Former District 153 board member Tom Dockweiler presented copies of two books, “Throw Like a Girl” and “Boys in the Boat” to the three winners of this year’s Dockweiler Award, presented at the board’s Oct. 15 meeting.
The books offer inspiring stories that underscore the importance of hard work in pursuit of difficult goals, a message Dockweiler was known for advocating while he was a board member.
Board president Shelly Marks reminded the audience why the award was named for Dockweiler.
“He always encouraged us to continue to raise the bar,” she said. “More importantly, he recognized every measure of a student’s success is not through their report card or their grades. Much of the measure of a student’s success is through the growth they make each hear. So when he retired from the board we decided an appropriate way to honor Tom’s service would be with the TD award, recognizing student growth and achievement.”
Dockweiler said he was honored to have the award named for him, but he said the credit for the district’s pursuit of excellence precedes him.
“This district has tried to raise the bar long before me,” he said. “This district wouldn’t be where it is if it didn’t value quality education. This town wouldn’t be where it is if the town wasn’t willing to finance quality education. Quality education is not cheap.”
This year’s recipients of the award were second grader Natalee Nunnery, fifth grader Jonathan Richardson and seventh grader Zay Simmons.
Natalee was unable to attend the meeting, but Willow School Principal Melissa Lawson offered comments about why she was selected for the honor.
“Natalee showed tremendous growth during her time at Willow,” Lawson said, noting that Natalee joined the school after the school year had started and still managed to improve her test scores dramatically.
“What we hope for is a little over 200 for second graders. Her growth was over 400 points, which is really amazing,” Lawson said. “Natalee always works hard and has a positive attitude. She makes the most of every opportunity to learn and every situation with which she is faced. We are proud of how much she accomplished and know great things will come for her.”
Churchill School Principal Nikki Kerr introduced Jonathan, noting that his reading and math test scores improved more than 400 points.
“That is tremendous growth for a student,” she said. “He is kind to others, a hard worker and a good friend. We are so proud of his accomplishments.”
James Hart School Principal Scott McAlister introduced Zay Enna Simmons, a seventh grade student.
“The first time I met her was just a few days into her 6th grade school year. I was out ‘Painting the Sidewalks’ with chalk to welcome the students back to school and Zay came up, introduced herself, and asked me if I’d like her help,” he said. “She was so friendly and had a big smile, two characteristics she stills maintains on a daily basis.”
Academically, Zay made big leaps, with her reading scores rising 39 percent in one year and her math scores increasing 41 percent, McAlister said.
Marks was so impressed with Zay that she encouraged her to think about running for public office, possibly school board, after she turns 18.
“We’re going to need some great board members in six years,” Marks said. “You are an impressive young lady.”
Dockweiler said the students’ progress was evidence that working harder will pay off.
“I think we can all guarantee that you will never be sorry for working a little harder,” he said.