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SEF Recognizes 8 SSD Staff Members with Inaugural Starfish Awards

May 2, 2024 - The Special Education Foundation's Starfish Award recognizes the unsung heroes who may not seek the spotlight but, through their daily efforts, embody the belief that every small action can create waves of positive change in the world around us. The Starfish Award is reserved for individuals who have brought about significant change through seemingly small yet deeply meaningful actions. 

The recipients of the Starfish Awards include one individual selected from each of the seven subdistricts within Special School District, as well as one individual from SSD schools or Central Office. This year’s winners are: 

  • David Peterson - Teacher at North Tech High School
  • Mallory Hurt - Teacher at Walker Elementary, Hazelwood School District
  • Katie Dowd - Teacher at Oakville Senior High School, Mehlville School District
  • Kari Frazier - Teacher at Barretts Elementary, Parkway Schools
  • Mary Reich-Hernandez - Teacher at Michelle Obama Early Childhood Academic Center, Riverview Gardens School District
  • Dana Meinecke - Teacher at North Glendale Elementary, Kirkwood School District
  • Kerry Bennett - Teacher at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, Ladue Schools
  • Marsha Davidson - Substitute Paraprofessional at Green Pines Elementary, Rockwood School District

“This is a new event for the foundation, which gives us the opportunity to highlight some true education heroes,” said Tim Eby, Special Education Foundation executive director. “We received more than 120 nominations, including comments from a parent  for one of the winners that said, ‘She left an imprint of care, compassion, and acceptance on their hearts they will never forget.’ Another nomination from a co-worker described one winner by saying they ‘supported the family of one of her students diagnosed with cancer as they traveled back and forth for treatment out of state by gathering donations to assist them during this challenging time.’ ”

Award winners will be celebrated by SEF on June 13, 2024 at CITYPARK Stadium.

SEF is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to assist students with disabilities by giving them the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. They fund a variety of grants, scholarships, critical needs campaigns, and more that benefit SSD students, teachers, and staff members. Last year, SEF provided more than $240,000 in student financial assistance and programs.