Congratulations Fall 2020 Great Employees Matter (GEMs)
Coppell ISD announces the district’s fall 2020 Great Employees Matter or GEMs. These employees are nominated by their peers for going above and beyond in serving our district.
Congratulations to Becca Conn and Kirby Leonard, Kindergarten Teachers at Lakeside Elementary; Diane de Waal, Social Studies Department Chair at Coppell High School; Sara Hope, Fifth Grade Teacher at Pinkerton Elementary; Gabriel Lopez, Instructional Aide at Victory Place @ Coppell; Genaro Lopez, Director of Facilities and Maintenance; Julie Mosty Librarian at Mockingbird Elementary; Marly Natherson, Fifth Grade Teacher at Town Center Elementary; Micha Patel, Educational Diagnostician for Intervention Services; Gena Pellman, Special Education Aide at Cottonwood Creek Elementary; Stephanie Robertson, Theatre and iExplore Teacher at CMS North; and Annmarie Vincenzo, Kindergarten Teacher at Canyon Ranch Elementary.
Becca Conn and Kirby Leonard
Nominated by Lakeside Principal Gema Hall, Becca Conn and Kirby Leonard were selected as GEMs because of their support of a colleague who was in an accident the first week of school.
In her nomination, Principal Hall wrote, “Becca and Kirby’s teammate suffered a severe accident the first week of school. They supported their hospitalized teammate, whose husband was also in the ICU.”
According to Hall, Becca and Kirby reached out to their teammate’s three children, sent meals, kept them calm and informed.
“They also coordinated campus support, including transportation home or to medical follow-ups, taking on instructional responsibilities, leading Zoom lessons due to their colleague’s concussion, communicating to families, organizing meals and visiting this teammate after school to make sure she had everything she needed,” Principal Hall said. “We say that we value authentic relationships, but these contributions are beyond a collegial relationship. In this instance, Becca and Kirby were friends, guardians, advisors and sisters to their teammate.”
Diane de Waal
Diane de Waal was nominated by Coppell High School Assistant Principal Aylor Rix.
Rix wrote, “Diane de Waal goes above and beyond in her call of duty. Diane has accomplished many things this school year that go above her expected job requirements, including, but not limited to creating treat bags for the substitutes that work in the Social Studies department, organizing Recognition Days for CHS, celebrating staff birthdays with virtual birthday cards and planning an election day flyer contest for students.”
Sara Hope’s nominator and colleague Erin Baker, who also teaches fifth grade at Pinkerton, nominated Sara for her commitment to great teaching.
Baker wrote, “Sara has made a huge difference in our fifth-grade instruction at Pinkerton this year. She now teaches all fifth-grade virtual learners, splitting her in-person learners between the other 5th grade teachers. The quality of instruction for both groups of learners has improved tremendously.
Baker continued, “Sara spends weekends pouring over lessons — creating ways to ensure fidelity and make them as engaging in a virtual environment as in the classroom. She has incentivized attendance and effort greatly improving her learners’ motivation and output. She also attends weekend sporting events for all virtual learners, not just hers. Sara truly personifies all four of CISD’s core values.”
Nominated by the entire staff at Victory Place @ Coppell, Gabriel is a GEM for exemplifying CISD’s core value of authentic relationships.
According to the team at Victory Place, Gabriel is a superstar Instructional Aide. He cheerfully greets learners every morning and makes everyone feel valued. He contributes to the restorative atmosphere by writing positive whiteboard messages to them and constantly encouraging learners.
Gabriel also supports Turning Point and has been invaluable as the Zoom DJ managing all breakout rooms for content areas that change daily. He’s also assumed new COVID-19-related duties, including bringing clean towels from CMS North every day and scheduling and monitoring prescriptive tests for educators. He also organizes daily “learner lunches” and is an outstanding role model to our Victory Place family.
Nominated by Chief Operations Officer Dr. Greg Axelson, Genaro Lopez is a GEM due to his and this team’s work to get schools ready to welcome students during COVID-19.
Dr. Axelson wrote, “During the summer of 2020, the Facilities and Maintenance team was confronted with never-before-seen challenges. Summer projects, new construction and renovations, annual repairs and upkeep, and endless work orders always keep the team hopping. Mr. Lopez and his team now had the additional responsibility of preparing our schools and central office buildings for a safe return amid a global pandemic.”
Dr. Axelson continued, “Suddenly immersed in receiving, picking up, counting, distributing, and installing hundreds of thousands of pieces of Personal Protective Equipment districtwide, Mr. Lopez never became overwhelmed. He never complained. He never lost sight of his team’s purpose — to support our schools and keep them safe for our September 8 opening.”
Nominated by Mockingbird School Counselor Jayci Cruz, Julie Mosty is a GEM for modeling CISD’s core values.
Cruz wrote, “Mrs. Mosty embodies the Learning Framework and our CISD values. She has had other librarians from across the Metroplex visit Mockingbird, because of her innovative ideas, such as re-creating the ‘Macy’s Day Parade’ using the book ‘Balloons on Broadway.’
Cruz continued, “Mrs. Mosty taught our kindergarten learners what it means to be on a design team by assigning jobs like Balloon Designer, Animator and Production Manager. She also taught these students how to code small robots with balloons.”
Nominated by fellow fifth-grade teacher Meredith Schaaf, Marly Natherson is a GEm for her commitment to authentic relationships.
Schaaf wrote, “Authentic relationships count to Ms. Natherson. She often works with colleagues after school and on weekends, and we can always count on her encouragement. When several of her students were struggling with sitting still while using their iPads, she researched what to do and used her own money to purchase footstools to help them focus.”
Schaaf continued, “It’s not uncommon to find Ms. Natherson at a sporting event or performance cheering on her learners, past and present. Kind to her core, she even attended the funeral of a former student, out of respect for the family and their long-standing relationship. She is Town Center’s rare GEM.”
Micha Patel was nominated by colleague Mary Kennington, a Dyslexia Diagnostician and Assessment Specialist.
Kennington wrote, “I’ve never worked with an Educational Diagnostician so thorough, compassionate, positive, and learner and colleague focused as Micha. She epitomizes every core value CISD holds dear. On several, recent, difficult cases, Micha ‘rolled up her sleeves’ to help me with data collection, and assessment collaboration, so qualification decisions for the children being assessed were accurate.”
Kennington continued, “We ‘dug’ through records, collaborated over late-night phone calls, and she never once made me feel like an imposition. Micha’s a great facilitator, always asking the tough questions — in the right way, at the right time -— to advocate for a child. Micha’s beyond good, she's beyond a 'great educator that matters,’ she's superior.”
Nominated by Cottonwood Creek Special Education Teacher Bonnie Kokal, Gena is a GEM because of her commitment to her learners.
Kokal wrote, “Gena Pellman is the eyes and ears of our Special Ed team. As a paraprofessional on our campus, she not only does her job, but she researches various content ideas and new teaching strategies to use in our Practical Academics class.”
Kokal continued, “Mrs. Pellman also goes above and beyond in non-academic ways, too, by attending after-hours performances— even going on stage to help learners participate and show support. She never hesitates to do whatever she is asked to do. She truly makes Cottonwood Creek the best it can be.”
Nominated by CMS North Theatre Director Brittany Reese, Stephanie Robertson is a GEM because of her innovation in teaching her students.
Reese wrote, “Stephanie Robertson’s knowledge of technology and creativity — for three sections of Theatre and the entire iExplore class — has kept our team organized and able to meet the demands of several hundred students. She finds ways, like grouping, to engage distance and in-person learners in the same activities.”
Reese continued, “When a team member was out sick for days, Stephanie used the Library’s laptops to log in to multiple Zooms each period to ensure learners were prepared and actively engaged in their lessons. She even forfeited her lunch and conference period for two weeks to run the North change drive benefiting the local food pantry. Stephanie’s a giver and a gift to CMS North.”
Annmarie Vincenzo was nominated by fellow Canyon Ranch Kindergarten Teacher Arian Brown.
Brown wrote, “Annmarie pays attention to details daily — complimenting new haircuts, shoes, etc; telling and showing how much she loves her kindergarteners, writing them sweet notes of encouragement; and implementing lunch bunch so we can focus on social and emotional learning.”
Brown continued, “Anticipating low Halloween participation, Annmarie spear-headed a campus-wide storybook character day with a drive-up area to safely take pictures of costumed kids. Annmarie developed an interactive, virtual checklist to assess kindergartners and orchestrated sending a book bag of physical books home with learners every two weeks. She is the heart of Canyon Ranch.”