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Celebrating Staff Who Demonstrate Our Cultural Compass

Stella Garcia is recognized during Fantastic 49.

D49 honored team members who are exceptional examples of the district’s Cultural Compass during the Fantastic 49 presentation on Feb. 8. On a daily basis the employees show care, trust and purpose—all essential for guiding actions in how we relate to and treat each other in D49. 

A team of Reading Interventionist Paraeducators from Odyssey Elementary—Christine Makowsky, Lena Martinez and Melissa Reger—was recognized for teaching from the heart, and using data to support reading growth in students. “We are giving students exactly the practice they need, and the skills to take them to the next level,” said Kris Levi, Principal. “They are experiencing the impact of what reading growth can do. Reading achievement is life changing. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you do for our students.”

Peyton Keigher, Fifth Grade Teacher at Meridian Ranch Elementary, was thanked for her understanding of how to balance academics with relationships. “Every time I walk into Meridian Ranch, her classroom is amazing,” said Brian Smith, Falcon Zone Superintendent. “I know Jennifer Palazzolo, Principal; and John Webb, Dean of Students, were excited to nominate Peyton. In their nomination, they wrote, ‘She brings the relationships into learning, and is able to connect with students in a unique way. This is her second year, and she is absolutely a leader at the school.’”

Kathy Schmidt, Career and Technical Education Teacher at Horizon Middle School, was honored for organizing a successful STEAM event, and leading an after-school cyber club for students. “Kathy has been a dedicated member of the Horizon team for 15 years,” said Megan Anderson, Assistant Principal. “Kathy, your impact on our team and on our school community cannot be overstated. The genuine care you extend to each and every one of us has impacted our team in so many wonderful ways. I am proud to serve our students alongside you. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to our school.”

Peyton Keigher receives a Fantastic 49 Award.

Aly Nicholson, Assistant Principal at Sand Creek High School, was nominated for recognition by a senior at the school, Caitlin McCrady. “For the last four years, I have never had a conversation with her that didn’t end with, ‘You got this,” Caitlin shared. “I have never met someone who believes in students so much on an everyday basis. She is someone who will send us scholarship opportunities, tell us which clubs to join, and tell us what we should run for with our leadership abilities. I know everyone looks up to you. Thank you for everything you do inside and outside our school.”

Festivities wrapped up by honoring Stella Garcia, Bus Paraeducator with the D49 Transportation Team. Garcia was nominated for recognition by Bus Driver Kurt Dennison. “Stella will do anything. It is so heartwarming to see how much care she has for everyone in our department,” said Jack Pietraallo, Director of Transportation. “I’ll also share what Kurt wrote about Stella, ‘My Para exceeds in all our Cultural Compass values. She devotes all of her energy to each student on our bus every morning and every afternoon. She talks and reads with them, and has even bought them coats and mittens when she’s noticed theirs were not in good shape, or if they had them at all. She has brought blankets for the bus. Stella treats students like they are her own kids.’”

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.

Paraeducators from OES receive Fantastic 49 Awards.. Megan Anderson, Assistant Principal at HMS, speaks about Kathy Schmidt, Fantastic 49 honoree.. Aly Nicholson receives a Fantastic 49 Award.


Amy Matisek