The Spring ISD Board of Trustees announced Employee Excellence Award winners for September, October and November during the board meeting this week. Unable to surprise recipients at their campus or job site as has been the custom in previous years, trustees recognized the three winners – the first for the 2020-21 school year – during a special presentation at the regular monthly board meeting.
“The Employee Excellence Award is given by the Spring ISD Board of Trustees each month throughout the school year,” said Board of Trustees President Rhonda Newhouse. “The award recognizes district employees who exemplify the district’s guiding principles and core values.”
The September award went to Alex Sanchez, Spring ISD’s multilingual compliance coordinator. Sanchez manages compliance including the coding, identification, testing and placement of more than 9,000 English Learners (EL) around the district. He was nominated for his tireless efforts on behalf of students, teachers and other staff, and for his dedicated support in ensuring everyone understands all the proper processes and procedures at all district campuses.
“He is excellent in supporting all of these schools, and he is highly recognized,” Newhouse said.
Sanchez – cheered on during the Zoom meeting by family, friends and colleagues – expressed his gratitude and his excitement for the work he does.
“It is a big surprise for me,” Sanchez said of the recognition. “I’m just very grateful to be part of Spring ISD and support our community, staff and teachers and everyone in Spring, and our students. Thank you so much for this award.”
The October award went to Marilyn Ocker, who teaches speech and debate as well as heading the theater department at Spring High School. In presenting her with the award, Newhouse quoted a Spring High School parent whose nomination had helped earn Ocker the recognition.
“‘With COVID, I can hear every teacher my daughter has and, hands down, Ms. Ocker is the best,’” Newhouse read. “‘She listens, allows them to ask questions and treats them with respect while doing so. My daughter absolutely loves her and looks forward to going to class each day because of her. As a parent, I also see the extra hours that she puts in, and I don’t know how in the world she does it. Not only does she do it, but she does it with a smile.’”
Ocker thanked the trustees, Dr. Watson, Spring High School Principal Diaka Melendez and Director of Performing and Visual Arts Dr. Joe Clark for their ongoing support.
“I only do this because I love children, and I love our Spring kids, and they’re amazing,” Ocker said. “Thank you so much for entrusting me with the children of Spring ISD.”
The November award went to Dekaney High School teacher Jessica Cunningham, who was singled out for going above and beyond in making the transition to online and hybrid learning models during COVID-19. As noted during the presentation, many schools and teachers learned this year that traditional ways of delivering lessons and working with students were not sufficient to meet the complicated needs of teaching and learning during the pandemic. Newhouse said that Cunningham had truly seen the opportunities embedded in those challenges.
“It was in this that Ms. Cunningham rose to the challenge,” Newhouse said, “and recognized a need to tackle this new issue in non-traditional ways that engaged and encouraged the students to achieve and keep them thriving.”
Offering thanks on behalf of the Board and the district, Newhouse said that teachers like Cunningham were helping to lead the way through challenging times.
“Ms. Cunningham has become a digital embodiment of the Springway system,” she said, “and sets an example for each of our teachers across the district.”
Other board members also offered their congratulations, including Jana Gonzales, Winford Adams Jr. and Justine Durant, who each added their thanks and praise to the winners.
“I’d just like to take this time to congratulate all three of you,” said Gonzales. “It’s such an honor to be able to work with you all in Spring ISD, and to hear some of the messages that these folks wrote in about you is amazing, and it definitely speaks of your character.”
Sanchez, Cunningham and Ocker will each receive a framed certificate and a special Spring ISD recognition pin, along with a check for $100. All three were nominated through the district’s “elevate” online submission form, where any employee, parent, or community member can enter a nomination.
To learn more, or to nominate a Spring ISD employee, visit www.springisd.org/employee-recognition.