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March 24, 2023
Azalea Elementary School teacher Telia Hann has been working with fifth grader Owen Brown every day for the past two years. In that time, Owen has gone from having multiple behavioral incidents a week to zero since October 2021.
“He has learned to self-manage his emotions and to communicate what he needs,” said Hann, who attended the Yes, I Can! Exceptional Student Education Awards breakfast with Owen and his mom Christina on Friday, March 24 at Ruth Eckerd Hall. “Watching him now and how much compassion he is able to show for others is amazing.”
The event recognized 90 ESE scholars in elementary through high school in categories such as academics, independent living skills, self-advocacy, technology, the arts and employment. Lynne Mowatt, the district’s Executive Director of Exceptional Student Education, told the crowd of honorees, families and teachers, the event is her favorite day of the year.
“Our students are our greatest gifts,” Mowatt said. “I firmly believe we learn more from them than they do from us.”
Also in attendance were Superintendent Kevin Hendrick, School Board chairperson Lisa Cane, Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Woodford, Associate Superintendent of Student and Community Support Services Lori Matway, Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services Daniel J. Evans, Ed. D., Area 1 Superintendent Christen Gonzalez, Ed. D., Area 4 Superintendent Michael Vigue, Area 3 Superintendent Dywayne B. Hinds, Sr., Ed.D., and Chief Transformation Officer Donnika Jones.
Julia Jones, a sophomore at Northeast High School with a 4.2 GPA was recognized for her academic excellence.
“I feel empowered because I am being recognized for something that is a part of me that I can’t control,” Jones said. “I definitely have to work a lot harder than a lot of students.”
The Yes, I Can! Awards are sponsored by Ditek, the Pinellas Education Foundation and the Council for Exceptional Children.