More than 30 Loudoun County students, parents and teachers were honored at the Special Education Advisory Committee's third annual Recognition for Excellence in Supporting Special Education Awards.
The winners at the May 21 ceremony, held at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building, ranged from tiny Cara Martino, a third-grader at Catoctin Elementary who goes out of her way to play with differently-abled students, to the towering 6-foot-6 Josh Grimmard, a Loudoun Valley senior who mentors a student with autism from Hamilton Elementary.
“It's awesome to be recognized on such a high level and be one out of a huge fish bowl of students,” said Kayla Magill, a senior at Dominion High School. Magill participates in the Best Buddies Club, which pairs up general population students with special needs students and Athlete to Athlete, which pairs up athletes with special needs students to do sports related activities. “We've definitely expanded the programs. For Athlete to Athlete, we have more general population students than special needs students.”
In total, 18 students were honored. Additionally, three student groups, spanning five schools and dozens of members, also received awards. Two parents were also honored.
“We're really compelled to recognize them. They are role models for the rest of the community,” said Lisa Glasgow, chairman of SEAC.
Fourteen educators also received awards, often for innovative practices to include students with disabilities with the general population. For example, Kim Grigley, a gym teacher at J. Michael Lunsford Middle School, created the Pacer club to get all students to run together.
“They're not just doing their jobs,” Glasgow said. “They're going above and beyond what is on their job description and they are making a difference. They're impacting lives.”
Award winners were nominated by teachers, parents and students and were selected by a panel of judges for their awards. Hundreds of people filled the School Board meeting room in support of the ceremony.
Previously, the awards were just given during a School Board meeting, but due to scheduling issues this year's awards had to be scheduled as it's own event.
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Glasgow said. “We were able to recognize everything these exceptional people do and had the time to do that.”
After Tuesday's successful event, Glasgow said the move to have the SEAC awards independent of the School Board meetings will be permanent.
At the conclusion of the award presentation, the hosts, award winners, their families and the special education community gathered to eat cake and cookies.
And true to SEAC's goals, everyone was included.