Michigan ‘Teacher of the Year’ is Oakland County Executive’s Class of 2015 Elite 40 Under 40 winner

Melody Saroki Arabo, a teacher in the Walled Lake Schools and the reigning Michigan Teacher of the Year, was selected by a public online vote as winner of the Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 under 40 Class of 2015.

The announcement was made Wednesday night at Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s State of the County address held at the Marriott Auburn Hills Pontiac at Centerpoint. As the winner, Arabo was given the honor of introducing Patterson to the crowd of about 500 people.

“It is a true honor to represent the 2015 class of Oakland County’s Elite 40 under 40, especially considering the caliber of talent, dedication and professionalism of my fellow class members,” Arabo said. “I take great pride in calling Oakland County my family’s home and I am thrilled to be an ambassador for all it has to offer.”

Arabo, 35, is a third grader teacher who has been employed by the Walled Lake Schools since 2002. In 2014, she was named 2014-2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year by the state Department of Education. She was named Teacher of the Year at her school, Keith Elementary, in 2008 and was runner-up for Walled Lake Teacher of the Year in 2009.

Married and the mother of three children, Arabo is an author who recently published her book, “Diary of a Real Bully.” It tells the story of a school bully from the bully’s perspective, with the ultimate goal of helping identify the bully in all of us and making a change. She is the founder of Keith Caring Community Club, which encourages upper elementary students to get involved in service-oriented events to teach them about leadership, empathy and generosity. She is also a founding member of TEACH, which helps displaced families in Iraq.

“I’m anxious for the people to meet our Elite 40 under 40 winner for the year,” Patterson said. “She’s an unsung heroine who wrote a book about bullying and quietly emerged as Teacher of the Year in Michigan. Her talents are many and my job as county executive is to keep her here in Oakland County.”

Nearly 500 applications and nominations were reviewed by a panel of judges, looking for the top 40 young professionals and thought leaders who live or work in Oakland County. The 40 honorees have achieved excellence in their field and contributed to the quality of life in their communities. Of that group, the three highest scoring candidates were placed before the public for consideration. This is the fourth year of the Elite 40 program.

“There are so many talented young people who are a vital part of Oakland County,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Their innovation, talent, leadership and ideas will help shape this county for years to come. I’m thrilled with the class that was chosen and encourage the public to participate in the online vote for the candidate they think is the best of the best.”

More than 4,000 votes were cast for the three finalists. The other finalists were:

  • Andrew Chmielewski, 27, Principal, Dave’s Sweet Tooth | Mitten Crate
    Mitten Crate, a company Chmielewski and a friend began, delivers an ever changing selection of Michigan-made foods to your doorstep each month, giving customers a sample of the increasingly diverse array of edible products. More than 70 Michigan-made food companies have benefited from their exposure through Mitten Crate. Through the Mitten Crate give back initiative, 60,000 meals were donated to Gleaners Food Bank in the first year of business. Chmielewski and his father also created Dave’s Sweet Tooth, which has become the largest manufacturer of specialty toffee products in Michigan. The toffee is made in Oakland County and available in more than 250 retail stores in the state.
  • Luke Fleer, 34, Regional Director of Development, Oakland University
    Fleer has been Oakland University’s regional director of development since 2012, charged with raising money for the Rochester-based university. A former collegiate basketball player at Rochester College, Fleer faced his biggest challenge 10 years ago when he was nearly killed in a traffic accident. Doctors told his family he may never walk again. He spent three months in recovery and two years in physical therapy, learning to stand, walk and run again. His story was featured in Hour Detroit’s 2014 Health Guide. Fleer and his wife established an annual scholarship at OU, the David KirkPatrick Scholarship, in memory of a mentor and friend.

“This is our fourth Elite 40 class and every year seems to get stronger,” Patterson said. “Andrew and Luke were both worthy candidates. The future of Oakland County and the region is extremely bright if we can retain the talented young minds we have in this class.”

The remaining members of the 2015 Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 under 40 class are:

  • Jacob Brown, Director of Interactive Media, PCGCampbell, 31
  • Brandon J. Curry, Director, Global Talent Management, Federal-Mogul Holdings Corp., 36
  • Brad Dahlhofer, CEO, B. Nektar Meadery, 37
  • Arjun Dhake, V.P. Business Development, Dhake Industries, 35
  • Nirav Doshi, Managing Partner, Complete Data Products, 39
  • Gregg Garrett, CEO & Managing Director, CGS Advisors, LLC, 39
  • Shane Gianino, CEO, Qstride, 36
  • Laura Glenn, Vice President/COO, Beaumont Physician Partners, Beaumont Health System, 33
  • Takisha Harper, Director of IT Risk Management and Internal Audit, Henry Ford – HAP, 39
  • Brian C. Hartwell, Attorney, Law Office of Brian C. Hartwell, PLLC, 32
  • Niall D. Hay, Brand Director, Penske Automotive Group, Inc., 37
  • DJ Ikeler, President/Founder, Center for Success Pontiac, 29
  • Channelle Kizy-White, Attorney, Kizy Law, 33
  • Tony Lamerato, Local Sales Manager, FOX Sports Detroit, 31
  • Brian Lane, Owner, Bingo Pet Salon, 34
  • Shannon Lazovski, CEO, The Lazov Agency, 40
  • Megan Mahoney, Global Key Account Manager, BASF, 37
  • Ed Mamou, Vice President, Royal Oak Recycling, 36
  • Paul M. Mersino, Attorney, Butzel Long, 31
  • Steve Migliore, Partner, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, 34
  • Moheeb H. Murray, Partner, Bush Seyferth & Paige PLLC, 39
  • Craig Myers, Principal, CR Myers & Associates, 39
  • Brian Olatunji, CEO & President, Leadfoot Motorsports, LLC, 32
  • Mark Ostach, Director of Account Team, Skidmore Studio, 33
  • Amanda A. Page, Attorney/Owner, Page Law, PLLC, 37
  • Nadja E Payok, Instructor, Oakland Schools Technical Campus Southeast, 39
  • Mitch Petterson, Deputy Fire Chief, Independence Township Fire Department, 39
  • Tara Beatty, Mayor’s Chief Assistant of Marketing/Communications, City of Rochester Hills, 35
  • Kristen L. Pursley, Managing Partner, The Dobrusin Law Firm, 36
  • Mike Roth, President, National Technology Management, 38
  • Kim Russell, Multi-Media Journalist, WXYZ, 32
  • Ted Serbinski, Partner, Managing Director, Techstars 33
  • James Stevens, Principal, OHM Advisors, 37
  • Treger Strasberg, Founder, Chairman of the Board, Humble Design, 37
  • Jessica Thomas, Director of Practice Growth, Governmental Services, Rehmann, 34
  • Jaymes Vettraino, City Manager, City of Rochester, 39
  • Melissa B. Winkler, Attorney, Fakhoury Law Group, 26