Achievement Above All - Special Programs

Achievement Above All - Special Programs


Teacher of The Year - Brett Eklund

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Northern Annex Facilitator introducing Teacher of The Year Brett Eklund.

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Brett Eklund thanking the Governing Board. 

Special Programs are comprised of four distinctively different programs: Homebound Education, Metrocenter Academy, Next Step and Transitions.    Each program nominates a candidate for each category and a committee chooses the honorees.  I will be presenting The Educator Achievement Above All recipient from the Transitions Program tonight, Mr. Brett Eklund.  Mr. Eklund has been the cornerstone of the Transitions Program for the past 9 years.  To say Mr. Eklund makes a difference each day in the lives of his students would be an understatement and almost seem a bit trite.  Of course, all educators make a difference; however, Mr. Eklund works everyday with students that most have given up on. He serves as a mentor and brother-figure helping shape lives that are often out of control.   With a smile, a joke, reassuring word or the simple act of listening, Mr. Eklund forms an enduring relationship with students, that is the basis of all that he does in the classroom and outside.  He is often called upon to help out when students are in distress and is always willing to come quickly and de-escalate a crisis.  Students and staff alike respect Mr. Eklund’s approach and seemingly magical ability to turn situations around into a positive lesson for students.  As one colleague says, he is the David Copperfield of behavior intervention. He works not just to stop the current behavior but works toward prevention of future issues.  His communication and persuasion skills are unmatched among the Transitions team. 

This semester he has taken his ability to form positive relationships into a new position of phase liaison on the main campuses.  In addition to his normal responsibilities at Transitions as department chair and teacher he now facilitates successful phasing for students from Transitions to their home schools.  He is often asked to assist in the development of behavior plans on the campuses due to his incredible insight into behavior and his ability to develop meaningful behavior intervention plans. 


Next Step Support Staff of The Year - Troy Damper

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Next Step teacher Kathy Caretto introducing Support Staff of The Year Troy Damper.

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Troy Damper thanking the Governing Board.

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Governing Board member Vicki Johnson presenting Troy with his award.

Troy received his degree as a Developmental Disability Specialist and spent many years at Cortez working with the special needs students. Now he is currently working at Next Step as a Job Coach. Troy meets with students and determines their skills and interests, then matches the students with supportive development. First Troy learns the job himself, then trains the student, works side by side at the job site with the student, determines when the student is ready to do the job alone and then provides ongoing support with on site meetings with the student and employer.

Troy is constantly in touch and helps teach our students how to positively interact with other employees and their boss. He helps them learn how to appropriately advocate for themselves.

Troy’s vision for the future is to start his own day program for people with disabilities.

Next Step Student of The Year - Joshuaan Williams

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Next Step teacher Kathy Caretto introducing Student of The Year Joshuaan Williams.

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Joshuaan thanking the Governing Board.

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Governing Board member Pam Reicks presenting Joshuaan with his award.

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Joshuaan is caring, polite and always has a big smile. He has become a definite role model for other students in the program. Joshuaan has also been extremely successful in our culinary arts after school program that is a partnership between our district and WESTMEC to more individualize job training. Joshuaan has taken these skills he has learned and is currently working two days a week with the chef at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel.

He also has a passion for singing, dancing and rapping. Joshuaan gives his peers tools to positively express themselves and their feelings.