Education column: ‘Prize Patrol’ rewards effort, hard work

A Clovis Municipal Schools school bus filled with a somewhat boisterous group of individuals was seen traveling the streets of Clovis one day last week. A closer look revealed that this lively group was traveling with a giant banner, noisemakers, giant placards, and cameras.

Nope … not students. Turns out this group was made up of a unique combination of individuals: Clovis Municipal Schools Foundation board members and executive director, the superintendent of schools and central office staff members, along with a mini-squad of Clovis High School cheerleaders!

This festive occasion was to announce the winners of the Foundation grants. Each fall educators — either singularly or in groups — gather the research and data, write the narrative, and complete the process of applying for a grant from the Foundation. Generally, the objective of these grants is to realize an innovative project or creative idea for their school or classroom; something that is not ordinarily covered under traditional funding.

Since the effort required to apply for a grant can be considerable, the education foundation board of directors rewards that effort in a celebratory fashion. Thus the “Prize Patrol” was created, and it descends upon the school containing the grant winner(s), unbeknownst to anyone at the school, to surprise the lucky recipients. Sweeping through the school’s front door, the lively group has the office call the winners to come to the front office. The educators arrive to great fanfare, music and congratulatory shouts with lots of laughter and, now and again, a few tears.

This year’s winners include Yucca and Marshall’s instructional coaches, Kristi Sparks-Medlock and Mandy Carpenter, along with teachers Mary Ann Collings and Terry Pipkin. They partnered to create Jr. Wildcat Transition Camps and Jr. Wildcat Math/Science Camps. Parkview principal Christi Richards and instructional coach Deborah Westbrook received funding for an early start “Kindergarten Kickoff.”

Other grant recipients included CHS teacher Corey Pickett, to enhance the popular newly created music media technology course, Zia teacher Rene Hedeman for “Electronic Student Portfolios,” and Mesa teacher Shalei Bennett for an “Electronic Student Response System.”

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, most pause at some point to consider the things we are grateful for. Having trouble spotting the most appropriate quote for Thanksgiving, I thought of all the educators I work with. I thought of the teachers who work so hard to help our students and daily go above and beyond what is required. I thought of that funny, lively group of Prize Patrol adults, so vested in supporting our educators that they believe it worthwhile to spend a morning driving from school to school to bring delight to others. I thought of those cheerleaders who gave up their time to come along and be a part of it with a bunch of grownups.

I’d have to say I’m just pretty much grateful for everything.