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Congratulations to Susan Larson for Winning the $1,000 Look for the Good Hero Award!

The Look for the Good Hero Award is a $1,000 Annual Scholarship in memory of Margaret Worthen, who had a stroke shortly before her college graduation. Margaret experienced severe limitations on her speech and mobility for 9 years until her death. During this time, she managed to articulate seven words to her caregivers, including the words, "thank you." Her kindness is what inspired 150,000 children in 35 states to write "You Matter" letters to their friends and caregivers through our school-wide Gratitude Campaign Program. Each Look for the Good Hero that we honor, has embodied Margaret's resilience, generosity, and kindness.

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Susan Larson: Thomaston Center School, Thomaston, Connecticut

"I love teaching because I have the opportunity each day to support students in all of their academic and personal needs. So often students who are referred to me for reading do not need reading help; they need special attention, a snack, a listening ear, a sounding board, a kind interaction, or a quiet setting in which to process all of the expectations that are put on them. I have the chance every day to make each child feel special. I greet them as they enter school in the morning, check in with those students who may need a snack for the day, help others in getting organized, or just ask how they are doing. If I win, I would love to use some of the prize money to create foster care bags with my family and best friend's family to bring comfort to a child who finds himself being removed from home without any personal belongings. We would offer these bags to social workers at our local Department of Children and Families Center. The bags would include toiletries, a small blanket, a journal, and a stuffed animal. Everyone deserves to feel safe, and these bags will allow children to have some sense of ownership when they have no control over other parts of their lives."

Congratulations to Marycarmen Lopez and Wenda Oscar for Receiving the $500 Prizes!

 

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Marycarmen Lopez

University Hill Elementary School, Boulder, Colorado

"Marycarmen is a fantastic teacher who is doing an excellent job teaching both online and hybrid in-person/remote. Beyond that, she has truly gone above and beyond to support our transgender daughter Tav transition at school in the fall 2020 semester. Marycarmen created a six-week series of lessons on respect, community, identity, culture, what being transgender means, and how to be a supportive ally/upstander. We cannot emphasize enough that Marycarmen did all of this in addition to her usual bilingual teaching and the major disruptions to the classroom and schedule that have been caused by the pandemic. She built a school culture that made Tav feel safe and supported.  Marycarmen then generously supported Tav in creating an identity/coming out video and slide to be shared with the entire third grade during distance learning. As a result of Marycarmen’s leadership, Tav received amazing support from her classmates and felt completely comfortable returning to in-person instruction a week later. Marycarmen made it possible for Tav to live her identity at school, which is an amazing gift that we are extremely grateful for."

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Wenda Oscar

Crosspointe Elementary, Boynton Beach, Florida

"Mrs. Oscar has completed many home visits to our non-English speaking families to address virtual attendance of their children. Often our parents do not speak English let alone have the ability to assist their child with virtual learning. Mrs. Oscar has the most generous heart and has amazing ideas on how to assist our students. Being the mother of three young children, she deserves to have the flexibility to have a few things she wants. I believe whole heartedly that she would spend the money on her school babies before herself and her family."

Meet Some of the Educators Who Were Nominated!

Not all nominees are pictured here. But we sent every single one of them a thank you letter, a certificate of appreciation, and a few extra goodies to brighten their day with an unexpected surprise!

 

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Jenna Polise

Ventnor Elementary, Ventnor, New Jersey

"Miss Polise has ensured daily that students are still focusing on social emotional learning, having an attitude of gratitude, and looking for the good. Each day during the quarantine she posted virtual morning announcements and thought questions of the week to get students talking and writing about our school character words. Now that we are back to school in a hybrid format, Miss Polise is still offering her daily school announcements in addition to the virtual announcements for those students and families who are home. She is also getting ready to plan and order the materials for our third annual Look for the Good Campaign as well as encourage parents to participate with their children at home. The students, both in person, and virtual, know they can count on Miss Polise to encourage them and be there for them if they call her or want to talk."

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Colleen Leary

Timony Grammar School, Methuen, Massachusetts

"Ms. Leary is helping students through this tough time - making sure they get the services they need. Ms. Leary learned how to use iMovie to connect with her students - making movies with tips for focusing during learning. During the spring shutdown, she did a video on what was 6 feet in her house so that the kids could get a sense of what it means to be socially distant. She spends hours preparing her sessions, even when they take less time to go through than she spent planning."

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Robert Hohn

Pennock Elementary School, Brighton, Colorado

"Rob is the social worker at my school and has a large caseload, but also manages the school-wide SEL program. I am the Physical Education teacher and I have seen Robert make a significant impact in the lives of his students. The number of discipline problems and referrals has decreased since he has started working at our school. He deserves a bonus, but that does not happen in public education."

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Tanda Bryson

College Corner Union School, College Corner, Ohio

"Tanda took a crash course in learning how to connect with her students online. She checked on her students daily to see if they had enough of what they needed. When school started back up face to face, she dove right in. She began working with students on how to use their technology, even though it is old and breaks down. She perseveres. She even took students on a virtual apple orchard tour and then made applesauce. She is always trying to find new and innovative ways to teach her students whether in person or virtual. She has remained upbeat no matter what the pandemic has thrown at her. I can count on Tanda to help me see a different side when I'm down or frustrated. She even provides the laughter that is needed in these trying times. School is a richer place for having her."

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Laura Sprinkle

Ellendale Elementary School, Taylorsville, North Carolina

"During the pandemic Laura adjusted and learned so many new skills to teach her kids remotely. She made her Zoom class meetings meaningful by arranging for special guest speakers and surprise guests each week. For example her students were reading a novel and she arranged for the author to Zoom with the class! She used her Zoom meetings as a way to connect with her students and their families. When students didn't bring back their work packets, she telephoned and went to their homes because she is always so willing to go the extra mile for all of her students to be successful!"

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Maria Vazquez

Mintie White Elementary, Watsonville California

"Maria has been instrumental in supporting our entire staff in learning new platforms. She has done all this while creating her own Google Classroom set up for Bilingual 3rd grade class. We would not have a successful distance learning program right now without her support and expertise, but more importantly her willingness to share with others. She has been a solid member of our staff for a very long time, but during school closure she rose to a new level to support teachers, students, and administration as well. I know if someone is in need and I am not able to help them with technology, I can send them to Maria and she will be supportive."

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Nicole Yatrousis

Emerson-Williams Elementary School, Wethersfield, Connecticut

"I have always wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and make a difference in the lives of children. When I was in elementary school, I wrote about how my dream job was to be a kindergarten teacher in Wethersfield (where I grew up), and I am currently living that dream! Teaching is not an easy profession. But at the end of the day, I feel SO grateful that I get to be a teacher and help shape the lives of our future generation."

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Lacey Peasley

Willowcreek Elementary School, Vale, Oregon

"I stumbled upon the teaching profession by accident and shortly realized that it was fate! To begin, I love having the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life every single day. This impact goes far beyond knowledge. Secondly, I love the community that I build with my students every year. My students learn how to encourage and cheer each other on. It's incredible watching them take risks because they know it's a safe place to do so. Lastly, teaching 'fills my cup up.' Being a teacher brings so much happiness to my life. On my worst days, seeing the kid's smiles brings me instant joy. All in all, being a teacher is so much more than teaching state standards. For me, it's about the difference we can make by showing compassion with each other. This is why I love teaching."

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Stephanie Wacek

Lynn Road Elementary School, Raleigh, North Carolina

"No two days of teaching are ever the same. It is a profession where you truly have to expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. I love being able to provide stability, safety, and structure to many students who lack it. I love being able to joke around with students and see their faces light up just because someone is listening to them. I love seeing students come into my classroom at the start of a year and leave with a plethora of knowledge they have gained from their time in my classroom. I love the opportunity to add kindness to this world and help students build perseverance and good character. I love the impact that I have and will make in countless lives that will continue to ripple for years to come."

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Toni Tricarico

Thomasville Primary School, Thomasville, North Carolina

"I love being able to help my elementary students establish a foundation of a healthy and active lifestyle at a young age. The relationships that I get to build over their 4 years with me are so special and I love getting to watch them as they continue to grow up in our schools. I was out on maternity leave at the beginning of the pandemic as my daughter was born in February but returned at the end of the school year to teach virtually."

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Sarah Deeb

Carpenter Elementary, Cary, North Carolina

"My classroom will be virtual all year, as you can imagine, there are a lot of challenges for the students, and their families with remote learning. I have been trying to support all of my students, parents, with as much personalized time as possible. I have conducted meetings with families on evenings, and weekends, sent personalized materials to support my students at home, and modified my instructional methods to meet all of my students' needs. Right now, my camera is attached to my laptop, which limits the viewing field for my students. I also have to write on a dry erase board, and try to hold it up to the camera on my computer so that the children can see my lessons. A document camera would be a huge help!"

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Alicia Began

Lilian J Rice Elementary School, Chula Vista, California

"I love teaching students about health and wellbeing in the classroom because it warms my heart to see them implement the health practices. I love seeing students teach their peers about what they have learned through my lessons, whether it is regular dental care, proper handwashing, or better nutrition choices. I love my students and really enjoy being in the classroom. I make videos on the benefits of mindful breathing, proper mask wearing, and more! I train teachers how to recognize signs of abuse over Distance Learning Video format and teach our school staff how to respond to possible COVID-like symptoms. It is incredibly hard work but it benefits the students on my campus so much."

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Christina Irons

Whispering Meadows Elementary School,Fort Wayne, Indiana

"I love to be able to provide kids with opportunities to move their body and find joy in movement. I like to teach them things they've never done before. Kids sit too much. Movement helps their brains grow and helps regulate them emotionally. Kids ultimately do love to move and I like helping them find their favorite ways to move. I try to instill a lifelong desire for movement and healthy living. It's fun to hear when they like something new or that they had fun, especially from those friends who usually don't like to move."

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Evan Finch

Carpenter Elementary, Cary, North Carolina

"I love teaching because of the positive influence I can make on students in not only teaching them about health/PE related things but also important life lessons. I love to teach students that it's not about being the best, but giving their best. So whether they are the best or worst at what we are doing, they still have room to improve. I also love teaching because I have the chance to show students about the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship/respect, and working hard. I feel that with all the video games and social media, students really struggle with losing or being kind to those who are different and sometimes are quick to give up. Having these life skills are very important in no matter what career or thing they do with their life in order to be successful."

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Kelly O'Donnell

National Park School District, National Park, New Jersey

"During school closure, Ms. O'Donnell used Instagram to create and post engaging morning announcements every single day. She would highlight something special about the day, tell a funny joke or provide words of encouragement. Ms. O'Donnell also created videos for students to watch to help them cope with the changes to their lives as a result of the pandemic. Ms. O'Donnell held individual and group counseling sessions for students (and even some parents). Each week Ms. O'Donnell delivered food to families in need. Ms. O'Donnell was an incredible asset to the students, staff, and administration during the pandemic (and continues to be as we transition back to a new learning model). Ms. O'Donnell's infectious attitude and sincere care for others make her invaluable to our school community."

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Shannon Lathrop

Sherman Elementary, Sherman, Connecticut

"Shannon is always one of the first people in the building each day and regularly stays much later than most staff to be prepared to teach fully in-person every day with several students joining her remotely.  I find Shannon to be inspiring. She is an impassioned educator who holds herself to the highest standards even in these trying education times. She is always willing to help me in my role, and is a wonderful listener with insights and suggestions. Furthermore, she is a mentor teacher in our building who works with new staff on her own time to help prepare them for observations and to guide their progress through the teacher certification program in Connecticut."

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Teri Ben-Shimeon

Montgomery Elementary, Chula Vista, California

"Teaching is one of the most powerful channels to positively and profoundly impact young minds and spirits. We have the unique, daily opportunity to develop and deepen relationships with the students we are blessed to teach. It's much more about the lessons between lessons that makes a difference."

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Lacey Swanson

Sinton Elementary, Sinton, Texas

"I absolutely love kids! I love helping them get to those 'Aha!' moments. Sometimes it takes some kids a little longer, but in the process, every kiddo needs to be reassured and loved! This year, I have spent time and money making each kid their own supply box and math manipulative box because they can't share supplies or math tools. Math at this age is very hands on and I didn't want the kids to miss out on that aspect of the classroom! Each box has a deck of cards, dice, counters, clock, calculator, charts and graphs. We will be adding to it as the school year progresses."

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Amanda Peck

Port Barre Elementary, Port Barre, Louisiana

"I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to touch the lives of many children. As a physical education teacher, I work with all of the students in my school. Teaching not only allows me to teach valuable skills to the students, but also allows me to be that person that makes them smile in the mornings or helps to lift their spirits if they are having a bad day."

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Kim Katinsky

Lenox Elementary School, Pompton Lakes, New Jersey

"I feel my happiest when I'm around kids! From a young age, I liked being with and helping kids younger than myself, so I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I love the innocence of young kids and I love seeing them learn and grow. The best feeling is when you see something click in the mind of a child - that moment they finally start to understand something new."