CLARK COUNTY — Although schools are shut down, that didn’t stop a local district from providing a special celebration for recipients of its end-of-year awards.
Greater Clark County Schools surprised the three winners of Teacher of the Year, Staff Member of the Year and Principal of the Year with home visits Friday morning. Superintendent Mark Laughner and other administrators knocked on doors of recipients to greet them with a Publishers Clearing House-style award presentation featuring giant checks, balloons and other gifts.
Each recipient received $500 from the Greater Clark County Schools’ Educational Foundation, and the district’s Teacher of the Year will compete for the Indiana Teacher of the Year award.
The Teacher of the Year award and home visit came as a surprise to Ashleigh Emily, a fifth grade teacher at Utica Elementary School in Jeffersonville.
“It’s humbling, and it’s very much appreciated that my peers thought highly of me to be nominated for this,” she said. “It’s awesome, but at the same time, there are just so many wonderful teachers. It’s an amazing honor.”
Teaching is “absolutely everything” to Emily, who has taught at Utica Elementary for 15 years. She loves seeing the “light in students’ eyes when they learn something new,” she said, and during the switch to eLearning, she has been meeting with students multiple times a week for fun activities and games.
She will probably use the $500 for new books for her students, she said.
Laughner said Emily goes above and beyond as a teacher, and she has adapted quickly to do “whatever it takes” to educate students over the past few weeks.
“No. 1, she wants to make sure all of her students are learning, and No. 2, she builds relationships with all of her students, and those interactions are things those kids will take with them for years and years,” he said.
David Nelson, a technology specialist at Greater Clark for nearly 17 years, was named Employee of the Year. He was “overwhelmed and very humbled” to receive the award,” he said.
“I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” he said. “I just try to do my job the best I can.”
Nelson has been working from home and the office each week, and he has faced the challenge of troubleshooting technological problems when he’s not there to see what’s going on.
At a time when students are relying on technology more than ever, Nelson has been working hard to help students, parents and teachers through issues, Laughner said.
“Everybody in the administration building loves David, because he does such a great job, and when you call him, he’s there right away to help you out, and that means a lot to everybody,” he said. “He always has an answer to the problem and is able to fix it.”
The Principal of the Year award went to Sara Porter, principal at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School in Charlestown.
“Honestly, I don’t feel like it’s about me at all — it’s about the students and staff,” she said. “I love what I do because of them.”
This is her sixth year as the school’s principal, and she has worked for Greater Clark for 16 years. It’s been difficult being away from staff and students amid the pandemic, but she has been amazed to see the faculty’s growth as they provide virtual resources and videos for students’ remote learning, in addition to paper packets.
Laughner said Porter has been staying in touch with faculty and staff over the past weeks to make sure they continue to collaborate amid the shutdown.
“Sarah just does a fantastic job of leading her staff, making sure students are taken care of and making sure high-level learning is taking place,” Laughner said.