All Heart at the Smith Center for Clark County Teachers

Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sometimes students are called on the carpet, but Saturday night at The Smith Center, it was the best teachers in Clark County who were on the carpet -- the red carpet -- at the 2016 Heart of Education Awards.

The evening was all heart, with community leaders acknowledging the best of the best teachers in the Clark County School District interspersed with entertainment by some great performers who volunteered their time to salute education.

How did this incredible evening take shape? Myron Martin, president and CEO of The Smith Center, conceived the idea of honoring teachers, taking inspiration from his friend, George Stevens, the creator of the Kennedy Center Honors, who produced an awards show for Washington D.C. educators. The ultimate goal, according to Martin, is to institutionalize appreciation for public school teachers. “I look forward to a day when parents, students and community leaders make a habit of thanking brilliant educators.”

According to Pat Skorkowsky, Superintendent of Schools, there are 18,000 teachers in Clark County and 820 outstanding teachers were recognized. Out of those finalists, the 21 teachers honored were not told in advance of the awards show. They were informed that they had been “randomly” selected to be videotaped to talk about their passion for education. On Saturday, as their video played with their names announced, they were invited to come up to the stage at Reynolds Hall. The individual stories the honorees told about their commitment to their students’ education, welfare, and future went to the heart of the evening. “From making phone calls to parents, working on the weekends, spending personal money on supplies, and constantly worrying about the well-being of their students; our teachers really give so much of themselves,” said Skorkowsky.

To recognize these outstanding teachers required outstanding contributions. The Rogers Foundation agreed to fund the evening and committed to ten more years. Additional major supporters were Wynn Las Vegas, Switch, Las Vegas Review-Journal, AEG Live, Cirque due Soleil, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and NV Energy Foundation.

Eric Bergen, who returned to Las Vegas to host this special night, has a fondness for both Las Vegas and teachers. He is remembered in Las Vegas for his role as Bob Gaudio in “Jersey Boys” and is currently starring as Blake Moran on CBS’s “Madam Secretary.” Joining Bergen in entertaining the packed house were Frankie Moreno, Capathia Jenkins, word artist Shane Koyczan, The Las Vegas Academy World Jazz Studies, and resident artist Clint Holmes.

The winners were toasted on Saturday, but they deserve another round of recognition here: Paul Beuning, Chaparral High School; Samantha Jiminez-Hooks, Mannion Middle School; Justin Brecht, John F. Mendoza Elementary School; Jessica Banales, Manch Elementary School; Linda Coleman, Bonner Elementary School; Michele Kamleiter, Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School; Amanda Jones, C P Squires Elementary School; Beatriz Romero, Western High School; Elizabeth Mulvey, Whitney Elementary School; Donald Bernard, West Prep Academy; Heather Houchens, Greenspun Junior High School; Shirley Cunningham, Charles Silvestri Junior High School; Sheburra Moore, Roy Martin Middle School; Brittany Boyle, Vegas Verdes Elementary School; Robin Fulmer, Moapa Valley High School; Allison Halpin, Arbor View High School; Melissa Gillespie, Global Community High School; Marc Rogers, Cimarron-Memorial High School; Christa Fialkiewicz, Green Valley High School; Lynne Gronert, Selma Bartlett Elementary School; and Eric Stensrud, Cimarron-Memorial High School.

Clearly, the heart of education was beating strongly Saturday night, with great recognition for great teachers. But here’s the lesson plan until next year’s awards evening: daily appreciation must come from all of us!

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