As the end of the school year fast approaches, members of the Spring ISD Board of Trustees paid surprise visits on Thursday to Northgate Crossing Elementary School and Springwoods Village Middle School to present the Employee Excellence Award for February, March and April to winners who were selected for embodying the qualities in the district’s Leadership Definition.
The February award went to Northgate Crossing Elementary School Nurse Cecile Green, who is just finishing her first year at the school and in Spring ISD, but who has already made strong connections with students, families and fellow staff members.
“She knows every single student on campus and any medical conditions they have, and she knows all of our families,” said Assistant Principal Alma Miller. “Everybody knows Nurse Green, and we love her. She’s amazing, and she’s already made herself part of the family.”
Trustees Rhonda Newhouse and Dr. Deborah Jensen both thanked Green for her contributions to the wellness and well-being of Northgate Crossing students, and Newhouse made special mention of the fact that Green was nominated for the award by a Northgate Crossing parent, who said they felt safe and at-ease sending their child to school each day knowing Green was there to help care for their child’s needs.
“That is wonderful to hear from a parent,” said Newhouse, “to know that she has no problem sending her son to school because she knows he’s in good hands with Ms. Green.”
Green has worked previously as a nurse both at the high school level – in the Tyler area – and more recently in non-school settings, but felt called to return to education and has fallen in love with her Northgate Crossing family – especially the students, who come to her every day for their nicks and playground bruises, as well as just to talk and to enjoy Green’s calming, caring presence.
“I just love what I do,” Green said. “I love every last one of these kids like they’re my own, and I try to treat them just the same way I would my own kids.”
The March award went to another Northgate Crossing staff member, fifth grade teacher Amber Williamson, who is now finishing her fourth year at the campus and her first as a fifth grade teacher, after three years working with third graders.
While presenting the award, Newhouse noted that Williamson had been nominated not only because she is an outstanding teacher, but also “because of the incredible joy and camaraderie she’s brought to her fellow staff members.”
Williamson this year took over leadership of the school’s Sunshine Committee, which recognizes birthdays, life events and holidays for employees, as well as organizing an impressive range of events to bring staff, students and Northgate Crossing families together for fun, fellowship and relaxation. From a back-to-school BBQ to birthday celebrations and family bingo nights, the committee – under Williamson’s upbeat leadership – has made a real difference in the life of the campus.
Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa especially praised Williamson for spreading joy and a sense of connection among those at the school.
“She gets the joy from giving joy to others,” Hinojosa said, “and that’s something that is very near and dear to my heart, because when you give, you get so much in return.”
Williamson agreed, saying that the rewards of spreading joy were immediate but also had a lasting impact on students.
“I like bringing that joy,” Williamson said, “and it gives me joy to see them happy.”
Williamson started her journey toward teaching as an active parent volunteer when her own children were in elementary school. From PTO member to serving as a substitute teacher, she said the path opened up and drew her into finally wanting to earn her certification so she could teach full-time.
In her four years as a Northgate Crossing teacher, she has never missed a day, but still said she was shocked and honored to learn she had won the Employee Excellence Award.
“It makes me feel really good,” Williamson said. “I’m glad that I’m making a difference, because that’s what I come here to do.”
The April award went to Christine Olsavsky, a sixth grade teacher at Springwoods Village Middle School, the district’s first-ever International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. Olsavsky specializes in world geography and her class covers the Individuals and Societies curriculum, part of the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) offered at the campus.
Olsavsky received a surprise visit from trustees and administrators right in her classroom, where her students took a break from a current-events lesson on the rise in global sugar prices to cheer on their award-winning teacher.
During the presentation, Newhouse praised Olsavsky as “an exemplary model of the SpringWay values and the positive impact effective systems have to support whole-student growth and achievement.”
In addition to her work with her own students, Olsavsky has also made her mark on campus by starting a club that bridges creative Lego creation with topics students are studying in science and technology courses, as well as by providing tutoring in math, English and U.S. history to seventh and eighth graders to help ensure all students are prepared for end-of-year exams and testing.
“This is the type of teacher that we want in Spring ISD,” Newhouse said.
The superintendent thanked Olsavsky for her commitment to her students, and for choosing to join Spring ISD, where Olsavsky is now in her second year.
“We are so very proud of you and your accomplishments,” Hinojosa said, “the recognition that you’re bringing to the students, to Springwoods Village, and to Spring ISD.”
With a background in social work and a master’s degree in history – plus experience living and teaching abroad in both South Korea and Russia – Olsavsky is a content-area expert with a passion for her subject that she especially enjoys passing on to her students at the district’s only IB World School campus.
“I’m honored, and I really appreciate the acknowledgement,” Olsavsky said afterward. “For me, my best teachers have always been ones that actually have experience in the field in their content area, so I knew that I wanted to teach world geography and be able to bring my own experiences into the classroom.”
Trustees awarded Green, Williamson and Olsavsky with framed certificates and a special Spring ISD recognition pin. Each Employee Excellence Award winner also receives a check for $100, made possible by the support of the Spring ISD Education Foundation.
All three were nominated for the Employee Excellence Award through the online submission form, where any employee, parent, or community member can enter a nomination for an outstanding district staff member.
To learn more, or to nominate a Spring ISD employee, visit www.springisd.org/employee-recognition.