Across the nation, schools and communities just finished an observance of American Education Week.  American Education Week has been in place for nearly 100 years - dating all the way back to 1921.  It began through conversations between members of the National Education Association and the American Legion.  It was born out of concerns that 1/4 of the World War I draftees were illiterate and an additional 9% were physically unfit.  To combat this, it was decided that a week be designated specifically to generate public support for education.   

Locally, it was a wonderful time for us to be intentional in recognizing the contributions of the Fergus Falls Public Schools’ staff.  We were very proud to honor Amy Beske, who teaches science at Kennedy Secondary School, as the Fergus Falls Public Schools Teacher of the Year.  Amy is a wonderful example of a talented and dedicated teacher who makes a difference in the daily lives of her students.  

We also had the opportunity to recognize the Fergus Falls Public Schools Support Staff of the Year nominees.  Each is listed below with a few comments listed from the person who nominated them:

Aaron Cole (custodian) – “Aaron is always on task and looking for ways to improve the building. He is also very respectful and positive. He is fun to be around for students and fellow employees.”

Meg Garrahan (para educator) – “Meg has been beyond helpful in the classroom, including simple tasks such as copying packets, putting together flip books, as well as more complicated tasks such as working with struggling students on a more individual basis.” 

Jenny Hicks (special ed para) – “Jenny is the epitome of selflessness, patience, professionalism each and every day.”

Michelle Jerez-Carlson (secretary) – “Michelle is the face of McKinley and greets all who enter with a smile and a kind hello. Her tender ways with the kiddos make her an approachable "do it all" secretary, nurse, and care-giver to everybody she comes into contact with.” 

Sarah Kampa (truancy interventionist) – “Sarah has done an extremely good job of tracking the attendance patterns in the entire school district. She has created an incentive in grades 5 and 6 with some classroom competitions to see who has the best attendance for the quarter and has made a positive difference for all of us at ISD #544.”

Becky Kantrud (para educator) – “Becky has devoted so much of herself to her job for many years. She is always pleasant, helpful, supportive, happy, and just all-around wonderful. She is the first responder for KSS Middle School and we are lucky to have her in such a visible position!

Trish Martin (special ed para) – “Trish arrives to work early each day and is a person who will do anything for the students she works with. Her soft heart and humor have her students clamoring to spend time learning. Trish truly makes everyone she is with feel welcomed and a friend.” 

Pam Ness (special ed para) – “Pam takes it upon herself to provide exceptional support and service to students and staff. She discerns quickly their individual needs and moves efficiently to provide key support help and recommendations.  She is dedicated, hardworking, and extremely organized.”

Tara Price (para educator) – “Tara shows up each day with a smile on her face ready to greet Cleveland students and staff members as they arrive. Rather than just stand there while watching students on the playground before school, she walks around and shows genuine interest in how students are doing.” 

Mishon Samuelson (special ed para) – “Mishon will sit among the students, and make all students (not just those with IEPs) feel comfortable seeking her guidance or asking questions for clarification. She encourages students in such a way that they develop confidence, independence, and a desire to want to take part in class discussions.” 

Kristin Schake (special ed para) – “Kristin works with our special ed kids at Adams, and does a wonderful job. She is always cheery, never in a bad mood. She always has a smile on her face, and is so fun to be around and treats all the kids around her like her own kids, and the kids just love her.” 

Nancy Sletten (special ed para) – “Nancy works hard to build strong relationships with students and communicates well with staff and families. She understands what is developmentally appropriate and implements ideas and strategies to meet the needs of individual students.” 

Lea Starzl (interpreter) – “Lea is very diligent and flexible. She holds her student to a high standard while responding to his needs. She communicates well with other staff.”

Becky Thole (ECFE classroom aide) – “Becky often has our classroom supplies set out and ready to go before the teachers arrive. She is always looking for more to do and she is willing to do whatever is asked of her. Becky has a gentle demeanor and a kind spirit.” 

Bryan Warren (mental health/chemical health practitioner) – “I believe Bryan Warren is one of the best people to work with. He is a stable and positive influence on the students he works with and is a valued member of our school community.”

Lance Wells (food service director) – “Lance is characterized by an infectious energy and "can-do" spirit.  His positive outlook on life has quickly established a culture of teamwork and innovation.  His leadership is launching an exciting new era for Food Service in ISD. #544.”

Diana Wiederich (special ed para) – “Diana approaches all of the students she helps with the same well-prepared and nurturing attitude. She does a great job helping students experience success and reach their potential. Students feel comfortable approaching her and asking for her help.”

On behalf of the school district, I would like to congratulate all of the nominees for their hard work, positive attitude and dedication.  The following individuals were recognized as the 2019 Support Staff of the Year:  Aaron Cole, Bryan Warren, Lance Wells and Diana Wiederich.  As  you see these individuals out and about in the community, please congratulate them!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Jeff Drake is the superintendent of Fergus Falls Public Schools.

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