Dennis Kass

Position: History/Law/Social Studies Teacher

School: Infinity Math, Science and Technology High School

School District: Chicago Public Schools

City, State: Chicago, Illinois

About the Nominee: Dennis Kass is a Social Studies teacher at Infinity Math, Science and Technology High School. He is highly esteemed and appreciated by students, families, and staff in the Little Village community. Soon after Mr. Kass started teaching, he used his legal degree to start a legal clinic at Infinity to distribute free legal advice to students and families. In 2010, he established and founded the Chicago Law and Education Foundation to provide accessible legal services to thousands of low-income families and students. Mr. Kass expanded his legal clinic to 17 Chicago Public High Schools after realizing that so many families and students need legal resources. He personally handles hundreds of cases each year at Infinity alone, and he helps thousands of people by educating them about their legal rights ranging from domestic violence to immigration. He has worked on student legal problems that range from homelessness, immigration, domestic violence and family problems to sexual assault, prostitution, and more. In addition, he engages his students to become free thinkers and active learners. His teaching method motivates students to be better people and inspires them to publish research articles to learn more about social problems that affect them, which enables them to become agents of social change. Mr. Kass goes above and beyond on a daily basis in his role as teacher/attorney. He has a fun, yet effective, take-charge attitude. He excels at any task he faces and has become a vital contributor to the improvement and betterment of the Infinity High School community.

Mr. Kass is incredibly compassionate and conscientious, and his passion for social justice is unquestionable. Hundreds of students have sought both legal and educational advice from him. Many of them do not think they would have made it where they are today without his help and constant motivation. He provided his students with the tools and resources necessary to transform their lives for the better. He never gives up on his students. For example, Mr. Kass is very involved in his students’ academic futures even after graduating high school. He reviews college assignments and constantly asks his students how they're doing to see their progress and ensure that they graduate. In addition, he takes time from his already busy schedule to work on the legal clinics to help students and families with any hardship they struggle with. He is accessible and always willing to provide guidance, support and both legal and educational counseling to students and families.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="dennisanthonykass@yahoo.com"]

Annette Christiansen

Position: English Language Arts 11/12 Teacher

School: Stevenson High School

School District: Utica Community Schools

City, State: Sterling Heights, Michigan

About the Nominee: Often by their very nature, teachers are LifeChangers in the communities they serve. Annette Christiansen, however, exemplifies what it means to be an exceptional teacher and has been a LifeChanger to her students. She makes her English courses dynamic and interactive by carefully selecting materials of interest to her students. She drives students to excel both academically and personally. Through the use of philosophical questions, thought-provoking material and a safe classroom environment, Ms. Christiansen encourages students to explore their passions and their positions on a variety of socio-political topics. She encourages students to learn from each other and to become more tolerant, understanding and open-minded about those who are different. She is willing to share personal triumphs and tragedies, and has been the source of strength to many students during difficult personal experiences. Many students report through various sounding boards and polls that she is the teacher who has influenced them the most. Last year, a series of car accidents took the lives of four students at Stevenson High School, as well as a student at a neighboring school who was the friend of Ms. Christiansen's daughter. Despite her own grief, Ms. Christiansen and a group of other teachers from a committee she had formed the month before created a fund raising project. This project provided financial support to the families of all students lost in the district last year (there were 7). It also supported a local DARE program in the hopes that tragedies of this nature do not happen again. Ms. Christiansen was able to help students through their own grief during these difficult days through a rare blend of strength and empathy. She helped a student write the eulogy for his best friend, a task no one can prepare for.

Many former students return for visits or keep in touch via social media to thank Ms. Christiansen for her devotion to her profession. Many of them are so inspired by her that they become teachers themselves. She has helped multiple students - many whom aren't on her roster - improve ACT scores and write college entrance essays that ultimately help them attend their dream college or accept an athletic scholarship.

Being a member of the community herself, Ms. Christiansen has been a constant presence in athletic and artistic endeavors and has been asked to escort a student who was on the homecoming court when their own parents could not attend. Her dedication to the profession and her view that each student who passes through her classroom is her responsibility makes her able to fill many roles simultaneously. She is mother, coach, friend, confidant, advocate, drill sergeant, instructor and any other role needed for each student as he or she strives to accomplish personal goals. Ms. Christiansen exemplifies everything that makes a teacher such a valued member of the community.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="Annette.Christiansen@UticaK12.org"]

Coleen Thurber

Position: Assets teacher

School: Rolling Hills Elementary School

School District: Cherry Creek School District

City, State: Aurora, Colorado

About the Nominee: Coleen Thurber makes Rolling Hills Elementary School a better place to learn and work! Her role at Rolling Hills is to teach what is called an Assets program. This originated from curriculum that was based on the 40 Developmental Assets, which are identified as the building blocks of healthy development that help young children grow up to be healthy, caring and responsible. However, Mrs. Thurber has made the program all her own over the years. Students rotate through this program, and it is considered a "special" like Physical Education and Art. Per Mrs. Thurber, "In Assets class, all kids in grades K-5 have the opportunity to learn about and practice important life skills and character education to help them be the best person they can possibly be! It takes practice to turn out great, and in Assets class, we get lots of practice! We do units around powerful values and life lessons to lead us down a positive path as we grow and develop into fabulous people!"

Mrs. Thurber is a positive influence throughout the school. She leads the school's Positive Behavior Support Program, facilitates PBIS meetings, trains staff members, plans and rewards children that have earned incentives and manages the Student of the Month Recognition Program. Mrs. Thurber is very passionate when it comes to supporting students so that they grow academically and socially at Rolling Hills Elementary School. When she is not teaching or running the PBIS program, she can be seen meeting with students to problem-solve, lend an ear or just give hugs!

Mrs. Thurber also advises the School Student Council. This student group plans and supports many philanthropic events and school spirit events that bring the student body together. Over the years, they have raised money for Pennies for Patients, made cards for local Senior Centers, collected food for canned food drives and given $10,000 to Brent's Place, which supports families when their child is receiving cancer treatments.

Mrs. Thurber changes the lives of the staff members at Rolling Hills, as well. She always has a smile on her face and lights up any room that she enters. She is encouraging and supportive to any teacher or TA in need. Mrs. Thurber facilitates ways to acknowledge staff, and on a regular basis, she nominates others to be recognized at the Celebration with the Superintendent.

Mrs. Thurber is a LifeChanger. She impacts adults and students every day at Rolling Hills Elementary with her passion and love. She will leave behind a long legacy of teaching students how to live happy and healthier lives because they have known her.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="cthurber@cherrycreekschools.org"]

Sandie Shepherd

Position: Maintenance Worker

School: Roseburg Public Schools

School District: Roseburg Public Schools

City, State: Roseburg, Oregon

About the Nominee: Sandie Shepherd is one of the maintenance workers in the largest school district in Douglas County, Oregon. She works at all twelve schools in the Roseburg School District. Mrs. Shepherd is a hard worker who loves to help others and is always thinking of others before herself. Anyone who knows her knows that she has a passion for her animals and family. She has no idea of the incredible difference she is making in the world! Mrs. Shepherd and her husband, Tim, own a herd of buffalo, a camel, a bobcat, and a wallaroo. She likes to bring the animals to the schools and use them to help with events, fundraisers, and educational activities. Once a year, she brings the buffalo to Hucrest Elementary School to teach the students about the Native American lifestyle. She allows the kids to interact with the animals, shows them tricks and teaches them how to care for the animals. Her main goal is to educate the children - whether it's about animals, Native American heritage, or just showing respect for everyone. Additionally, Mrs. Shepherd brought her wallaroo to one of the special needs classrooms in Roseburg. The students absolutely loved it!

Mrs. Shepherd would like to purchase panels to hold animals in when they are not being shown. The panels would make it easier and safer for her to show the animals, as well as making it possible for her to show more animals. The students always look forward to her animal events, and she hopes to keep the events going in the years to come.

This past Halloween, she was in charge of Elkton's fall costume carnival, which raised funds for the Elkton school district's Arts and Residents programs. The carnival was a huge success. Currently, she is leading Roseburg's 4-H program and has started a coat drive for children in need. Outside of school-related events, she brings her animals to retirement homes to make residents smile and lift their spirits. She hosts tea parties at her home, raises funds for the needy and is very involved with giving back to the community.

Mrs. Shepherd loves working with the rest of the maintenance crew. She shows her appreciation by making holiday dinners for them every year. Sometimes the district will have a work release inmate crew help the maintenance team. When this happens, she makes it a point to cook a nice meal for the inmate crew as well.

Sandie's main goal is to educate the children -- whether it's about animals, Native American heritage, or showing respect for everyone. Sandie has a positive influence on the lives of many people in the community.

KPIC: Roseburg Schools maintenance employee nominated for national award

[nominee_videos nominee_email="stshep79@gmail.com"]

Dan Pastrick

Position: 8th Grade Science

School: Hebron Middle School

School District: MSD of Boone Township

City, State: Hebron, Indiana

About the Nominee: Dan Pastrick has been a science teacher at Hebron Middle School for almost 20 years. He is an exceptional teacher in the classroom who uses innovative techniques and learning strategies. Mr. Pastrick has a true passion for the students, and it shows through his great effort. His passion extends far beyond the walls of his classroom; he is motivated to help make the community of Hebron a better place to live and work. Mr. Pastrick leads the National Junior Honor Society with service projects such as the HMS Haunted House. The Haunted House raises over $5,000 each year for the local Lion's Club Angel Tree, an organization that supplies gifts to those in need during the holidays. His generosity has cultivated an atmosphere at Hebron Middle School where service projects are a major part of the curriculum. Mr. Pastrick also leads the school's Mentoring Program, where 7th and 8th grade students mentor the 6th grade students as they transition into middle school. He helped write the curriculum for this program, and it has become one of the most important reasons why Hebron Middle School has a compassionate atmosphere for students and staff.

When students leave HMS, they come back on a daily basis to visit Mr. Pastrick and help him with projects. He has been a true LifeChanger in the Hebron community!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="pastrickd@hebronschools.k12.in.us"]

Gerald Fitzhugh, II

Position: Principal

School: Thomas G. Connors Elementary School

School District: Hoboken Board of Education

City, State: Hoboken, New Jersey

About the Nominee: Gerald Fitzhugh, II is a dynamic principal and leader of Thomas G. Connors Elementary School. Over the past few years, he has been the catalyst of significant changes within the school community. His efforts are focused on improving the social and academic development of each student that enters the school building. From an academic standpoint, his efforts and leadership have resulted in significant academic gains and the removal of Connors Elementary from its Focus Status as viewed by the New Jersey Department of Education. This impressive turnaround in such a short time speaks to Mr. Fitzhugh's dedication and vision. From a behavioral standpoint, the students have benefited tremendously from the Positive Behavior Supports in School (PBSIS) program. The students are reminded daily of the school’s motto - “Connors C.A.R.E.S.”, which stands for "Commit to learning, Act responsibly, Respect everyone, Effort matters, and this will result in the school Soaring to success." This initiative, along with Mr. Fitzhugh's consistent presence, have resulted in significant changes in student behavior. If one were to visit Connors Elementary on a typical school day, they would see quiet hallways and hear an excited buzz coming from the classrooms as students interact with each other. His voice can often be heard on the loudspeaker reminding the school community that Connors Elementary students are leaders.

Mr. Fitzhugh also supports the staff and provides them with the tools necessary to promote the rigorous education of each student. He holds weekly common planning meetings to promote staff collaboration and development. In addition, he is a consistent presence within each classroom, where he can often be seen observing teachers. Mr. Fitzhugh is particularly focused on integrating technology within each classroom so that students can become 21st century learners. Sometimes, he teaches the students himself so that other staff members can model many of the skills he encourages!

Beyond his academic focus, Mr. Fitzhugh consistently shows that he cares about every student that enters his school. He has been known to make house calls to the homes of students with attendance issues, and he visits parents who are unable to come to school to discuss student needs. Each marking period, Mr. Fitzhugh invites the parents of Honor Roll students to enjoy breakfast with him and the students as a way to celebrate their successes. This year, he created the "middle school advisories" program, where students and teachers can interact in less conventional subjects including yoga, dance, gardening, and digital photography.

Mr. Fitzhugh's commitment to his students and staff is truly remarkable. He has changed the course of many lives within the Connors community, and he continues to raise expectations and promote the successes of all stakeholders. The reputation of Connors Elementary has become a model for the district and an excellent example of the successes that can occur with hard work, dedication and strong leadership. Connors Elementary is now better suited to serve its student as a result of Mr. Fitzhugh's efforts!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="gfitzhugh@hoboken.k12.nj.us"]

Stephanie Owens

Position: Consultation Teacher

School: University High School

School District: Volusia County Schools

City, State: Orange City, Florida

About the Nominee: Dr. Stephanie Owens is a highly skilled, dynamic, dedicated, and results-oriented professional. She has more than 20 years of experience working with diverse student populations; she espouses a passion for helping children and guiding them toward potential career paths. Dr. Owens has a knack for motivating students and staff to achieve their own personal best in whatever they do. Her mission to help others is evident in the actions she has taken at University High School. In her current position, she facilitates the school’s food pantry which she founded three years ago; in addition to University High School, she collaborates with other local schools and outside organizations to provide necessities for University High's homeless and at-risk students. Her working knowledge of school and community resources helps students in difficult situations concentrate on their studies. More importantly, she advocates on behalf of the students' families, who are often going through financial struggles. She works diligently to make connections for and establish relationships with the homeless and at-risk population on campus and in the community.

In addition to helping students, Dr. Owens assists faculty members by implementing innovative strategies that work well in both independent and collaborative work environments. She conducts extensive research on new concepts and methodologies to solve classroom issues and, as a result, has earned a tremendous amount of respect among her peers. Whenever a staff member has a problem or crisis, they feel comfortable seeking out Dr. Owens' assistance because she is reliable and exercises sound judgement. She motivates the faculty to do their best work by facilitating school-wide training sessions and providing one-on-one coaching to her colleagues. She is a true LifeChanger to everyone she meets!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="dr.stephanie.owens@gmail.com"]

Amanda Reyes

Position: Physical Education Teacher

School: Tippit Middle School

School District: Georgetown Independent School District

City, State: Georgetown, Texas

About the Nominee: Amanda Reyes exemplifies the meaning of compassion, team work, leadership, tolerance, responsibility and trust through everything she does. As a physical education teacher and sports coach, she instills strong moral values in her students. Although Coach Reyes coaches many sports, basketball is her biggest passion. She gives every student the opportunity to be a part of the team as long as they have a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. She looks after her students long after they leave Tippit, even going as far as inviting them to return to help coach the middle school students. Coach Reyes is often seen at high school volleyball and basketball games cheering on the kids she once coached. She is truly their biggest fan! Another of Coach Reyes' passions is fighting against childhood cancer. She helped organize Tippit's first annual “Dig Gold” volleyball game in September 2015 to raise money for cancer research and treatment. She encouraged students' involvement by suggesting they make posters to hang in the gym. Coach Reyes was also an active participant of Alex’s Million Mile, where Tippit students and staff collectively contributed over 4000 miles to the Georgetown team. In addition, she gave a group of 6th grade students the opportunity to organize an ice bucket challenge in memory of their friend who passed away from cancer. They raised $1300 for childhood cancer research!

Because of her efforts, many students have been given opportunities that they would not have had otherwise. Through the ELITE club, for example, she gives girls not involved in other extracurricular activities the opportunity to learn leadership skills. She believes that every child has the potential to succeed, and she will do everything she can to make each child believe that they can make a difference.

Last year, Coach Reyes was also in charge of the school’s No Place For Hate program and organized Diversity Day. The students in her club set up stations throughout the school representing different countries and their cultures. It gave the other children exposure to Georgetown's diverse population. More importantly, it sent them the message that everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, regardless of where they come from.

There are certain people who go above and beyond to touch the lives of kids around them, and Coach Reyes is one of these people. Her positive influence has changed so many lives at Tippit. The students are blessed to have her as their coach, teacher and mentor!

https://youtu.be/J9fEa74HF5c

[nominee_videos nominee_email="maysa@georgetownisd.org"]

Theresa Barkhimer

Position: School Based Social Worker

School: Shawnee Middle School

School District: Shawnee Public Schools

City, State: Shawnee, Oklahoma

About the Nominee: Ms. Barkhimer is a proven leader and advocate for underprivileged students and families within the community. She is known as a community outreach and leadership specialist throughout the district. The programs she has implemented and maintained have touched the lives of many students and families. Ms. Barkhimer works with multiple churches, area businesses and large factory corporations to provide food, clothing and assistance to the students. She also collaborates with other teachers to develop lessons that create a more positive atmosphere for the students. As a school-based social worker, Ms. Barkhimer partners with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to maintain a food pantry at Shawnee Middle School that serves Shawnee Middle School and two other schools in the district. This labor-intensive project requires many hours of hard work and an army of volunteers to manage. Ms. Barkhimer does this with such poise and grace that within a year her pantry went from serving nine students per week to more than 120! She also works with area groups to provide about 75 Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, and, in collaboration with the City of Shawnee, delivers Christmas gifts to families in need. Ms. Barkhimer goes way beyond her duties as a school district employee to ensure that her students, school and community are taken care of in every possible way. The programs she runs and her caring heart touch the lives of many Shawnee students, past and present, and gives them hope for a brighter tomorrow.

https://youtu.be/ie85JfoUZF4

[nominee_videos nominee_email="tbarkhimer15@gmail.com"]

Tollis Bond

Position: Kindergarten Teacher

School: Northwest Elementary

School District: Murray County Schools

City, State: Chatsworth, Georgia

About the Nominee: When one observes Tollis Bond interacting with her students, it's obvious that she treats her students as if they were her own children. She brings a sense of joy to her students and the school, and does everything she can to ensure that the children at Northwest Elementary get what they need. Each year, Mrs. Bond schedules Career on Wheels, an event where over 25 local businesses and community services come out to give presentations. The students are given the opportunity to ask questions and gain some insight into possible career paths. During the 2013 edition of the event, Mrs. Bond convinced Life Force to land their helicopter behind the school for the students to witness. Some additional activities that she coordinates include school field trips to the Warner Park Zoo, The Creative Discovery Museum, and the Science Guy. Mrs. Bond’s classroom is warm and inviting, and she encourages family involvement through a variety of events. Before the first day of school, she invites her students and their families to come for a meet and greet. She also hosts several events during the school year such as Donuts for Dads, Grandparent’s Day, and Mother's Day events. All of these events have a high participation rate.

Mrs. Bond is also an expert at raising funds for school activities. One year, she secured donations from local businesses like Dollar General for the school's PBIS programs, which rewards the students for positive behavior. During Field Day, she secured donations from Coke and Mayfield Dairy to provide drinks and ice-cream for the students. She also helps arrange scholarship funds and match them to students who want to participate and are in need of assistance. Their needs are a priority for her, and over the years, she has become very familiar with organizations that provide assistance to the students. At the same time, Mrs. Bond challenges the students to give back. For example, during the Bill Gregory Healthcare Classic, she produces a commercial for the morning announcements challenging students to come out and walk with her. Her contributions led to her being honored as the Northwest Teacher of the Year.

The Murray County Schools motto is “Committed to student success…. No exceptions, no excuses!”; this motto describes the efforts and actions of Mrs. Bond. She is a blessing to the district and a wonderful educator!

https://youtu.be/NcIpAy5ZoXA

[nominee_videos nominee_email="tollis.bond@murray.k12.ga.us"]

Marla Cosner

Position: English, Social Studies and Music Teacher

School: Mesquite Continuation High School

School District: Sierra Sands Unified School District

City, State: Ridgecrest, California

About the Nominee: Mrs. Cosner is so beloved at Mesquite Continuation High School that many students request to be in her class. While most classes average 15 students; Mrs. Cosner's classes often have between 19-23 students! Mrs. Cosner shows her students respect and love the minute they enter her classroom. She has a natural ability to recognize students' strengths and capitalize on them to help students build intrinsic motivation with their studies and grades. In addition to teaching English and history, Mrs. Cosner leads two music classes – guitar and piano. Outside the classroom, Mrs. Cosner supports the community through the non-profit she helped found, the Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society. She appears in most of the productions and spends long hours rehearsing and directing. All proceeds from the productions are donated to support music education within the school district. Some of the students at the school are the first in their families to earn a diploma. Numerous students have credited for helping them on the path to graduation. Mrs. Cosner is credited with changing too many lives to count and for having a profoundly positive impact on the lives of many past and present students of Mesquite Continuation High School.

https://youtu.be/ioHFFxsxTmU

[nominee_videos nominee_email="mcosner@ssusd.org"]

Dana Ford

Position: Second Grade Teacher

School: Horseshoe Bend School

School District: Tallapoosa County Board of Education

City, State: New Site, Alabama

About the Nominee: Dana Ford is the epitome of the ideal teacher and learner. The things that she can accomplish while working with students – struggling or otherwise – are nothing short of a miracle! Ms. Ford is a selfless leader, and always puts her students’ needs before her own. She has helped countless students who have been written off by others find success. Ms. Ford is charismatic, dedicated to helping others, and desires to see others succeed. She never seeks accolades and rewards for herself. Ms. Ford is not just a life changer, but a life saver, as well!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="dford@tallapoosak12.org"]

Lee Kaiser

Position: Counselor

School: Centreville Elementary School

School District: Fairfax County Public Schools

City, State: Centreville , Virginia

About the Nominee: The motivation that drives Mr. Kaiser’s mission is that of prevention. He draws upon his passion and skills to effectively encourage students to become more efficacious and proactive in setting and reaching the goals they desire to achieve. Students make positive, dramatic progress with his assistance. Students, parents, staff and FCPS colleagues consistently report that the support Mr. Kaiser has provided has been invaluable. It is not unusual for former students to seek him out to thank him for the difference he has made in their lives. In fact, it is quite a testament to his impact with these students that they continue to reach out to him, years after they have left, to let him know of the positive impact he had upon them. Mr. Kaiser is a dedicated and collaborative leader at school. He has led the Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) Team initiative since its inception in 2007. In that time, the positive change in the school climate has been dramatic. Mr. Kaiser has promoted and led many school wide initiatives, which have been equally successful in promoting and engaging the Centreville Elementary School community. For example, the Eagle Aides mentor program of nearly 200 mentees and mentors provides positive support to needy children at the school. The Family Picnic celebrates the first week of school with a giant community celebration which attracts more than school community members. Because of his advocacy we have a backpack program which sends food home each weekend with the school’s neediest children.

Mr. Kaiser is a humble, highly effective advocate for the students. He is also a true catalyst and an energetic force for the positive change at Centreville Elementary School. One of Mr. Kaiser’s admirers reflects on the words spoken by Albert Einstein: “Example isn't another way to teach. It's the only way to teach." Mr. Kaiser is that example and students, colleagues and community members are all better for having the opportunity to work alongside him.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="lee.kaiser@fcps.edu"]

Raymond Churchill

Position: High School Choir/Music/Theater Teacher

School: Griswold High School

School District: Griswold Public Schools

City, State: Griswold, Connecticut

About the Nominee: A 20-year veteran of music education, Raymond Churchill has built a tremendous, well-rounded choral program featuring an annual spring musical that is the highlight of the school year for more than half of the student body and the cultural highlight of the year for the community. Mr. Churchill is, first and foremost, a fantastic teacher who is an expert in theater arts and vocal performance. As a singer, he has a voice that has been featured in theater productions and opera productions in Connecticut. As a teacher, he inspires students every day in his choirs which include close to 200 performers. But, it is the spring musical that sets Mr. Churchill apart from every other music and theater educator in the state. At Griswold High School, the anticipation begins at the start of the school year as the title of the show is announced. The production features over half of the student body - 300 students involved in at least one aspect of the production. The production draws students of all abilities and skills, all backgrounds and learning styles. Mr. Churchill hands over the reins to the students so that the production becomes their own. And, a production it is! The annual show brings the community together like no other activity in the school. Mr. Churchill’s planning ensures that the experience is one students are immensely proud of, one that builds a love of theater – along with commitment, leadership, and the highest standards of excellence. Mr. Churchill is the singular energy behind every student and volunteer who makes this happen. He is a brilliant teacher and a great mentor with exceptional talent. He inspires excellence in his students and provides a venue for students of all abilities to shine and belong.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="rchurchill@griswoldpublicschools.org"]

Shane Thill

Position: Director/Assistant Principal

School: Second Chance High Alternative School/Mitchell High School

School District: Mitchell School District 17-2

City, State: Mitchell, South Dakota

About the Nominee: Shane Thill is a life-changer in the community because of his ability to motivate students, his commitment to their growth, and his genuine interest in making the community and the world better places. Mr. Thill has gone above and beyond his role as a teacher and administrator to make sure that students have a safe and nurturing environment that allows them to learn and explore who they are and achieve their full potential. Mr. Thill inspires his students by letting them know that their voices matter and that each individual has the opportunity to share their knowledge with the world. Mr. Thill is more than just an assistant principal – he is a role model for his students, parents, colleagues and the Mitchell community! https://youtu.be/EnjeRZGx-Q8

[nominee_videos nominee_email="Shane.thill@k12.sd.us"]

Beau Menchaca

Position: Higher Education Coordinator

School: Century High School

School District: Santa Ana Unified

City, State: Santa Ana, California

About the Nominee: This is Beau Menchaca's second nomination for LifeChanger of the Year. Mr. Menchaca was previously nominated in 2014. Beau Menchaca always finds a way to be a leader in activities at his school. Through the development of several programs throughout his career, he has worked to make every school community he works in a more appreciative, inspiring, and welcoming place to be for faculty and students alike.

While working as an office assistant, Mr. Menchaca overheard two girl students talking about what they wanted to be, how there had never been a women president in the US and whether or not women in the world held any positions of influence. This prompted him to organize the "The Gallery of Illustrious Women." For this display, Mr. Menchaca realized that the students needed some positive women role models to inspire them and he began a letter writing campaign to women leaders all over the world, asking them to send a picture and a letter encouraging everyone, especially girls, to aspire to be the best they could be and work towards making a difference in the world. Each letter and picture he received was displayed at the school.

Another one of Mr. Menchaca's projects aimed at recognizing and acknowledging both students and staff are integral parts in the task of uplifting school spirit and cultivating a nurturing atmosphere. To show appreciation for his colleagues, he developed the Apple Awards and got the whole community involved in nominating and honoring educators with these awards. Through this award, he has truly made the school community a better place.

In addition to the programs Mr. Menchaca has developed, on a daily basis he works hard to make sure everyone knows that higher education is an option for them. The Higher Education Center is open to everyone, regardless of their grade point average or grade, and Mr. Menchaca boosts it success by getting parents involved, inviting colleges to come and present, organizing Centurion week to celebrate students who are on course to graduate on time and working with students one-on-one to determine the next steps for them.

The vision that Mr. Menchaca has for the school, along with his ability, dedication and commitment to students is making a difference for everyone at Century High School. Whether it is by celebrating student achievement, recognizing the contributions of members of the school community or by re-vitalizing the Higher Education Center, he constantly contributes to make his school a better place for all.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="Beau.Menchaca@sausd.us"]