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Golden Heart Award recipients make a world of difference to students with special needs

Marly Lemoine with two other students in wheelchairs posing in front of a bookshelf in the library. Marly Lemoine is a third-grader at Red Hawk Ridge Elementary, where something about recess bothered her.

“Every day when I’m on the playground I see kids that can’t play much. Recess is the time kids get to be crazy and use outside voices. Kids in wheelchairs don’t get to have that time. That is why I want to raise money to buy a wheelchair swing,” Lemoine said last fall.

So she did. Lemoine started a GoFundMe page and raised $2,700 for a wheelchair swing for her friends at school.

Kirk Johnson helping his student plan for a hands-on project on his laptop. Kirk Johnson is a Behavior Disorder teacher at Black Forest Hills Elementary, where, in addition to all of his regular academic duties, he plans special projects for his students. Last spring, Johnson and his students helped assemble some new furniture for the school.

“The students loved this project since they were able to work with Mr. Johnson and put their hands and energy to good use,” said Debi Kirkpatrick, the office manager at Black Forest Hills. “Activities such as these help him show his students that they are valuable members of our school community.”

Lemoine and Johnson are two of the 12 people honored as 2016 Golden Heart Award recipients for the difference they make in the lives of students with special needs. The awards are presented each year by the Cherry Creek Schools Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC).

“SEAC is proud to honor our teachers, para-educators, bus drivers, etc., who work tirelessly with our students who have special needs,” said SEAC member Laura Ayers. “Special education is difficult and the Golden Heart Awards show that there are a lot of good people who do well and work hard for our children.”

Congratulations to all of the 2016 Golden Heart Award recipients:
•    Marly Lemoine, Student, Red Hawk Ridge Elementary

•    Kirk Johnson, BD Teacher, Black Forest Hills Elementary

•    Rosemary Fox, Bus Aide, Transportation
Rosemary Fox helping a student in a wheelchair get on the bus with the accessible door at the back of the bus. “Rose has taken time to discover what each of her students respond to on the bus, using her own traveling bag of fidgets, books and other assorted tools to redirect attention and encourage safe behaviors from the students while on the bus.” – Myron Wilson, Transportation Terminal Manager

•    Valerie Hines, Registered Nurse, Rolling Hills Elementary
Nurse and student at Red hawk ridge elementary school with a student in a wheelchair. “Valerie always visits with our students, connects with them, and lets them know that she is there for them…to help them remain in their calm state and reflect on strategies to self-regulate in the future.” – Coleen Thurber, Teacher

•    Katrina Kass, School Psychologist, Campus Middle School
Katrina Kass assisting a special needs student with a problem on a worksheet. “Four years ago, Katrina began a group called Helping Hands, where she equipped typical peers to interact with and support students with special needs. Now there are large numbers of students in each grade who want to connect with our students with special needs in order to be friends with them, support them and allow them to feel a part of the community.” – Katie Haitz, Social Worker

•    Jodi Marquez, Drama Teacher, Fox Ridge Middle School
Jodi Marquez teaching drama to her ILC students and showcasing a safer theater environment. “Jodi goes above and beyond to find ways to get our ILC students involved and doesn’t settle for anything less than an incredible, rewarding and safe theater experience for all of our ILC students who are fortunate enough to have her as a teacher.” Eva Tucker, ILC teacher

•    Heather McDonald, Para-Educator ILC, Black Forest Hills Elementary
Heather Mcdonald teacher a student with autism arts and crafts and getting their hands dirty. “Our daughter (who is autistic) flourished not only in the ILC’s terrific learning environment, but also benefited from Heather’s patient style in teaching and helping her to learn and grow.” – Chris Martin, parent

•    Mary Moden, Para-Educator, Thunder Ridge Middle
Mary Moden smiling with two of her stuents in front of blue lockers. Student on her left is posing like a star. “Mary is truly able to work with all children. She constantly exhibits a nurturing and compassionate way of working with them, while holding them to high expectations and keeping them accountable.”  – Cyndi Kennedy, Counselor

•    Katy Morris, Para-Educator ILC, Grandview High School

Katy Morris with one of her ILC students in a wheelchair. Smiling in front of a yellow board posted in her room. “Katy is a quiet hero in our classroom. She treats each of our students with dignity and respect.” – Stephanie Luck, Special Ed Para-Educator ILC

•    Edith Sepulveda, Lead Child Find Program Specialist, Child Find at Red Hawk Ridge Elementary
Special education staff members smiling and making hearts with their hands in their office. “Many times our families are coming here after receiving a life-changing diagnosis, such as autism, cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome. Edith’s smiling face and very sincere greeting immediately put families at ease and welcomes them into the Special Education process.” – Child Find team at Red Hawk Ridge

•    Bryan Terry, Dean, Sky Vista Middle School
Bryan Terry with three of his students in the upper level of the entry way at sky vista middle school. “Bryan has worked to build relationships with some of our most challenging SED students. He frequently checks in with them, talks with them at lunch, processes with them and praises them for doing well. Our students value their relationships so much with him and I can tell that they trust him immensely.” – Monica Bryson, Psychologist

•    Trevor Van Luit, Building Security Supervisor, Overland High School
Trevor Van Luit and his student, Christopher Ayers stand with his father, Brad, in a classroom all smiling with broncos colors. “Trevor made our son Christopher (who has Fragile X Syndrome) feel loved, respected and safe. He went above and beyond his job description to make a relationship with Christopher. For this we will be eternally grateful.” – Brad and Laura Ayers, parents

In addition to presenting the Golden Heart Awards, the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) works to create and strengthen partnerships between parents, Cherry Creek Schools and community agencies by providing a forum that promotes education, advocacy, networking and collective problem-solving. SEAC is open to parents, staff, community members and anyone interested in working side-by-side with Cherry Creek Schools to make a difference in the lives of students with special needs.  For more information about SEAC, visit http://www.c

Posted 5/5/2016 8:54 AM
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