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Students, Staff Praised for Commitment to Vision, Mission

District 49's employees and students demonstrate excellent leadership skills, an important trait that aligns with D49's vision and mission to "Be the Best Choice to Learn, Work and Lead." Several were honored for their dedication to leading during the Fantastic 49 presentation on March 9.

Hannah Aragon, student at VRHS, is honored by Art Teacher Brandon Ager during Fantastic 49.

Amara Demetrelis, a Sand Creek High School senior, was the first to receive accolades. "I nominated Amara for her outstanding academics and leadership … aside from being ranked first in her class, I have the privilege of announcing she finished the coursework for her associate degree from Pikes Peak State College last December through concurrent enrollment," Nicole Sides, dean of workplace learning, shared. "She is a NASA Space Program team member through CU Boulder, working with CU students to design and launch a satellite. SCHS is very proud of her accomplishments, and we are humbled to be just a little part of her success story."

Iraida Galan and Yudelki Gonzalez-Perez, family engagement community liaisons from the culturally and linguistically diverse education department, were honored for organizing the district's first multicultural fair, along with other family activities. "With a focus on engaging and empowering families, Iraida and Yudelki do much more than we commonly think of as engagement in education," said Grant Geis, CLDE coordinator. "They have traveled to families to conduct home visits, interviewed families, connected them with resources in the school and community, and they routinely provide interpretation and translation services."

A group of staff members from the Falcon Zone were in the spotlight next. Brian Smith, Falcon Zone leader, thanked Instructional Coaches Amy Balk, Robyn Cerny Johnson, Shawn Healy, Natalie Miller, Wendy Murphy and Jennifer Newberg, and Administrative Assistant Tricia Burley. "These individuals go above and beyond," Smith said. "They have helped with our implementation of 'Empower FZ' and personalized learning … they have spent countless hours helping our teachers grow and get better at what they do … and then we had that national conference—NCDC 23 … I couldn't have done it without them."

Amara Demetrelis, student at SCHS, is recognized at the March 9 Fantastic 49 presentation.

Kittrie Adams, a sixth grade teacher at Horizon Middle School, was recognized for inspiring students to participate in community involvement. Adams was nominated for recognition by Ronda Riley, an Academy Optimist Club community member. "I have been working with Kittrie for eight years … our mission is to help kids learn to practice kindness and create their service projects throughout the year," shared Riley. "Without teachers like Kittrie, we wouldn't be able to reach as many kids as we do now. It is a testament to Kittrie's compassion and dedication to her students."

A Vista Ridge High School student, Hannah Aragon, was applauded for her artistic talents. Hannah displayed artwork at the Denver Art Museum and operates an online Etsy shop. "I nominated Hannah for her tremendous hard work and accomplishments in art shows and academics. She has represented Vista Ridge for the past three years with top honors in our district art shows and became our district's first Gold Key Award Winner in this year's Scholastic Art Show," said Brandon Ager, an art teacher. "I've had the opportunity to teach art at the high school level for the past 22 years in D49. I don't think I've ever had a student who put this much effort and love into her work."

The event wrapped up by recognizing a special education teacher from Falcon Elementary School of Technology. Elisabeth Walsh was thanked for empowering students and including all learners in general education. "Elisabeth is in her second year at the school, and in that time, she has completely revitalized the program," Melissa Trembath, paraeducator, said. "She develops a unique relationship with each student, and she combines learning with fun concepts to encourage students to reach their goals. Elisabeth is a very bright light in the significant support needs program, and her dedication to it shows in all that she does."

Fantastic 49 is the district's recognition program that celebrates fantastic staff, students, parents, and community members before the board of education meetings. A sincere thank you to Air Academy Federal Credit Union, Dion's, and Texas Roadhouse for donating gift cards for honorees.

Elisabeth Walsh makes remarks at the March Fantastic 49 presentation.. CLDE staff members receive awards at the March Fantastic 49 presentation.. Falcon Zone employees are thanked at the March Fantastic 49 presentation.. Kittrie Adams, teacher at HMS, receives a Fantastic 49 award.

Amy Matisek