School District
School District: West Bloomfield School District
City, State: West Bloomfield, MI

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Leah Mattise was nominated by her colleague, Andrea Voorheis.

Mrs. Mattise makes a beneficial difference in the lives of students, their families and the colleagues who work with her on a daily basis. She has been a highly effective educator for 26 years. Her out-of-the-box, innovative thinking has inspired students to see themselves for the abilities they have to offer, not their disabilities.

Mrs. Mattise is currently in her second year as the Project SEARCH instructor at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.  She helps young adults* with disabilities acquire independent work skills while being immersed in the daily routines of the various hospital departments. The multitude of skills taught is enormous. Her goal is to help students acquire a competitive employment position within their community. The hospital is used as the teaching point to acquire these skills. In her second year as the Project SEARCH instructor, she has already increased the number of internship opportunities within the hospital, improved relationships, provided a face for Project SEARCH at the hospital, and increased student opportunity for employment.

Mrs. Mattise has adapted Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to create a foundational training base and consistent language for the interns to begin using and understanding. Providing this concrete framework for the interns has encouraged them to be more responsible and to live as people of influence. Mrs. Mattise models what it means to live as a person of influence each day.  She truly brings joy, a wonderful sense of humor, the gifts of empathy and compassion, and an embracing expectation of excellence.  She sets the bar high for all who work with her, both students and staff, but it is set to learn and grow. The student interns listen to her because she is genuine and lives the habits through her interactions with them and others. Because of their trust and relationship with her, the interns are excelling in their rotations at the hospital as they learn and acquire work, social and independent skills. The student intern parents and previous teachers have expressed their amazement in the growth of the students within their time at Project SEARCH with Mrs. Mattise. 

Mrs. Mattise previously taught students on the autism spectrum in a self-contained classroom.  Her classroom expanded to include the whole building. Mrs. Mattise believed in developing the leadership skills in staff and students at Sheiko Elementary.  She wrote and received a $50,000 grant for Sheiko to become a Leader in Me School.

"I learned of this feat from the building principal, when I was working with a client in this building over the summer," said Voorheis. "Leah is so humble. Education is truly her vocation, and she walks the walk of integrity, compassion, problem-solving, and change-making while including everyone to join her at the table."

Mrs. Mattise presents the idea of change in such a subtle manner (but with input from all involved) that whether she's working with a student, staff, parent or coworker, the paradigm shift occurs for the better and with a more productive result.  You know when she's around because of her presence of light she brings when entering a room.  She is quiet and unobtrusive, but her calm demeanor and positivity are infectious.

Mrs. Mattise shares her dedication and committment within her community, primarily in her faith community as a teacher,  teen youth group volunteer, Advent By Candlelight Committee member, speaker, and service coordinator.  Her dedication was evident when she returned back to school to learn more about her faith.  She was very active in the Oakland Youth Orchestra as the President and orchestra manager a few years ago.

"Leah will never realize the never ending ripple effect, of the lives she has and continues to change. She is a LifeChanger," said Voorheis. "She inspires others to become better as human beings, to share their gift of time, to share their smile, and to assume positive intent."

Side note - in the state of Michigan, students with an IEP who have not received their HS Diploma or equivalent can remain in the public school setting until the age of 26.



Comments (8)


Kathy Plafchan Posted 2 months ago

Leah has been a life-line to my 26 year old son who is graduating from Project Search on June 13, 2019. She has opened his mind way beyond anything I could have wished for. A calm and caring soul who recognizes the abilities of her students, all while introducing the 7 Habits of Successful People and giving them the ability to obtain competitive employment skills. Not only has my son learned the 7 Habits and competitive employment skills, he has also made many friends while at Henry Ford Hospital – West Bloomfield. He now has the confidence which allows him to be so very independent. I also have the confidence knowing he can make safe decisions. We are now on a new trajectory to his post-public education life, and life is awesome right now, all because of Leah. This quote is a wonderful description of Leah. “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” – Kahlil Gibran.

Karen Blum Posted 4 months ago

Leah, a "Life Changer", absolutely! Since she joined the Project SEARCH Team which is going on two years, I have seen in a short period of time how she has changed the lives of persons served. First and foremost, she immediately see's the potential in others; she builds on their strength, builds confidence and self-esteem from the "get-go" which is the foundation for success. Her compassion and empathy, gentle disposition and of course her amazing sense of humor truly brings out the best in others. Although the goal of Project SEARCH is competitive employment, she also makes it her mission to assist students in learning the life skills necessary to be independent. She is such an amazing person, a joy to work with; no doubt she has enriched the lives of others. Congratulations Leah!

Catherine Schmidt Posted 4 months ago

Leah's creativity, calmness, and dedication to bettering the lives of young adult students has made her a perfect fit for her role as the Project SEARCH instructor.

Faith Doody Posted 4 months ago

Leah is an amazing teacher, mentor and friend. She sees the potential in every person, and empowers others to be their best selves. Her energy, enthusiasm, kindness and laughter are contagious. She has humbly dedicated her life to faith, family, community and education. She is a true gem, and so deserving of this award!

Janet simon Posted 4 months ago

Leah is such a gift to the world of students and educators. Leah is always thinking of what and how. What can I do better. What can the program do for this student. What can this student do. How can this be implemented. How does this help. I feel and see the excitement Leah brings to everyone when you see and talk with her. Leah doesn’t let anything stop her.

Susan Harvath Posted 4 months ago

I was lucky to work alongside Leah in her classroom at Sheiko. She is truly a life changer to everyone she meets. She is dedicated to her students and their families and goes out of her way to make sure everyone is taken care of. She is a wonderful colleague, mentor, leader, and friend. Her passion for the education of young children, teenagers, and adults is contagious and it inspires those around her to get involved as well. She is funny and her laugh brings joy to everyone around her. I was honored and blessed to have Leah enter my life as a friend and a co worker, and am forever grateful to the lessons she taught me.

Mary Anne Morrissey Posted 4 months ago

Leah Mattise was a student teacher in my special education classroom of students with emotional problems. Her compassion and understanding of these students inspired them to become more involved in their own behavior management. Leah spent endless hours preparing educational programs for each individual student providing for their success academically.

Mary Jane Wint Posted 4 months ago

Leah has always worked hard to achieve her goals. She was a great teacher, always looked for the good in everything and everyone. Had a great smile.l am so glad she is finally getting reckonized for what she does.God love her for all she does.