Thanking everyday heroes

By MEAGAN STILP

mstilp@mininggazette.com

HANCOCK – The Copper Country Intermediate School District Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education honored the everyday heroes who go above and beyond to help special needs children in local schools at its 12th annual awards reception Tuesday.

“This award ceremony is the highlight of the year. It’s a fun night and a very heartfelt night. People have taken the time to nominate someone they felt has made an outstanding contribution in the area of special education,” said Cindy Figures, head of the PAC.

“We all know education is challenging whether you have a child in regular ed or in special education. There are so many things that happen on a daily basis that go unnoticed and that the people who are doing them think that’s a normal thing because that’s their job, and you’re going to hear that tonight. People are very humble.”

With 10 awards given to recipients from six different categories and a special recognition of the efforts of retiring CCISD superintendent Dennis Harbour, the introduction and receptions of the award winners was often emotional. Parents, administrators, staff and even students shared how each award winner had touched the lives of themselves or the children. This year there were ties in four categories, including a new category of ‘Student Salutes.’

“We have students that will send in a nomination, and sometimes they might only be one sentence. Unfortunately in the past they might have gotten eclipsed by a bigger nomination. However, we’ve always felt bad about that because when a student takes the time to recognize a person, we feel that’s noteworthy and we should recognize that. Hence the ‘student salutes’ was born,” Figures said.

Award recipients were touched by being recognized for doing what they felt was just their job. They often remarked that it was a group effort every day, naming multiple people who support them as well as the students at each school.

“I do have a special education background and that’s where I started my teaching career but I don’t feel like I do anything special. We’re all here because we love kids. Throughout the trials of every day we just like to be there and make a difference for the students,” said Steve Aho, a teacher at South Range Elementary School who tied in the category of General Education Teacher.

The PAC also recognized Dennis Harbour, who is retiring.

“During his time he’s always been supportive of special education and especially of those practices that have been proven to promote success for all students, including those students in special education,” said Christine Salo, CCISD director of special education. “These are going to be big shoes to fill at the ISD – both literally and figuratively.”

Harbour accepted the award while continuing to honor the achievements of those within the schools.

“I can assure you that I’m honored to be in the same room as many of the real heroes. Our role as administrators is typically the budget, the buses, the buildings, making sure they’re not leaking, and to have played a small part in assisting with the employment and hiring of the people that deal with your children everyday certainly I feel good about that contribution,” he said. “Those are the people that are being honored here tonight and if I can be on that same platform with them I’m absolutely delighted.”