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Nominate a Special Educator Today!

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.

Cain Sczepanski Award of Excellence Nomination forms must be received by 4:30 p.m. on March 1, 2019, at the LEF office located at 400 West Main Street, Lewisville, TX 75057. Any questions should be addressed to LEF Programs Coordinator Sherah Robinson (robinsonsl@lisd.net, 469-948-2020).

Nominate a Special Educator Today!

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, FLOWER MOUND 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, PURNELL SUPPORT CENTER

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, HEBRON HIGH SCHOOL

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, OLD SETTLERS ELEMENTARY

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, LILLIE J. JACKSON EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER

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, PARKWAY ELEMENTARY

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, DOWNING MIDDLE

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.

CANDACE WEBB, TIMBER CREEK ELEMENTARY

“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, WELLINGTON ELEMENTARY

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.


Congratulations to our 2017 winners!

  • Dawn Chegwidden, Lewisville High
  • David Florentino, Parkway Elementary
  • Alesha Gillieland, Purnell Support Center
  • Misty Graham, Lakeview Middle
  • Theresa Marcellus, Shadow Ridge Middle
  • Miranda Marrott, Killian Middle
  • Cynthia Metivier, Marcus High
  • Paula Paterson, Old Settlers Elementary

Award ChegwiddenDAWN CHEGWIDDEN, LEWISVILLE HIGH

Dawn, a general education AP environmental science and aquatic science teacher, fills many roles at Lewisville High School. In addition to her general education teaching, Dawn is the department chair for science at LHS while also co-advising the National Honor Society and HOSA (Health Occupational Student Association). In addition, she has made great contributions to the special education department.

As a science teacher who co-teaches and parallel teaches with the special education department, Dawn’s goal is to prepare ALL of her students to become informed citizens. When it comes to science, she makes scientific connections and discovery through past knowledge and present learning experiences. Her best vehicle for doing that is her ecosystem project in which students are responsible for designing and building an ecosystem that will support fish over a seven-week period. It’s described as the “perfect hands-on mode of instruction to help students with special needs visually grasp concepts in aquatic science.”

Dawn supported special education lesson planning and provided equipment from her own budget to ensure special education students were able to have the same quality of education as students in the general education classroom. That falls in line with one of her chief philosophies: in order for students with disabilities to succeed in school, they need to be provided with the same learning opportunities that the general education student receives.

Award FlorentinoDAVID FLORENTINO, PARKWAY ELEMENTARY

All who attend or work at Parkway Elementary hold David, who says he realized all he’s ever wanted to do is teach children, in high regard. Mr. David, as students call him, was inspired to work in special education by a family member with disabilities, and it’s clear that he considers all those he works with as family.

“All students are capable of achieving anything they put their minds to, and it is our responsibility as educators to provide them with the environment, tools and support to achieve those dreams,” David said. He does that by lighting up the room with his attitude, according to those he works with every day.

His impact is described as “off the charts” in the short time he has been on staff at Parkway. Pulling from his own experience as a bilingual student at Hedrick Middle School, David relates to the learners around him and exhibits a genuine and authentic eagerness to help others and do so with a friendly smile no less. His most impressive skill may be the ability to turn a student’s frown into a smile when no one else can. His willingness to help in any situation sets him apart, but his ability to do it with his never-ending positive attitude makes him special.

Award Gilleland copyALESHA GILLIELAND, PURNELL SUPPORT CENTER

Alesha has only been with Lewisville ISD a short time, but has, without a doubt, made a lasting impact. A student parent credits Alesha for how far their son has come in such a short time.

After a tough few months, now he looks forward to going to school to see “Ms. G” every day with a contagious smile on his face. He made amazing strides in learning and speaking with Alesha. He is just one of many she has supported in her time at Purnell.

After starting as a substitute, Alesha completed her transition from management to full-time teacher when she was hired in February. Knowing she wanted to teach in special education from the beginning, it was no surprise she immediately fell in love with it. “I absolutely love my job,” she says. One demonstration of that love is the pantry she has spearheaded at Purnell.

Students collect donations, stock shelves and count inventory in order to distribute Weekend Survivor bags. Not only does the program ensure none of Purnell’s students go hungry over the weekends, but it also teaches marketable skills. It’s just one program Alesha has instituted in a short time there, joining her One Warm Coat drive and more. As a mother of six, Alesha applies that experience to her teaching to think outside the box and individualize her teaching.

Award GrahamMISTY GRAHAM, LAKEVIEW MIDDLE

“Mrs. Graham has been our rock.”

“There is no bigger cheerleader in the lives of these children than her.”

“This is truly her passion and calling.”

“Her potential for growth in this field is limitless.”

These are the statements Misty’s colleagues, students’ parents and supervisors say about her. Inspired by two particular educators in her own education, Misty has moved from teaching her stuffed animals in her closet as a child to a highly valued special education teacher at Lakeview Middle. My students are “my smile each day” she says.

Her current position at Lakeview has been the most rewarding opportunity of her career and surely rewarding for LISD. Her gift of open and honest communication with her students, co-workers and parents make an impact every day. In addition to that, her tireless work ethic has led to her establishing three separate learning environments and working to restructure the school’s AVLS program to work more seamlessly with the high school in order to ease and better facilitate each student’s transition. Misty says her students are her most influential teachers. It’s clear the feeling is mutual.

Award MarcellusTHERESA MARCELLUS, SHADOW RIDGE MIDDLE

Theresa’s tireless work ethic does not go unnoticed. Often being the last to leave at night or the fact that she never seems to be “off duty” when someone needs help, her staff at Shadow Ridge Middle as well as her students’ parents know they can call on her.

She realized she wanted to be a teacher after helping her own teachers with younger classes growing up. Then, when she met her sister-in-law with Down syndrome, Theresa knew she wanted to pursue special education. She has been called a gifted educator.

In her role as team lead at Shadow Ridge, Theresa’s leadership is appreciated by her staff and noticed by parents. Her tremendous dedication shines through as well. Whether it is midnight emails or availability for after-hours calls and texts, it seems like Theresa is always there to help.

In fact, one of her students moved last year, and his parents credit Theresa’s work for his seamless transition to a new school. She still offers guidance and support to his current teachers hundreds of miles away more than a year later. Her principal says her devotion and dedication is unprecedented.

Award MarrottMIRANDA MARROTT, KILLIAN MIDDLE

As challenging as working with special needs students can be, one parent said Miranda has met the challenge “like a rock star.” Her students focus on always being ready to learn and being responsible for one’s self. She fosters that environment in many ways.

In her effort to be “numbered among the proverbial, and very real, village that it takes to bring our children successfully into adulthood,” Miranda constantly seeks out ways for each child to be exposed to every life skill they may encounter. Her patience stands out as she gives all of herself to provide students so many opportunities to be challenged and grow.

A colleague calls her truly one of a kind, an innovator and a passionate teacher who inspires others. To those she works with, they say she always lets you know you’re cherished. For her students, they’ve each beautifully blossomed and know they can go to her in the face of struggles. A tireless advocate for her students, Miranda is said to be a great teacher of character.

But, most importantly, her class is so fun, that her students don’t even know how much they’re learning whether it’s through an etiquette luncheon, a snack cart business, or countless other opportunities Miranda uses to equip her students for life.

Award MetivierCYNTHIA METIVIER, MARCUS HIGH

Her peers and students’ parents describe Cynthia in many ways but the most telling word is irreplaceable. A parent says she is “truly special” and “stands out from the rest.”

After learning a lot, she says, from her best friend’s son with special needs, Cynthia made her way into special education. Now at Marcus she has the opportunity to work with students for up to six years, and in that time she strives to know each student as well as she can in order to truly individualize her instruction. It shows as one parent said her son benefitted from the fact that Cynthia was so in tuned with his personality. He became a student who thrived due to her dedication.

Another example of her dedication is the regular communication she provides to the parents of her students on a nearly daily basis. While it may be just a paragraph or a half a page in someone’s eyes, those parents cherish that communication. Described as an expert at individualized instruction, Cynthia will surely be missed upon her retirement.

Award PatersonPAULA PATERSON, OLD SETTLERS ELEMENTARY

Old Settlers Elementary Principal Kelly Hayunga says she has never encountered a better educator in special education in 26 years of working in education. Paula stands out as a loving professional who provides a caring, welcoming, supportive environment for each learner to thrive.

She sets her expectations high and ensures her students receive the individualized instruction in order to reach those expectations. She looks at each child as a diamond, a unique student who requires individualized instruction, and, no matter what, she and her staff find the best solution for each student.

Paula is described as a vital part of the Old Settlers community, but really her entire community. It’s not uncommon for Paula to attend concerts, plays, proms, hospital visits or home visits for her students. Her personal approach makes others say there are none like her.

A parent called her a “powerhouse, a wealth of knowledge and one who never gives up.” She doesn’t let her students either. They learn life skills through “Super Star Snacks” in which students take orders, measure out, and deliver snacks to the OSE staff. Students are proud of their work and the smiles on their faces speak volumes.

For our full photo gallery, click here.


Congratulations to the 2016 winners!

Lillian Gilbert, Old Settlers Elementary: Lillian is known as an educator who goes above and beyond to make sure each student learns and grows academically, emotionally and socially. She holds students accountable but gives consequences in loving ways, always reminding students “tomorrow is a new day.” Students feel loved, safe and secure in her care, with one student writing on the nomination form, “She helps me calm down when I am upset.”

Tina Taylor, Briarhill Middle School: Tina is described as approachable, collaborative, and flexible in thought and strategy. She’s appreciated for her ability to think outside the box to accommodate individual student needs. Her students know she counts on them to do their best and they thrive because of her confidence and support. She is a valued colleague in her field because she cares about what happens in every aspect of students’ lives. Her students know this. “She helps me with EVERYTHING,” one 6th grade student said.

Kari Wiggins, Flower Mound High School: Kari is known by her peers as the “go-to” expert on Special Education. She works to do what is best for each student, and has an uncanny ability to know when to challenge a student, and when to hold their hand. She works to create independence by teaching students to advocate for themselves and set goals for themselves.

Denise Tooch, Marcus High School: Denise was described as an educator with a vision rarely found among teachers outside Special Education. She believes all students benefit when special education students are included in the theater program. Her approach gives special education students a chance to shine with their “typical” peers. She has goals and a vision to implement a program that would allow more special education students the chance to grow through musical theater.

Walter Jimenez, Focus on the Future: Walter works with students to create opportunities, such as the Comic Expo. He also created street hockey tournament for students with Dallas Stars players, which enabled students to gain skills by teaching other special needs students about street hockey. He started the print shop at Focus on the Future, which has given students marketable skills and led to job placements. He is described as an innovative and dedicated educator who instills leadership skills in students through comics, hockey, and print programs.

William Miller, Focus on the Future: William is instrumental in changing students’ focus from being a good student to becoming a good employee as they age out of program. He respects students and expects them to communicate for self as much as possible and inspires students to take pride in their appearance and maintain an organization system. He is known for his dedication and commitment to making sure everything is done with the students in mind, and is said to be always in the midst of students, working hands-on to direct their day in a patient and flexible manner.


Congratulations to the 2015 winners!

Ida Bishop, Lewisville High School: Ida is known for her joyful selflessness and dedication to students that extends beyond the school day. She has provided clothing and grooming items for students in need. Ida guides students to better choices, focuses on “life lessons” and teachable moments, and puts an emphasis on a student’s ability, rather than challenges.

Paula Bruner, Forestwood Middle School: Paula is known for her ability to make each student feel special through her positive, loving and supportive approach. A valued member of the Forestwood team, she received their first ever Staff Member of the Month award.

Deborah Corbet, Hebron High School: Deborah is known for her commitment, diligence, and leadership. She established Hebron’s Video Game Society for students with Autism. Additionally, she assisted with the Special Education department’s paperless conversion, creating easier access and greater accuracy in documentation campus wide, ensuring teachers know how to best serve students and students get what they need to be successful.

Donna Davis, Wellington Elementary: Donna is highly respected by her colleagues, and praised for her unending patience and positive attitude. Her tireless determination in helping each child make progress and experience success has earned the trust and gratitude of the parents and children with whom she works.

Lindsay Lovett, Homestead Elementary: Lindsay is known for her kind, caring approach to teaching each child. She strives to enrich learning through projects and field trips, and constantly looks for new ways to engage her students in learning.

Summer Swindell, Focus on the Future: Summer is known for her eager, helpful spirit, reliability and professional rapport with students. In her role as Lead Job Coach for Focus on the Future at Purnell Support Center, she coaches students and works with employers to develop job positions for them within the community.

Pictures from each presentation are posted in our Facebook album!


In 2012 Cain’s Foundation presented the Award of Excellence to two LISD teachers. In 2013 Cain’s Foundation recognized the classroom excellence of four remarkable educators. The 2013 Awards of Excellence and $500 were awarded to the following individuals:

  • Becky Hanna teaches Academic Life Skills for grades 3 – 5 at Prairie Trail Elementary School. Becky has taught Special Education students for 11 years.
  • Katie Taylor teaches a Communication Class for grades 4 and 5 at Flower Mound Elementary School. Katie became a Special Education Instructor because her foster brother has Down syndrome.
  • Robin Lewis teaches Kindergarten and Third Grade Resource Reading, Writing and Math at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School. Robin’s philosophy is simple – she has never met a child who cannot learn.
  • Phillip Humphries teaches Special Education at Flower Mound High School. Phillip believes that teaching is not a profession – it is a way of life.

“Each recipient was honored and humbled by the recognition and cash award. Carolyn and I were honored to make the presentations and maybe in a few years we can talk about Cain without getting teary eyed,” Bill Sczepanski said. “The growth from two to four Awards is due to donations from over 50 friends of Cain and our partnership with the Greater Lewisville Special Education PTA. There are many more Special Education instructors and Para-professionals to recognize in the district, and we anticipate being able to recognize five or six instructors in 2014. Thanks again to those who remember Cain by supporting Cain’s Foundation and honoring Special Education instructors.”

Cain Sczepanski Award of Excellence Nomination forms must be received by 4:30 p.m. on March 1, 2019, at the LEF office located at 400 West Main Street, Lewisville, TX 75057. Any questions should be addressed to LEF Programs Coordinator Sherah Robinson (robinsonsl@lisd.net, 469-948-2020).