Educators recognized for positively impacting special education.

June 14, 2022

Educators recognized for positively impacting special education.

By Kim Beardslee, Correspondent. 

West Shore School News is a presentation of West Shore Educational Service District in partnership with Mason County Press and Oceana County Press. 

VICTORY TOWNSHIP – West Shore Educational Service District (WSESD) and the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) held an extraordinary event Wednesday, June 8, 2022, to recognize outstanding people, agencies, and businesses that have made a significant, positive impact and are contributing to the education and success of children with special needs within Mason, Lake, and Oceana counties.  WSESD and SEPAC have held the “Make A Difference Award Ceremony” (MADAC) in the past, but due to the pandemic, this event has been on hold.  As a result, there was lots of excitement and festivity in the air!

The SEPAC is composed of parents representing each local school district within the boundaries of WSESD that have a child eligible for special education services. This group meets throughout the school year to learn and share information related to special education, encourage parent-school partnerships in special education, and seeks to enhance the educational opportunities for students with disabilities. They also organize the nomination process and the MADAC event to celebrate an awesome group of dedicated individuals.

The ceremony was held at the West Shore Community College. Following an offering of light appetizers, WSESD Superintendent Jason Jeffrey offered a brief welcome message, emphasizing the importance of partnership in order to strive for student success for all. These opening comments were followed by the award presentations. There were 32 total nominations within these categories: Agency or Business, Parent or Community Member, Administrator, Peer Support, Ancillary, General Education Teacher, Special Education Teacher, and Support Staff.  All nominees received recognition and their award after a SEPAC member read their personal accolades. Two recipients that stood out from amongst the educational staff, were Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital and Vic Burwell, community leader. 

Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital was recognized for its quick response to organize vaccination clinics for students attending WSESD’s programs and creating a welcome and warm environment for students who demonstrate the most significant learning challenges within WSESD. These students, who were ages 16 and older, were some of the first students in Michigan to be vaccinated.

Burwell shared he was “surprised” by the recognition “amazed at the commitment of educators” and had been a founding member for the ESD organization (Mason County Intermediate School District).  Burwell played an integral role in the passing of the most recent WSESD’s Special Education millage. Kim Maue, assistant superintendent of special education explained that Burwell went, “above and beyond by coordinating fundraisers, letters to editors in local newspapers, and securing speaking engagements for WSESD leadership to share information about the millage.”

The amazing accomplishments and dedication of all the nominees were heartfelt and eye-opening as to the lengths that school staff extend themselves to create student success. Award recipients shared that they felt “ touched and honored” and “blessed” for the recognition. There are too many wonderful stories to share in this brief report, but the following list identifies the other recipients to receive an award:

Agency or Business: Tiffany Schafer – Michigan Rehabilitation Counselor

Administrator: Bruce Mangum – Baldwin Community Schools

Peer Support: Tim Fournier – Baldwin Community Schools, Madison Botts – Ludington O.J. DeJonge Middle School student

Ancillary: Stacy Cerka – WSESD

General Education Teacher: Ted Heinrich – Ludington Area Schools (LAS), Courtney Large – LAS, John Lipa – LAS, Claire Dickson – Mason County Eastern Schools (MCE), Hannah O’Conner – MCE, Lillian Coe – MCE, Alethea Meeker – MCE, Amanda Kistler – MCE, Abigail Nylund – MCE, Mary Patterson – Shelby Public Schools (SPS)

Special Education Teacher: Karen Knapp – Baldwin Community Schools – (BCS), Sonya Lund – BCS, Carol Webster – MCE, Shelley Carter Pentwater Public Schools – (PPS), Shellie Dorman – SPS

Support Staff: Ali Bach – LAS, Maggie Bates – LAS, Jeanne Hurd – MCE, Pam Schnarre – Mason County Central Schools, Lisa Davis – PPS, Carlos Santana – SPS, Jeff Russell – WSESD, Shirley Hunter – WSESD, Beth Kolaski – WSESD, Julie Lenzo – WSESD

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