MAXTON — The principal at R.B. Dean Elementary School has always tried to make a difference in the lives of students.
As a nominee for LifeChanger of the Year award, Sherry Park could also make a financial difference for her school.
Winners will receive a cash award that is split between the individual winner and their school. The national Grand Prize award is $10,000. Awards will be announced in spring 2017.
“This is very exciting,” Park said Wednesday. “It is an honor to be nominated.”
Sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, the national LifeChanger of the Year program recognizes K-12 public and private school educators and employees who exemplify “excellence, positive influence and leadership.”
Park, who has been an educator for 27 years, became principal of Dean Elementary School in August 2014. Since then, she has spearheaded efforts to raise funds for initiatives that have reinvigorated students and staff, according to Nancy Locklear, a staff member at R.B. Dean. The initiatives include Saturday field trips for students and holiday dinners for staff. Park also provided social time for students after school on several Fridays during the school year, including after-school dances.
“Because of Mrs. Park’s efforts, both staff members and students are excited about school,”Locklear said. “Simple gestures such as the staff dinners have boosted morale and engaged staff. The field trips have also been beneficial because they have helped students develop social skills and a sense of community.”
Park said when she arrived at R.B. Dean, a low performing school, she wanted to do something “to change the culture.”
“When our students performed well, we would take them on trips,” she said. “We wanted them to make the connection that what they learned in school could truly take them places in life.”
Each school year, the LifeChanger of the Year program receives hundreds of nominations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For 2016-2017, there will be a total of 15 individual LifeChanger of the Year awards. In addition, a 16th prize — the “National Spirit Award — is given to the school and nominee whose community demonstrates the most support for their nomination.
Winners will be chosen by a selection committee comprised of former winners and education professionals. Nominees must be school district employees.
The awards will be announced via surprise ceremonies held at the schools. The top five winners will also be honored at a national awards ceremony in Naples, Florida.
Award winners are selected based on the following criteria:
— Proven ability to make a beneficial difference in the lives of students
— Ability to positively add to the development of the school’s atmosphere
— Involvement in leadership activities at the school and/or community level
— Demonstrative record of excellent performance at the professional level
— Commitment to producing a nurturing atmosphere
— Adherence to high moral and ethical standards
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023