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FORNEY, Texas — A Dallas Independent School District teacher, a Forney resident, was one of three honored with a "Service Above Self" award from the Rotary Club of Dallas.

Nominated by their peers, principal or the general public, award criteria are based on six factors – performance over and above the job description, activities that benefit the community, activities that benefit disadvantaged or at risk students, actions exhibiting selfless conduct toward others, demonstration of innovation and creativity in the classroom and the nominee’s personal philosophy statement, according to the Rotary Club of Dallas.

Rotary Club member and former DISD Superintendent and United States Under Secretary of Education, Linus Wright, recognized the three awardees during a meeting of the Rotary Club on August 12, 2020. Those selected for the 2020 awards were Brittnay Connor, bilingual teacher at Paul O. Dunbar Learning Center, Shelly Thibodaux, physical education and athletic coordinator at Robert T. Hill Middle School, and Yvonne Morgan, career and technical education teacher at the School of Health Professions.

Morgan, a Forney resident who holds two degrees from the Texas Woman's University, was awarded Service Above Self due to her commitment to preparing students for college.

"She helped create a certification program that aids low income students in securing a better paying job when they get to college," read a statement from the Rotary Club of Dallas. "Her classroom is managed as if it were a college course – using virtual notebooks and online testing, for example, or helping students become familiar with the Blackboard learning system - to prepare students for a new environment when they graduate."

"Through outside donors, she finds funds to help students pay for application fees and college deposits. With 17 years of teaching experience, she has become the 'go to' counselor for students and families navigating the college application and survival process. She has been active in the TeachPlus program as an advocate for benefits and teaching incentive awards."

“Rotary International’s motto” is ‘Service Above Self’ and we are happy to recognize these teachers who live that motto every day by going the extra mile to help their students and parents,” explained President Jim Frankiewicz.

“All of us had outstanding teachers who have influenced our lives in many ways,” explained Dr. Hubert Zajicek, event chair. “We don’t get to thank our most outstanding teachers in DISD often enough. To be able to honor these 'best of the best' teachers with a small token of our appreciation is a tremendous honor for us here at the Rotary Club of Dallas.”

Each received a $2,500 check and recognition plaque. Cash awards are funded by an anonymous endowment established by the Dallas Rotary Club Foundation in 1999. Club members fund the annual program costs.

Additional from the Rotary Club of Dallas:

With only five years of teaching experience – the “youngest” of this year’s awardees, Brittany Connor moved from a north Dallas school to south Dallas and immediately involved herself in community oriented educational activities. With three other teachers, she helped create a special educational component that focuses on minority students in need of social and educational learning. To help them develop logical thinking skills, she taught herself robotics and coding , then created a robotics curriculum and club that has dramatically improved students’ mathematics grades. She did the same with a social studies program to study cultures from around the world, using the internet and personal friends for the students to speak to people in other countries. Her students watch the daily news every morning as they have breakfast to help them to become better citizens of the world.

Going the extra mile to change the lives of not only her students but also others in DISD, Shelly Thibodaux, has developed relationships with outside organizations that bring a new world of experiences to her students. Via Nancy Lieberman Charities, students from several Dallas ISD schools have received iPads, served as hosts and hostesses for golf tournament and been awarded numerous college scholarships. With 39 years of teaching experience, she oversees 10 sports, coaches the Hill Fustal team which won a trip to the national championship last year, taught two African immigrants so they could pass the English testing requirements, and sponsors the annual Girl Scouting in the School Day.

Since 1911 the Rotary Club of Dallas has dedicated itself to making Dallas a better place to live for all residents. In addition to the Teacher Awards, the organization mentors at risk students at Woodrow Wilson High School, provides personalized books to low income kindergartners to encourage reading, hosts an event to honor veterans, provides helmets and trains elementary youngsters in bike safety and provides clean water to villages in Africa. For more information visit www.dallasrotary.org.