Here is the nomination letter from Mr. Hicks....
Educator Award of Excellence
2017 Nomination Application
Nominee: Rhonda L. Shepherd
School: St. Joseph Consolidated School
It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to nominate this outstanding educator, Mrs. Rhonda L. Shepherd, for the Educator Award of Excellence. Mrs. Shepherd started her career here at St. Joseph working as a teacher aide in kindergarten. Her primary assignment involved working with a student with Down Syndrome. While our school has a long history of working with students who have special learning needs, accepting a student with Down Syndrome was a decision that was clearly taking us into uncharted waters. The first months of that journey were challenging to our determination and commitment. We clearly had a lot to learn. Rarely have I witnessed an educator who engaged so fully and whole heartedly in taking on such a demanding challenge. Mrs. Shepherd spent countless hours, much on her own time, learning about Down Syndrome in general and about specific learning strategies that she applied the this new student under her care. Drawing on every source she could find and working extremely close with the student’s parents; she researched, evaluated, and produced a large percentage of the learning material that she used on a daily basis. Her enthusiasm was contagious and her determination was rock solid. She was unwilling to accept anything short of success for this young man. Her commitment to his learning and her own resulted in her enrolling in Miami University, where she completed her Bachelor of Science in Education with a certification as an Intervention Specialist.
Eight years later, she is still involved in guiding this amazing student, who is now entering the eighth grade and preparing to graduate. Guiding is an accurate term, because he has progressed dramatically over time and needs less and less of her attention. The goal of every educator is to give a student wings to fly and stand back and watch him/her soar. Mrs. Shepherd can legitimately take great pride in the significant role she has played in this young man’s ability to soar.
In recent years, she has redirected her time to several other St. Joseph students with various learning needs, and more recently to a new student with Down Syndrome. The substantial experience that she gained working with learning issues related to Down Syndrome and other special needs over the past eight years, and the good that she has done for our students with that experience, should not go unnoticed. It is for this reason that I whole heartedly recommend her to you as a candidate for the Harry T. Wilks Educator Award of Excellence.