Hopkins Foundation Presents Second Round of Awards
11 employees received $22,000 from the Hopkins Foundation this month
Seven long-time employees of Emporia schools today received Hopkins Awards for excelling in their support of students. Hopkins Awards were presented to the following staffers:
- Christy Dragonas, a language arts teacher at Emporia Middle School
- Gary Loucks, the head custodian at Timmerman Elementary School
- Jana Marstall, a business teacher at Emporia High School
- Jennifer Rutledge, a paraprofessional and aide at Village Elementary School
- Josh Pavlik, the art department chair at Emporia High School
- Marc Price, accounts payable at Mary Herbert Education Center
- Renae Tegtmeier, the head secretary and bookkeeper at Emporia High School
Each of the honorees received a $2,000 cash award from Michelle Hopkins-Molinaro, vice president and managing director of the foundation.
The Hopkins Foundation has given nearly $700,000 to teachers and support staff members in the Emporia schools since the inception of the awards. The awards program was a dream of Molinaro’s grandfather, E.L. Hopkins, as a way to reward educators.
Christy Dragonas was honored for being an outstanding team leader, teacher and mentor, whether in or outside the classroom. “She goes above and beyond and meets with students during her lunch time and outside of class to make sure they are getting what they need for their success. Christy is a very selfless teacher who strives to make her teaching and her student’s educational experience better every day,” one nominator wrote.
Christy’s “contagious” smile and upbeat demeanor has an impact on students and staff alike. “You can tell by the the way she looks when she is teaching that she loves her job,” one submission said. Another said, “She doesn’t let any student go unless they absolutely know what they learned.”
Rain or shine, Gary Loucks was mentioned for his work to ease the day for students and staff. “We can always rely on Mr. Loucks to carry through with whatever needs to be done. He will always find a way to help us. It is easy to see that it brings him great joy to serve others.”
That work can take place well before the start of the school day, like getting three pots of coffee ready for staff, and it can take place overnight. “He also comes in the wee morning hours to clear the snow in the parking lot so staff can park. If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is.”
Jana Marstall is busy working for students, both in and out of the classroom. She teaches several business-related classes, helped to create the Spartan Saver store at Emporia High School and is involved in numerous clubs and planning groups, including the Future Business Leaders of America, Advancement Via Individual Determination and Building Leadership Team. “Jana makes it all seem effortless when I absolutely know that is not the case. She is efficient, organized and continually revises to offer students the best opportunities. What a great role model and selfless individual she is! Jana shares her free time; she is a regular when it comes to extra duty,” one nomination read.
Nominations also said nothing stops Jana. “If one in every five teachers was like Jana, we would take over the world. There is no one I have ever met like her that loves her job, the people she works with, and the school more than her. She is willing to go above and beyond to be the best that she can be and make #EmporiaProud!”
Jennifer’s nominators constantly noted her willingness to go above and beyond for her students. One nomination read, “I wish I could clone her. I would hands-down make every teacher and para in our building be more like her, with myself at the front of that line. She is the very essence of who you want working with your students and my own children ask about her all summer and can’t wait for school to start so they can see her.”
Submissions also cited Jennifer’s ability to surpass expectations. According to one person, “I have not met anyone in my entire life that goes above and beyond in every single task they are assigned. Every. Single. Task. No matter how small or large the undertaking, Jenn joyfully gets to work and exceeds my expectations every single time.”
Josh is considered an innovative, compassionate and committed teacher by those nominating him for a Hopkins Award. One person said, “I was dreading (my assignment) because self portraits aren’t easy, let alone using oil paint to do it. Pavlik kept telling me, ‘You can do it, all you have to do is try. You might be surprised with the outcome.’ He was right. I could do it. Now seven years later, I have that self portrait hanging on a wall in my house.”
Art is about creativity and inspiration, and Josh is known for going outside the classroom to bring those qualities to those around him. “He takes the time to make learning fun, and with that he also makes sure that his students understand what he is talking about. When I was in school he constantly set us all up to succeed, when we were willing to learn,” one person wrote.
Marc is well known for her can-do attitude, problem-solving skills and ability to save the district money whenever possible. “Marc streamlines our operations by being our ‘go-to’ person to save the district money. If any staff in the cooperative needs to purchase something, I asked them to go to Marc first because she can find us a cheaper price on just about anything we purchase,” said one nomination.
Her willingness to guide others is also well known. “To me, the noteworthy service is the fact that she is the only accounts payable person in the district and can memorize the vast amount of account numbers, orders, and keep track of receipts on top of dealing every month with purchase card statements that range $100,000 plus a month; which most often include hundreds of individual purchase orders,” one person said. “She anticipates.”
Known at Emporia High as “Mrs. T,” Renae has also been called “the glue” that makes the office run smoothly. “She puts in countless hours to provide food and hospitality when we have a staff meeting or if we are hosting site council. She never wants to be recognized for her hard work and support she provides our staff. In my 10 years working with Mrs. T. I have never once heard her complain about her job, anyone she works with, or anything she is asked to do,” according to one submission.
Renae takes her willingness to help students and staff outside the office, whether it’s through work at the Spartan Stop or unusual situations with students, including help with one student who was having issues with her flip-flops. “It was evident that the shoes and flip-flops the young lady had were very special to her and regardless of the shoes’ condition, she was going to wear them. Renae went and bought stronger glue so that the next day, when the young lady came in, she would be ready for her. Oh, how excited the young lady was. Renae did not need to do this. It was not part of her job, but again this was a way of her touching a student’s life in a very special way. She showed that she cared about the student.”
About the Hopkins Awards
Hopkins Award nominations can be submitted anytime during the year by parents, student and staff. An online nomination form is posted on the homepage of the district website, www.usd253.org. A selection committee meets to review nominations and select winners. The recipients of the award are individuals who have gone above and beyond their normal job responsibilities. Winners exemplify one or more of these criteria:
- Innovation/Initiative/Simplification that demonstrates leadership or participation in a project or process of improvement that aligns with the district mission and/or streamlines operations.
- Collaboration as one team, school or district that demonstrates an outstanding commitment to teamwork by thinking creatively, removing internal boundaries and communicating effectively.
- Noteworthy Service that is extraordinary and exceeds expectations.
- Inspiring others to try new things or excel in new ways.
- Commitment to excellence in any endeavor that enhances the workplace and creates a positive work environment and culture of learning.