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Fantastic 49 Honorees Show Leadership

All of those honored at the Fantastic 49 ceremony on Thursday, May 9, are great examples of leadership in the district and by staff and students. 

It is always a pleasure to recognize a student for Fantastic 49. Falcon High School senior Ryan Keller was instrumental in enhancing the school culture and assisted with gathering student feedback as the school looked for a new principal. 

Brian Smith, Falcon Zone Superintendent, nominated Ryan. “He is a strong student and advocates for his fellow students, teachers, staff and community. 

Fan 49 Smith Ryan

Over the last year, Ryan met with Smith to discuss how he could positively impact the school culture and engage other students to do the same. 

“When it came time to search for our new FHS principal, Ryan and another student collaborated very closely with me on building a process that would incorporate student voice and feedback,” Smith said.

Ryan Keller

“I like helping people, and I love this community,” Ryan said. “Thank you to Mr. Smith for being a strong leader and someone I can personally look up to.”


Stephenie Clarke, world language teacher at Sand Creek High School, is a dedicated mentor to other teachers in her department by providing teaching strategies and ideas on classroom management. 

Ping Watson, SCHS Chinese teacher, nominated Clarke. “Since I came here two years ago, Stephenie has been a huge help on how to communicate with students. I’ve learned a lot of teaching ideas from her because she is so creative.” 

Ping and clark

“I’m really honored to receive this award,” Clarke said. “I appreciate her so much because of her passion for teaching and her willingness to learn.”

Horizon Middle School coach, Brian LaCosse, is being honored for demonstrating an unwavering commitment to equipping students for success in athletics and in life, by creating relationships with students and their families.

Brian LaCosse

LaCosse was nominated by three different individuals. 

“Coach LaCosse's impact goes beyond the realm of sports,” HMS Assistant Principal Liz Dalzell said. “His coaching philosophy not only emphasizes athletic ability, but underscores the importance of character, teamwork, discipline, and resilience. His dedication to their wellbeing and growth extends beyond the sports seasons. He created enduring relationships built on both trust and mutual respect.”

Israel Oketunmbi

SCHS 2023 graduate, Israel Oketunmbi, said, “Coach Brian just didn’t teach me about wrestling and football, he taught me invaluable life lessons that have shaped me into who I am today.” 

As an immigrant from Nigeria, Oketunmbi faced many difficulties, especially in middle school. 

“He was always there for me, guiding me with patience and understanding. During times when I felt lost and unsure of myself, Coach Brian was there to believe in me when I struggled to believe in myself,” said Oketunbmbi who turned his youthful struggles into becoming a top graduate from SCHS. 

Academy for Literacy Learning and Innovation Excellence (ALLIES) Director Rebecca Thompson has supported the success of students who have characteristics of Dyslexia with the “power of yet.”

rebecca Thompson

Thompson, who is retiring at the end of the school year, received five nominations for Fantastic 49. 

“Throughout her educator career Rebecca has exemplified dedication, passion, and constant selfishness for the benefit of the students and stakeholders of District 49,” said Theresa Ritz, POWER Zone Superintendent. “She has given endlessly as an educational leader to spire hope and to truly change the lives and futures of students and their families.”

ALLIES student Crosby Zaves read his notes at the podium, “Mrs. Thompson and the teachers at ALLIES have helped me overcome my Dyslexia and fear of learning. I will always remember the “power of yet,” so I can keep thinking outside the box.”

Jamie Zaves

Jamie Zaves, Crosby’s mom, said, “We transitioned to ALLIES with very little faith in education for Crosby. And, admittedly, very little faith in Crosby as a reader. It’s really hard to say that out loud and to write it down on paper when your child is standing right behind you. I did read this to him ahead of time to let him know that has changed because of Mrs. Thompson. It changed our lives. She threaded a needle that was so deeply and tightly sewn into Crosby. He has stitches of confidence, perseverance, acceptance, willingness. They are woven through him and our entire family. You have changed his life.” 

“I may be the one standing before you now. But I have always said, I have the passion and the knowledge, but I hire well,” said Thompson. “This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved. It has been a team effort. Only together have we changed the world.”

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.

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