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We Love D49 Teachers, Students

Shelly Welch from MRES is honored during Fantastic 49.

School District 49 is filled with caring educators, and where you find genuinely invested teachers, you also find successful students. D49 leaders and the Board of Education honored three educators for their dedication to learners, and several students for their achievements during the Fantastic 49 presentation on Oct. 25.

Shelly Welch, Project Based Learning Teacher at Meridian Ranch Elementary, was honored for going beyond the daily job of teaching. She serves as the lead teacher representative for the PTA, as a teacher mentor, and has a heart for making her school a better place. “Shelly puts others before herself, is a natural critical thinker and a problem-solver,” said Jennifer Palazzolo, Principal at MRES. “She will drop everything if she can make someone smile, come to school events, or help lift up a student or staff member. She embodies what it means to be fully invested in our District 49 students.”

Special Education Coordinator Cari Cantwell from Pioneer Technology & Arts Academy, a public charter school in D49, was recognized for advocating for equality for students. “Cari is an excellent teacher, and I am consistently impressed with Cari’s dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment to special education,” Shannon Houston, PTAA Principal, said. “In addition to her knowledge and expertise, Cari is an excellent communicator and collaborator. She has a talent for building strong relationships with students and their families, as well as with teachers and support staff.”

Jody O’Driscoll, Third Grade Teacher at Inspiration View Elementary, was thanked for passionately giving her all to students every day. She was nominated for recognition by Pam Holloman, Principal at IVES. “Jody is an amazing educator and much sought-after teacher,” Hollman shared in her nomination. “Recently, I heard from yet another family singing her praises. They shared, ‘Mrs. O’Driscoll really gets my child. She really knows him.’ It is through her care that students continue to grow from year to year.”

VRHS students receive accolades during the October Fantastic 49 presentation.

Two seniors at Vista Ridge High School, Tayler Javier and Garrett Sandoval, were honored for receiving National Hispanic Recognition Awards. They earned the awards by excelling on Advanced Placement Exams, scoring well on their PSAT, and for maintaining a GPA of at least 3.5. “Tayler and Garrett have worked extremely hard through high school, and it shows here. They have been nationally recognized by the College Board,” said Becki Sims, Assistant Principal at VRHS. “Both Tayler and Garrett are academic leaders at Vista Ridge High School.”

Festivities wrapped up by thanking Student Board of Representatives Jaime Bell, Ava Cross, Nicole Hamilton, Sydney Herman, Trejhon Maldonado, Caitlin McCrady, Sadie Sierer and Kaylee Wood. The students regularly demonstrate exceptional leadership during Board of Education meetings, and were especially impressive when they organized and moderated the board candidate forum in September. “It was a real pleasure to watch these students give the voters of our community some insight into our upcoming election and what the board candidates have to say,” said Lindsey Lee, D49 parent. “It took a lot of courage to do what they did. On behalf of Neighbors for Education, I wanted to express our appreciation for all of their great work.”

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

SBOR students are thanked during Fantastic 49.. Cari Cantwell from PTAA is recognized during Fantastic 49.. Jody O'Driscoll receives a Fantastic 49 Award.

Amy Matisek