Iowa

Lana McDonald

Position: Student Interventionist

School: Winterset Elementary School

School District: Winterset Community School District

City, State: Winterset, Iowa

About the Nominee: Lana McDonald was nominated by Jennifer Berns. Mrs. McDonald has exhibited a genuine, caring quality which has truly been embraced by her students! She serves as her school's student interventionist, a role which comes with many rewards and challenges. It is within this role that Mrs. McDonald has gone up and beyond her responsibilities in order to assure that all students feel loved and safe at school. As a teacher, she challenges students to think "outside the box" of their own reality. Her compassion for students, who may feel unable to fit in, is second to none. She encourages students to set high expectations for themselves and not be afraid to take risks. As a result, the relationships she builds with students are amazing!

Students are not only being taught to appreciate the differences in themselves and in others, but to appreciate their choices in life. As an elementary student interventionist, Mrs. McDonald has made an extremely positive impact on her students. She consistently encourages students to "step up" and give their best efforts, even when they face challenges in their home life. Mrs. McDonald has set up supports for at-risk students in her school through a Multi-Tiered Support System. She meets with teachers, parents and students before school, during the day and even after school in order to meet all students’ needs. She created a “check in/check out” system, where she meets with students every morning before and after school. This system provides them with activities and social stories, which teaches students how to build strong relationships. When students come to school upset, Mrs. McDonald provides a calm, supportive voice for them, along with an ear to listen. As she once pointed out, "Students who feel loved come to school to learn, students who aren't come to school to feel loved." Mrs. McDonald's "culture of caring" has provided results that show that any student can be successful, regardless of their background!

Mrs. McDonald sets herself apart through her genuine care for each student and their unique qualities. She understands that each student has different backgrounds and needs for support. Her attendance to each student's needs shows a high level of commitment, which makes her a model for peers. Mrs. McDonald has initiated many supports among different grade levels in her building. She has utilized her before and after school planning time to support students' needs. This includes one-on-one conversations with students, family meetings and other types of intervention supports for families. She continually puts others' needs before her own. She has also overseen her building's monthly Positive Behavior Supports Intervention assemblies. While working with students to provide a PAW LAW video or a social story, she has never implied it was too much work. She continually strives to help students see the positives in life and encourages them to "break the cycle" of poverty and lack of education. Her commitment to students and their welfare is undeniably evident.

Mrs. McDonald has set the bar high. She has provided her peers with an example of what it means to show students they are loved and important. Every student deserves someone like Mrs. McDonald. She is a servant leader who continually inspires those around her through her daily actions and supportive ways. Winterset Elementary School and its students are very lucky to call Mrs. McDonald one of their own!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="lmcdonald@winterset.k12.ia.us"]

Jill Janes

Position: Director of Innovative Learning

School: Boone Community Schools

School District: Boone Community Schools

City, State: Boone, Iowa

About the Nominee: Jill Janes was nominated by her colleague, Kristopher Byam. Ms. Janes has been a LifeChanger for Mr. Byam ever since he took over as Boone High School principal. She is always a helping hand when it comes to planning Professional Development or coming up with crazy ideas. Ms. Janes inspires Mr. Byam to continue his push to make Boone High School the best school around by constantly focusing on what is right for students. Everything she does is with the students in mind.

Additionally, Ms. Janes is one of the kindest, most inspirational people one could meet. She continues to look for ways to empower students each day with innovative instructional strategies, and she helps bring that design thinking focus to the district. Ms. Janes is a LifeChanger because she makes things better for her district's students, faculty and families on a daily basis!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="jjanes@boone.k12.ia.us"]

Tom Ritchie

Position: Custodian

School: Willard Elementary School

School District: Des Moines Public Schools

City, State: Des Moines, Iowa

About the Nominee: Tom Ritchie was nominated by a colleague, Denise Weston. Mr. Ritchie is a LifeChanger in his community for so many reasons. His nominator, Ms. Weston, states that he has been a custodian since she began teaching at the school five years ago. There are certain people who might not understand the work that a custodian does every day, but Ms. Weston is not one of those people. Every day, Willard Elementary is one of the two schools in Des Moines Public Schools where Mr. Ritchie goes to work with a smile on his face. He offers a kind word and a listening ear to everyone, and he goes out of his way to help others.

For example, Mr. Ritchie is typically in charge of cleaning the 2nd floor of Willard Elementary's 3-story building. Ms. Weston's classroom is on the 3rd floor. A few months ago, when Ms. Weston was leaving for the day, she mentioned to Mr. Ritchie that she misplaced her glasses. She was certain they were in her classroom, but she asked Mr. Ritchie to put them in the office if he happened to find them. When she returned to school the following day, all of her students' chairs were up on the tables, and her carpet had been vacuumed. As it turned out, Mr. Ritchie stopped by her classroom the night before to see if he could find her glasses laying around her room. He didn't find them, but he noticed that the carpet needed vacuuming, so he put the chairs up and cleaned the floor! He went out of his way just because he felt it was the right thing to do.

This example is only one of many acts of kindness that Mr. Ritchie is known for. If he sees something that needs to be done, he does it, not for recognition, but because he believes that teachers work hard enough. Mr. Ritchie works extra hard and can always be found going above and beyond the job description.

Mr. Ritchie cares deeply about the staff and students where he works, and it shows in his words and actions. He takes pride in doing a job well done. Every day, he provides students with a clean and organized place to begin a new day of learning. He might not think it's a very big deal, but for the students who do not have the opportunity to see or experience this in their home life, it is a very big deal.

Mr. Ritchie is a LifeChanger because of the hard work and dedication he puts into his school and district. He is well known for taking time out of his busy schedule to brighten the day of others with kind words, a smile and lending a helping hand without being asked.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="thomas.ritchie@dmschools.org"]

Sheila Long

Position: Sixth Grade Special Education Teacher School: Alden Elementary School

School District: Alden Community School District

City, State: Alden, Iowa

About the Nominee: Sheila Long is an amazing teacher who reaches all types of students and staff members. This past year, she had a challenging work load. Working with special education students who have major needs and a variety of diagnoses can be a challenge. She took each day in stride, always focusing on what was best for each individual child. Mrs. Long is also a tremendous asset to the staff. She is Alden Elementary School's Authentic Intellectual Coach and is always willing to jump in and participate on any action teams the school has in place. Mrs. Long has strong leadership abilities that inspire and encourage others to grow. Her colleagues feel fortunate to work with her!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="slong@ifacadets.net"]