Hundreds packed the Loudoun public schools board room Tuesday evening to celebrate those who have gone out of their way to support the county’s special needs students.
It was the annual Recognition of Excellence in Supporting Special Education Awards Ceremony, and Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services Mary Kealy pointed out that the event draws more students, more parents, and more educators each year.
“We get more and more people and more and more issues with the fire marshals. It all adds to the excitement,” she said. Later adding, “It’s great to be here to celebrate those who have made a difference—a big difference—in the lives of our students.”
In all, 39 awards were presented: 24 to students, 11 to educators and four to groups and programs.
Carol Williams-Nichelson, chairwoman of the Special Education Advisory Committee, said each person who was recognized went above and beyond to make students receiving special education services feel like valued members of the community.
“Students with disabilities need and deserve to be included, to learn alongside their peers in a supportive environment,” she said. “A disability does not define a person. Students who have differing challenges also have differing strengths and can make meaningful contributions to the world if they are supported.”
Superintendent Eric Williams said Loudoun County school leaders take pride in empowering all students to make meaningful contributions to the world. “And I emphasize the word ‘all’ because too often, in the history of American education, some students have been marginalized,” he said.
“The Loudoun school system is working to make learning more personalized, harnessing more technology in the classroom, and providing more project-based lessons with all types of learners in mind,” Williams added. “We continue to widen the circle of success so that all students can experience the joy of learning.”
The ceremony featured a performance by students in A Place to Be’s production of “Beyond the Label.” A Place to Be is an art and music therapy nonprofit organization in Middleburg.
Williams-Nichelson also took a moment to recognize Kealy for her work overseeing special education in the county. Kealy is retiring next month. “On behalf of SEAC, I wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for our community and the school system,” Williams-Nichelson said. “We wish you well in your retirement.”