The Cain Sczepanski Foundation in Special Education was created by Bill, Carolyn and Cara Sczepanski in memorial to their son and brother, Cain. Cain lived for 24 years with Down syndrome and heart defects. He died on March 7, 2011, of a heart attack. Cain spent 18 years under the guidance of dedicated LISD instructors and paraprofessionals. The Award of Excellence was created by the Cain Sczepanski Foundation in Special Education to annually recognize special educators who demonstrate classroom excellence.
Congratulations to our 2019 winners!
- BETHANY HARDWICK, Downing Middle
- BRILLIANCE CRAYTON, Flower Mound 9th Grade
- JAMIE HASLEM, Old Settlers Elementary
- KRISTI GALEY, Valley Ridge Elementary
- LISA CRANFILL, Highland Village Elementary
BETHANY HARDWICK, DOWNING MIDDLE
Bethany Hardwick fills a role at Downing Middle School that isn’t often recognized with the Cain Sczepanski Award of Excellence in Special Education: Director of Orchestra.
In her role as orchestra director, Hardwick went above and beyond to team up with former Cain Sczepanski Award winner Jennifer Rodgers to form “Downing Gives Bach”, a safe place for special education students within the orchestra program. It grew into Lewisville ISD’s first full-time orchestra inclusion class and includes every Academic Life Skills student at Downing Middle.
Hardwick says that it has “completely changed” her teaching style in all of her classes, prompting her to reconsider how she teaches everything. She is so happy with how it has gone that she “can’t imagine life without it!”.
Her colleague, Rodgers, praises Hardwick’s effort that went into making it happen. She researched modifications and hardware to allow for better control of the instruments for students with challenges in small motor skills, individually fitted Life Skills students with appropriate instruments considering which students may need less sensory stress, and much more.
As a direct effect from Hardwick’s work, Downing Middle has seen the Circle of Friends program more than double in size due to a spark in interest from the general education students in the orchestra. Rodgers says her Life Skills students are being invited to social events outside of school for the first time ever and that she is seeing general education students considering careers teaching special needs students.
Lora Swindle, an eighth-grader at Downing Middle, says she didn’t realize how similar special needs students were to her in so many ways and that this program changed her life and perspective.
A parent, Michelle Woods, admitted being “truly amazed by how the efforts of one individual can make such a monumental difference in the world of a special needs child.” She went on to outline the immeasurable progress she saw in her son, but also how much the program uplifted her spirits as a parent.
At Downing Middle, thanks to Bethany Hardwick, orchestra students are learning what #AllMeansAll really means.
BRILLIANCE CRAYTON, FLOWER MOUND 9TH GRADE
Brilliance Crayton is an SDI and BASE teacher at Flower Mound 9th and has proved invaluable at the campus. A colleague said, “She works tirelessly to get the best out of her students and myself.”
Crayton creates unique activities to enhance the learning experience of all students she works with, modifying and accommodating the work to fit the special needs of each student.
A student of hers said, “She’s helped me even when she didn’t realize it, and I’m truly grateful for her. I believe she deserves this award more than anyone.”
Crayton believes that students with disabilities can achieve success when teachers promote their best interests and create a variety of learning opportunities. It’s clear that is what she is doing at Flower Mound 9th Grade Campus and it’s getting noticed.
JAMIE HASLEM, OLD SETTLERS ELEMENTARY
Jamie Haslem has an amazing spirit of joy, patience, and love that she brings to the classroom each day, according to a former parent at Old Settlers Elementary.
“My son adores her,” said Kelly Braugh.
Inspired by her mother, a special education teacher for over 40 years, Haslem is determined to invest her time, love, passion, and energy into her students and their futures.
Paula Paterson, the Lead Special Education teacher at Old Settlers, said she can tell when someone just understands her students.
“Ms. Haslem knows how to encourage students in a positive way. She finds the strengths of each individual learner and fosters it. She treats each student as their own shining star!” said Paterson.
Colleagues across Old Settlers Elementary rave about Haslem with one even saying, “She is loved by all, as evidenced by the student hugs, smiles, high fives, and hellos.”
KRISTI GALEY, VALLEY RIDGE ELEMENTARY
Kristi Galey of Valley Ridge Elementary said that she immediately fell in love with special education.
“I felt like I was right where I was meant to be,” Galey said. “I soaked it all in and learned all I could about special education.”
She strives every day to point out something that her students do well, hoping that it will teach them that everyone can do something well.
It’s that connection Galey makes with each student that makes her so effective. She worked with a kindergarten student who would not talk to anyone but her parents when starting school. Now, in third grade, that student has the confidence to raise her hand in class every day, making great strides in math and reading, and has a wonderful set of school friends. Galey’s colleagues say that’s just one of hundreds of special education students Galey has helped in her many years of teaching.
In addition to her work with special education students, Galey is the epitome of a teacher leader on campus according to her principal Rachel Garrett.
Her work stands out to parents too as one admitted that Galey is the reason her family hasn’t moved – they did not want to lose Krisi Galey. That same parent described Galey as a “warrior and champion” for her students.
Amid anxiety of her daughter starting school, the parent said that what she didn’t know was that Kristi Galey would be on her daughter’s side. Kristi Galey is on the side of all of her students and it shows.
LISA CRANFILL, HIGHLAND VILLAGE ELEMENTARY
When Lisa Cranfill of Highland Village Elementary taught resource and inclusion, she knew she had found her love, her passion, her purpose in life.
“Being a teacher in special education made my heart sing,” said Cranfill.
She has now gone on to become the Behavior Intervention Classroom (BIC) teacher at HVE, and it is there that she says she feels the deepest connections with her students and their families.
“It is the highest honor that parents trust me with the emotional health of their child,” said Cranfill.
Her principal, Leslye Mitchell, says that Cranfill took the hardest teaching position in the school as the BIC teacher, but that she has transformed it into a happy and calm place of learning.
“Ms. Cranfill has been instrumental in creating a culture of high expectation embedded with love and support for our special education students,” said Mitchell.
A parent said that Cranfill “swooped in and saved the day” with their child, using constant love and care. There were countless admissions from parents who simply could not find a positive environment for their children until they landed in Cranfill’s classroom.
“Her students love her. The parents love her. And the campus loves her,” said Mitchell.