HOUGHTON - Exceptional students, teachers and staff got their due Wednesday at the Copper Country Association of School Boards' annual awards banquet.
Eleven districts presented honors at the banquet, held at the Michigan Technological University Memorial Union Building.
Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools' student pick, Xena Cortez, was part of the district's nationally recognized Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics team. She was also busy with extracurriculars in both academics and athletics, such as the National Honor Society, student council, Quiz Bowl, basketball, cross country and track. Cortez is also one of three Michigan students this year to win Tech's Leading Scholar Award, which covers tuition, room and board and $1,000 for fees and other expenses.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Bill Polkinghorne, right, and Pat Rozich accept the Copper Country Education Leadership Award for their work with B-H-K Child Development at Wednesday’s Copper Country Association of School Boards awards dinner.
"Despite adolescent poverty, hardship and adversity, Xena has always exhibited focus and tremendous discipline to be very successful," said Dallas Bond, president of the Dollar Bay school board. "... There are a select few I consider the best of the best, and among those I place Xena Cortez."
The Copper Country Intermediate School District gave its Outstanding Education Employee award to Christine Salo, director of special education.
CCISD board member Nels Christopherson praised her "leadership and tireless efforts" for programs for children with disabilities. Colleagues and peers have recognized her as a consummate professional over a 30-year career, Christopherson said. Her accomplishments have included encouraging moving programs for cognitively impaired children from center-based to the classrooms of local K-12 schools.
"Chris has really dedicated herself to making it work for everybody," Christopherson said.
For its School Service award for staff, Baraga Area Schools chose school board member Dr. Anni Gregor.
Fellow board member Gale Eilola called Gregor a "steady burning fire of intellect and insight." An migr from Cold War-era East Germany, Gregor developed a formidable work ethic, Eilola said. Her work has ranged from helping the county analyze the impact of consolidation and resource sharing with L'Anse Area Schools to working as court counselor for the probate court's juvenile division since 1979 and having her art displayed at Baraga's Gallery 325.
"Anni's love of learning inspires all who know her and has impacted Baraga youth at many levels," Eilola said.
The Copper Country Education Leadership Award went to Bill Polkinghorne and Pat Rozich of B-H-K Child Development, who presenter Michele Blau credited with turning the organization around after a period of executive mismanagement.
"There has to be a blessing for all of those employees, teachers and support staff, who came together to make this work," Polkinghorne said. "Under (new BHK director) Chip Law's leadership, you watch it fly."
Rozich thanked the CCISD board for freeing Superintendent Dennis Harbour to work on the problem.
"We're losing one fantastic leader when Dennis retires," he said.
Christopherson, a member of the CCASB and Houghton-Portage Township school boards, won his own award earlier in the night, when he was presented with the President's Award of Recognition from the Michigan Association of School Boards.
Here is the full list of CCASB award recipients:
Student Leadership Awards
Alysa Kilpela, Adams Township School District; Nathan Miron, Baraga Area Schools; Dana Spelich, Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw; Blayd Lewandowski, Chassell Township Schools; Phillip Paavola, Copper Country Intermediate School District; Xena Cortez, Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools; Aspen Holmes, Hancock Public Schools; Rachel Chard, Houghton-Portage Township School District; Ryan Knoll, Lake Linden-Hubbell Public Schools; Samantha Hatfield, L'Anse Area Schools; Brita Larson, Stanton Township Public Schools.
Outstanding Education Employee Awards
Cindy McCormick, Adams Township; Benjamin Johnston, Baraga; Chris Woods, C-L-K; Heather Hainault, Chassell Township; Christine Salo, CCISD; Dan Juopperi, Dollar Bay; Tami Bessner, Hancock; Bruce Horsch, Houghton; Andrew Crouch, Lake Linden; Thomas Sprague; L'Anse Area Schools; Janine Wales, Stanton Township.
School Service Awards
Paul Karppinen, Adams Township; Dr. Anni Gregor, Baraga; Darren Kinnunen, C-L-K; Bill Cole, Chassell Township; Cindy Figures, CCISD; Jennifer Strand, Dollar Bay; Tara Packard, Hancock; Lynette Borree, Houghton; Russ Laurin, Lake Linden; Laura Schneider, L'Anse; Tina Hatman, Stanton Township.