Home » News » Nine Win Cain Sczepanski Awards of Excellence

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 2018 winners!

  • Marie Beck, Flower Mound Elementary
  • Taryn Burton, Purnell Support Center
  • Karen Cummings, Hebron High School
  • Kim Jacobs, Old Settlers Elementary
  • Kelly Krause-Reed, Lillie J. Jackson Early Childhood Center
  • Britney Latham, Parkway Elementary
  • Jennifer Rodgers, Downing Middle
  • Candace Webb, Timber Creek Elementary
  • Tharine Wells, Wellington Elementary


Marie Beck overflows with enthusiasm and energy when she works with students in her classroom at Flower Mound Elementary, so much so that her colleagues say that she has been “lighting up Flower Mound Elementary for six years.” Said to go above and beyond any other paraprofessional according to another communications teacher at FME, Marie doesn’t just love her own students, but the entire school population. “It seems like love just pours out of her like sweat from a basketball player,” another teacher said.

While her work with her students is what earned her this award, it should not go unnoticed that she cheers on the staff as much as she does students. Marie, a paraprofessional, is described as having a contagious joy that is captured by students and staff alike. In fact, the odds are on her to win a vote among the entire school for the happiest teacher on campus.

Her principal says that the school has watched Marie’s students go on to the next classroom setting, knowing they will become successful citizens. She uses a number of ways to prepare them, most notably acting out situations in order to help students understand nonverbal cues of what is going on. And she’s not afraid to look silly, says her colleagues. Well, looking silly, as well as everything else she does for her students at Flower Mound Elementary, earned her one of this year’s Cain Sczepanski Awards of Excellence.


Taryn Burton, TEAMS Department Lead Teacher at Purnell Support Center, says that she wanted to be the amazing teachers that she had. As one of this year’s Cain Sczepanski Award of Excellence winners, it’s safe to say she is.

She chose special education because it’s where her heart is. She works to highlight the strengths in her students in order to build them up and foster as much confidence and independence as possible. Taryn believes that you find success in the small things and that those small things are, in fact, not small at all.

Her principal says, with absolute certainty, that Ms. Burton is the most passionate and gifted educator he’s ever had the pleasure to work with. She has a knack for reaching some students that nobody else can. According to her colleagues, there are endless examples of students in which she saw potential and nurtured it when nobody else could.

In addition to her work with the students, her position as Lead Teacher asks much of her. However, her principal says she has been the single biggest influence on the TEAMS program since her arrival.


Karen Cummings of Hebron High School, is “joyful with the kindness, niceness and calmness,” said one of her students. A driven, devoted teacher, Mrs. Cummings develops inspiring relationships with her students, not just by teaching but by investing in all of her students.

The Special Education Department Chair at HHS says that Karen’s students adore her and work very hard for her both inside and outside of the classroom. Much of that is inspired by her work for them whether in the classroom, at extracurricular functions, as a co-sponsor for the Circle of Friends Club, initiator of two school-wide programs and more.

Mrs. Cummings is the type of person that cares for and invests in all people. Her assistant principal marvels at how well Mrs. Cummings connects with a student’s family, leading to relationships that continue well past high school. For that reason, it comes as no surprise that a former student’s parent recommended her for the award.

“Having Karen as our daughter’s teacher was such a joy. We received consistent words of praise for our daughter,” that parent said. “Karen sees our children as exceptional young adults and wants them and everyone else to see them that way as well.”


Kim Jacobs, a paraprofessional in a Behavioral Intervention Class at Old Settlers Elementary, has heard the question before – How do you do that job every day? She smiles and says, “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!”

She has been seen doing cartwheels in the hallway, log-rolling into a classroom, and more, but the message is clear: Ms. Jacobs will do anything to help her students. That diligence as well as an ability to think outside the box when it comes to solving problems for her students makes her stand out.

Her colleagues say Ms. Jacobs has a reputation of excellence. That can be attributed to her work ethic as she works tirelessly to give each student the tools they need to thrive in any environment. Her principal says that Kim’s work is “something in which she has invested her heart.” That assessment is spot on as Kim says, “Unconditional love is what I give … always!”


Kelly Krause-Reed of Lillie J. Jackson Early Childhood Center is a product of Lewisville ISD, one who was highly involved in Circle of Friends as a student. It was an amzing experience for her and one of the reasons she became a teacher, along with the fact that she knew she wanted to be a special educator like her mother, Linda Krause.

Kelly, nominated by her students’ parents, is described as having a “get things done” attitude, one that the parents of her students greatly appreciate. Respected and adored by her students, Mrs. Krause-Reed certainly inspires with her intelligence, enthusiasm, humor and creativity.

Her main focus when it comes to her students is teaching them to advocate for themselves and instilling confidence in them. Clearly, it’s appreciated. One parent said that she helped her son blossom.


Britney Latham, a communications teacher at Parkway Elementary, is a very treasured teacher in and out of the classroom according to one of her students’ parents. That same parent said, “It’s not easy to find someone with such motivation, dedication, trustworthiness, talent, and responsibility. She has very quickly earned a place in our heart.”

She has a true calling and talent when it comes to working with students on the autism spectrum, a colleague says. That makes sense as it was time spent with a cousin’s autistic daughter that helped her discover her desire to teach in special education.

“Regardless of their level, I always strive to help them grow as much as possible during their time spent with me,” Ms. Latham says of her students. She stands strong in her convictions that every student can learn, be successful, and should have the same opportunities despite their difference in abilities.


Jennifer Rodgers, an academic life skills teacher who heads the special education department at Downing Middle School, feels like she was born to be a teacher. The parents of her students agree with one saying, “I continue to be amazed with the progress my daughter has made under the loving guidance of Mrs. Rodgers.”

Her principal says that she’s “never had the opportunity to work with anyone more committed to excellence in the classroom or more compassionate towards the students.” She leaves no stone unturned when looking for experiences to enrich the students’ educational experience at Downing Middle.

While her great work with the students is impossible to go unnoticed, Mrs. Rodgers also serves as a great mentor for her fellow teachers. Her work enriches the staff as a whole at Downing Middle, and the parents notice.

“My daughter absolutely loves to come to school and talks about Mrs. Rodgers all the time,” said a student’s parent.


“She is too good to be true!”

That’s what one of her students said about Candace Webb, a Speech-Language Pathologist at Timber Creek Elementary School.

Her colleagues wonder how they ever made it without her. As an invaluable member of the team, Mrs. Webb demonstrates such confidence and knowledge without being overbearing. She adds guidance for teachers and connects with her students.

She sees it as her job to encourage and build confidence in her students so they can grow not only in their speech and language skills, but also as people. Described as kind and patient, Mrs. Webb’s classroom is fun, engaging and effective.

Her assistant principal says that Candace is always happy to lend a helping hand, greet parents and make everyone feel welcome and a part of the campus culture. “she’s a breath of fresh air.”


Tharine Wells, a paraprofessional at Wellington Elementary School, deserves to be recognized for her contributions, according to a parent of one of her students.

“As a parent of a child who struggles in school, it is such a relief to know that Mrs. Wells is there to provide caring assistance,” said that parent.

Frequently giving up her lunch break or coming to school early to spend extra time with students, Mrs. Wells’ impact is immeasurable. She is described as caring, loving, supportive, encouraging, and dedicated to all the students in her care.

As for Mrs. Wells, she can’t ever remember NOT wanting to teach. Her infectious personality is best seen at morning duty when she is the first face the kids see in the morning. Mrs. Wells chooses to be upbeat and happy to try to make a small difference for all of the students she greets. The difference she makes is clear, and represented in the Cain Sczepanski Award of Excellence.