Don Jackson

Position: Principal

School: Grapeland Elementary School

School District: Grapeland ISD

City, State: Grapeland, Texas

About the Nominee: Don Jackson was nominated by his spouse, Darlene Jackson.

Grapeland Elementary School is a PK-5th grade campus located in rural East Texas. Nearly 80% of the students struggle financially. Regardless, Mr. Jackson has come in and set high expectations for his campus.

The first thing Mr. Jackson instituted was a dress code that required the students to wear collared shirts to school with jeans and khaki pants or shorts. This initiative was matched by the teachers being asked to not wear jeans to school except on Fridays for spirit day. This initiative was created because of the importance of appearance and self-esteem.

Next, Mr. Jackson sought out to establish clubs on campus that would enrich student culture. The teachers were asked to nominate students who were leaders in their classrooms to become ambassadors for the campus and represent Grapeland Elementary in events around town. The ambassadors meet each Tuesday, go to local businesses, attend school board meetings and played an instrumental role in promoting a bond election for our school.

The next club Mr. Jackson formed was called Young Businessmen. This group of young men meets each Thursday and must wear a tie and khaki pants to school. Local businessmen from town are brought in to meet with them and teach the importance of having great character and getting a great education. As a reward for their good behavior, Mr. Jackson stays after school with the students on Thursdays so they can perform a community service task around the school and have recreational play.

Mr. Jackson has also instituted a choir club, a book club and a club for GT students. The students at Grapeland Elementary are taught character along with the curriculum and start each day with a motivational message from Mr. Jackson. During announcements, he is known to either play a song or break out into a song on the PA system. Each Wednesday, students in 2nd-5th grade gather in the gym for a 15-minute motivational message from the principal. The students are taught life lessons that are aimed to inspire them to be great students to create aspirations for a lifetime. This program is called REACH (Relationships, Encouragement, Attitudes, Coaching and Help).

Finally, Mr. Jackson has established a program that has students stretching and reaching their way to success. The program is called Triple A, which stands for Attendance, Attitudes and Academics. Students who have no absences, above a 90 in conduct and at least a 75 or higher in all classes are recognized as Triple A and get to go on a fun field trip every 6 weeks.

In conclusion, Mr. Jackson is committed to being a role model his students will look up to and be inspired by. His monthly callout to his students’ parents, as well as the awards assemblies he holds each 6-week period, keep the halls filled with parental involvement. He even finds time to call students who are absent from school each day to let them know how they are missed. This connection with his community is further enhanced by working directly with the schools' PTO group which is 70 strong.

The staff at Grapeland Elementary School will tell you that they are supported and have a voice in the collaboration of principles and practices. Working together, Mr. Jackson and his staff have become a collaborative force. It is apparent that Mr. Jackson looks, listens, learns, leads and loves his students, staff and parents. He is a powerful, personable, professional and positive difference-maker who is a communicator, collaborator, and connector while remaining calm, cool, collected and careful in dealing with all people. This principal makes a difference by being visible, available, approachable and accessible. His humble beginning as a child of a single mother has created a man with high energy, effort and enthusiasm.

Pamela Fowler

Position: Adapted Physical Education Facilitator / Special Olympics Coach

School: Grand Prairie Schools

School District: Grand Prairie Independent School District

City, State: Grand Prairie, Texas

About the Nominee: Pamela Fowler was nominated by Rhonda Brown-Crowder, the parent of a student.

It is on the rarest occasion that any of us are fortunate enough to live to see the legacy and impact our actions have had in the lives of others. Pamela Fowler, also known as "Coach Pam," is one of those privileged few to see the impact of her life's work, now, in the present. After coaching the Special Olympics team for the past 30 years, Coach Pam has decided this year will be her last year in the Grand Prairie School District. Ms. Brown-Crowder states that she cannot think of anyone more deserving of recognition than Coach Pam.

As a parent of a child with Special Needs, Ms. Brown-Crowder says that it is rare to find someone who cares about her son's identity, future, well-being and self-esteem as much as she does. Coach Pam not only challenges her students, but she makes them feel loved and valued and shows them they matter. Over the course of a 30 year career, she has worked with thousands of children at all ages and stages of abilities.

During her career, Coach Pam has worked tirelessly with numerous schools to set up Peer Partner Programs where mainstream students, even as young as age eight, can partner with special needs students to work with them during recess and physical education classes. The goal of these programs is to help special needs students work on improving their physical skills. The older peer partners are allowed to travel to the track meets with the Special Olympics Athletes to assist them on the day of the meets. Their presence provides a great level of comfort for the district's special needs students. These programs are not only beneficial in helping students in their growth and development, but they are also instilling compassion in the mainstream students who are providing the assistance. What a wonderful way for Coach Pam to impact today's students and future generations by getting them to care for the needs of others!

During standardized testing at Grand Prairie Independent School District (GPISD), the students have limited movement throughout the building to minimize distractions. This request is understandable, but it can be difficult for special needs students to remain in a classroom all day without becoming anxious. In order to create a calmer situation for the special needs students, who were not testing, Coach Pam spearheaded an offsite field trip for them at a local jump facility. The students were bused over from the school and had full access to the facility for a few hours. They loved it!

Ms. Brown-Crowder's son is one of the youngest Olympians. In the short time he has worked with Coach Pam, he has already demonstrated tremendous growth, calmness, focus and excitement. She inspires all of the athletes to do more and to be more. She doesn't lower her expectations because of their disabilities, but rather raises her expectations to a level that she knows each of them can meet.

Coach Pam is a humble, yet mighty leader. Everything she does with her students is impactful and lasting. She not only treats her students with care, but goes above and beyond to create a relationship with their parents and family members. Coach Pam stresses to parents the importance of them being involved in the lives of their children, and how doing so will contribute to their success.

GPISD Director of Special Education Dr. Dorothea Gordon, Ed.D. stated the following: “It is such an honor to have Coach Pam Fowler on our team! She is truly the epitome of servant leadership. It is her calling. Her unwavering dedication to our scholar athletes, parents, community and our team is embedded in all she does. It is in her DNA! She was honored as the 2013 Texas Special Olympics Coach of the year. In her six years of service to GPISD, she has grown the Special Olympics program from three sports with minimal participation to 13 sports servicing 300 scholar athletes, even two from Arlington ISD. Our program is revered not only in Area 10, but across the state of Texas. Area 10 coaches seek her guidance. Coach Pam is truly our Community LifeChanger.”

As Ms. Brown-Crowder and her son were leaving track practice one day, Coach Pam thanked her for allowing her to coach her son. Coach Pam's use of the word, "allow" touched Ms. Brown-Crowder very deeply. In a world where special needs parents are doing all that they can to make sure their children feel loved and are accepted by the mainstream world, the word said it all. "Allow" spoke to Coach Pam's character, to her life's work and focus, to her dedication and commitment in what she does, to her heart and her pursuit to help others and let them know they matter. It is a memory that continues to bring tears to Ms. Brown-Crowder's eyes.