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This year, more than 50 nomination packets were submitted for the District-level Annual Awards. Amid the nomination packets, recommendation letters and educational philosophies, applicants are stories of educators and support staff who share a deep passion for our students, their wellbeing, and journey to academic excellence.

Selecting ten individuals to represent this year’s award winners was no easy task, but through a blind voting process, the 2023-24 Annual Award winners exemplify teachers, volunteers, and others who shine their brightest while making an impact on students.

This week, Superintendent Jinger Haberer surprised winners at their schools to celebrate their win before recognizing each winner at the 2024 Back to School Rally when staff returns in August.

Find a list and short summary about each 2023-24 Annual Award winner below.

2023-24 Thomas S. Crawford Team Award

Biomedical Sciences Team: Mitch Burke, Dana Malfeld, Kevin Heise, Discovery Canyon Campus High School

The Biomedical Sciences Team at Discovery Canyon Campus High School does more than provide exceptional academic support. Their remarkable interpersonal skills, empathy, and genuine commitment to supporting their peers have proven their dedication to excellence and innovation in education.

Their nominator, DCCHS Assistant Principal Michael Carpenter said, “Their unwavering dedication to excellence, emphasis on relationships, and commitment to providing a quality education sets them apart as exceptional educators and mentors. I am confident that their impact will continue to inspire and empower students and colleagues for years to come.”

The team shared that, in their classrooms, collaboration is not just a concept; it’s a way of life.

2023-24 School Administrator of the Year

Anna Keilman, Air Academy High School

Anna Keilman is a seasoned educator with a long personal and professional history in education. Whether she’s coordinating with teachers and staff for struggling students or planning Teacher Appreciation Week at Air Academy, her dedication and compassion to students and staff makes her an outstanding example of leadership and excellence in D20.

Her nominators, Bob Wingett and Lora Reichenecker tells us, “Anna’s contributions to our school have been invaluable, and we have no doubt that she will continue to make a significant impact at AAHS and in the district.”

Anna said, “Being a lifelong learner helps me remain innovative as an administrator.”

2023-24 John Asbury Secondary Educator of the Year

Matt Stewart, Village High School

Matt Stewart’s dedication to teaching and helping others do better in the community is unparalleled. He is a beloved mentor to many Village students. As a mentor, he shows a kind and compassionate nature to ensure that all students feel valued, appreciated and loved while maintaining high expectations. He is committed to learning the “why” behind students who struggle and finding them the best path for their unique circumstances.

His nominator Katie Redinger says, “[Nominating him] is easy because there is no one that I have met in my 25+ years of teaching that is more deserving of this honor than Matt.”

Village High School Senior (’24) Alex Barnes says, “Since day one he’s been there to encourage and plan out my success when I need it the most. He’s the best teacher and the best mentor I could have gotten.”

2023-24 Charles W. Tewell Elementary Educator of the Year

Caitlin Mulligan, Frontier Elementary School

Caitlin Mulligan is an exceptional leader, role model, and an outstanding teacher at Frontier Elementary School. She has an eagerness to learn, a willingness to take on leadership

roles, a heart for supporting fellow colleagues, and a passion for student growth and achievement.

Whether she is collaborating with teammates to incorporate new and proven strategies, supporting student council and yearbook, or organizing the food drive, she is always willing to go the extra mile.

Her nominator Principal Julie Murray says, “Caitlin is an advocate for doing what is best for students. She has high expectations for herself and students. She works hard to connect with her students and ensure not only high academic achievement, but social emotional growth as well… She truly cares about students and their families.”

2023-24 Classified Staff Member of the Year

Shawna Shepherd, Liberty High School

Shawna Shepherd’s tireless dedication to Liberty High School does not go unnoticed. While she began as a dedicated volunteer to LHS, Timberview Middle School and Frontier Elementary School, she now serves as a well-respected leader, bookkeeper, and member of the District Finance Allocation Committee.

Her nominator, Principal Matthew Sisson writes, “ Shawna is seen as a valued member of the staff and provides great insight to ensure that teachers are receiving the support they need to be successful in the classroom. Shawna is a major asset to Liberty High School and creates a cohesive and forward-thinking mindset throughout the school.”

She says, “Every person that walks through my office door is a unique individual. Some I interact with daily and have opportunities to build relationships with, to learn what their goals are: Students that want to go to a four-year university, join the military, work in a trade… I want them to know that someone believes in them.”

2023-24 Volunteer of the Year

Shannon Hester, Liberty High School

Shannon’s dedication to Academy District 20 reaches across several schools, district committees and parent organizations. When someone is needed, Shannon always answers the call. Currently, she serves on several committees at both Timberview Middle School and Liberty High School, and at the district level is the Chair of the District Accountability Committee.

“I truly believe that Academy District 20 is the best district around and anything I can do to help that is an honor,” Shannon said.

Not only is the district thankful for her time and service to the district, but our community is better for it. Whether she’s making science kits, creating photo booths or presenting to the Board of Education, Shannon’s contributions will leave a lasting impact on the district.

2023-24 Special Education Specialist of the Year

Tonya Merkle, Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Education & Administration Center

Tonya is admired for her dedication to students and staff alike. Her genuine care for people goes beyond her call of duty and she is dedicated to making sure everyone has what they need to be successful. She is praised for being an incredible team player, and an even better leader amongst her team.

Her nominator shares, "[She always has] a positive attitude, a loving heart and a special attitude of how 'we' can fix this together."

2023-24 Early Childhood Educator of the Year

Beth Tyra, District Special Education Preschool Teacher, Education & Administration Center

Beth has jumped into her role feet first-- a challenging but rewarding task that proves her love and dedication to her students. Her collaboration with Child Find and her enthusiasm for regular evaluations, weekly staff newsletters and so much more have a genuine impact on her team and students alike. She is a lifelong learner who is unafraid of exploring new technology. And her involvement doesn't stop there! She provides support to preschool sites across the district and cheerfully supports schools in need of long-term substitutes.

"[Beth is] always willing to help, no matter the task," her nominator says.