Derby School District Honors May Winners of ‘I Make a Difference’ | Derby News

At the beginning of the May 22 Education Committee meeting, district staff recognized May recipients of Derby Public Schools’ I Make a Difference (IMAD) Awards – DeShell Clark and Emily Carlson.

Carlson, a former AmeriCorps member at Park Hill Elementary, was the May IMAD Volunteer Award winner.

During her time as an AmeriCorps member at Park Hill Elementary, Carlson worked primarily with small groups of students focused on reading skills. After completing the maximum amount of time through the AmeriCorps program, she began volunteering at Park Hill.

Although she has another job, Carlson continues to volunteer at Park Hill three mornings a week. She recognized the need to give students more time for reading promotion and wanted to help. Carlson has volunteered her time and skills throughout the school year to help Park Hill serve more students by working with groups of students from kindergarten through third grade.

In addition to volunteering with reading interventions, Carlson also volunteers as a morning greeter for high school students. She has built strong, lasting relationships with her students over the years and they are happy to see her at their school. Her drive to learn, advance, and help students learn to read has benefited Park Hill students greatly.

“In all interactions with Emily, it is clear that she has a heart for teaching and learning. “Emily works hard to make our part of the world a brighter and happier place,” said Park Hill director Gretchen Pontious. “We appreciate Emily Carlson and everything she has done to make Park Hill Elementary and Derby Public Schools a better place.”

This month’s Personal winner, DeShell Clark, is an adjunct professor of education/technology at Swaney Elementary.

In 2021, the district received a $1 million scholarship for military-affiliated students, which included Swaney Elementary School in the plans. Following the announcement, Derby Public Schools MCASP Grants Coordinator Ron Rothe arranged a presentation for Swaney staff to discuss the grant and planned purchases and funding for their school, showed staff the technology equipment that will be available in the available under the grant and shared information on the funds available to provide a stipend and supplies budget for staff wishing to start an after-school STEM club.

A few weeks after the presentation, Clark reached out to Rothe to inquire about after-school STEM clubs. After further discussion, she indicated that she would like to start a coding club in Swaney.

Clark mailed the registration form to all students. To her surprise, she found that 95 students had registered within a week. She didn’t want to turn away students who wanted to get involved, so she came up with the alternative of dividing the 95 students into two after-school clubs that meet on separate days. She also arranged for neighborhood volunteers to drop by both nights and recruited an additional Swaney teacher to help with the clubs.

As part of planned grant spending, sets of programming robots and virtual reality viewers were purchased for Swaney. Clark made sure that the students at the club were introduced to the variety of technology available as part of the Coding Club activities.

In the 2022-23 school year, Clark began sponsoring an after-school robotics club, which attracted 110 students. She divided the 110 students in half and had a robotics club with 55 students in the first semester of this school year and 55 students in the second semester of this semester. Again, she enlisted the help of another teacher and volunteers from the neighborhood.

In addition to the two clubs, Clark volunteered at the recent District Professional Development Day to show interested teachers how they can use programming robots and virtual reality viewers to expand the use of these devices to schools that have such devices.

“It’s refreshing to see how she’s making such a difference in the educational lives of students at Swaney,” said Rothe.


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