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Student, Staff Recognized for Demonstrating Excellence

Natasha Onishchuk, student, receives an award during Fantastic 49.

D49 leaders and board members celebrated individuals in the D49 Family during the first Fantastic 49 celebration of the 2021-22 school year, Aug. 12. One student and seven staff members received accolades for their exemplary contributions in D49.

Natasha Onishchuk, student, was honored for leading a fundraiser at Falcon Elementary School of Technology that brought in more than $900 for endangered animals at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “Natasha led the whole project … she put up posters around the school, went to different classes and shared some facts about the animals,” shared Melanie Holts, specialist for gifted programming.

Jenna Bell, MTSS coordinator and literacy coach at Banning Lewis Ranch Academy, was next to receive accolades for putting students first. “To understand Jenna, you have to understand her heart,” said Heather Mavel, coordinator of professional learning. “In 2008 Jenna was diagnosed with heart failure, and in 2016, she received a heart transplant … Teaching in a pandemic was and is beyond risky. Her courage moves me deeply.”

To round out the festivities, six staff members from the Falcon Zone were recognized for their excellent work in implementing Modern Teacher strategies to personalize learning in classrooms. “These educators we are honoring have been recognized at a national level,” said Sue Holmes, Falcon Zone leader. Aaron Lentner, third-grade teacher at Meridian Ranch Elementary; Melissa Ardolf, P.E. teacher at Falcon Elementary School of Technology; Cori Owen, sixth-grade math teacher at Falcon Middle School; and KayLee Parson, former art teacher at Falcon Middle School were celebrated for equipping students to personalize their learning.

Holmes ensured Brian Smith, executive principal of Firebird Nation, was thanked for his leadership in transforming Falcon Zone schools. “His leadership has not just been phenomenal, but he has been strategic, enthusiastic and determined every step of the way,” remarked Holmes.

Jenna Bell receives an award during the Aug. 12 Fantastic 49 presentation.

After accepting his award, Smith took time to honor Holmes. “Sue learned what needed to happen to make this transformational change,” said Smith. “Then she dove in to lead the way. She has challenged us as leaders, challenged our teachers and pushed us to make this process the best for students. She’s been our biggest cheerleader.”

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


KayLee Parson celebrates with her family at the August Fantastic 49 presentation.. Aaron Lentner, teacher, is honored during the August 12 Fantastic 49 celebration..