Community Awards: Educator/Administrator of the Year
Bullying, says counselor Carly Strauss, isn’t limited to just fighting or bringing weapons to school. It is usually much more subtle, like taunting or excluding others.
She admits it is difficult for teachers and administrators to notice these often sly tactics. That’s why she’s implemented the Safe School Ambassador program, out of the Bay area, at Pinon Hills Elementary School in Douglas County. She also secured a grant to put the program into all Douglas County schools next year.
“… I was in awe of (her) compassionate plight to bring safety to (her) school by introducing the Safe School Ambassador program,” wrote Sunni Heinrichs in a letter nominating Strauss for Educator of the Year.
As part of the program, leaders of the various cliques at each school are identified and invited to participate. The leaders are then trained to notice signs of bullying, think about what to do, then act on it.
Students in the program are not identified by any visible signs, such as vest or badge, and don’t act authoritatively. Rather, they are trained to de-escalate bullying with equally subtle tactics.
“You listen to your friends,” Strauss explained.
She said it can be difficult for teacher and administrators to notice what’s going on, but when students are working together, the problem can be solved.
“I’m a big champion of public education,” said Strauss, a Gardnerville native. “I think all kids have the right to come to school and receive the appropriate education. This is the best way to make change that lasts.”
Mary Garey knew it would be difficult taking over as principal of Fritsch Elementary School this past year, replacing Dave Aalbers who retired after more than 20 years there.
But his success actually made the transition smoother.
“It was easy in many ways because he had routines in place and a lot of volunteers,” Garey said. “The staff is fabulous, and the kids are great.”
Garey first started working in the Carson City School District in 1995 and worked four years as a dean of students at Carson Middle School. For the next four years, she served as principal of Mark Twain Elementary School.
In 2003, she returned to Omaha, Neb., to take care of her ailing mother. She returned in 2005 and took over as principal of Fritsch in 2007.
While there, “she has created an environment where the students are safe, academically successful and actively participate in their learning,” wrote teacher Joyce Cavanaugh, who nominated Garey for Administrator of the Year.
Cavanaugh listed several programs Garey has instituted in the school, including one focused on anti-bullying and another to recognize “star students.”
She said Garey has improved communication within the staff and is working to learn a second language to have better communication with parents.
“Is Mrs. Garey perfect?” Cavanaugh asked. “Probably not, but if she has any flaws, we haven’t found them yet. To be honest, we’ve no reason to look. We’re very fortunate to work for such a wonderful individual.”
Warren Wish has dedicated 36 years to counseling young minds and 21 years to training puppies to become seeing-eye dogs.
And he used each to help the other. Nearly every day, Wish brought his guide dogs in training to Eagle Valley Middle School. The students helped to socialize the young animals, and the puppies helped the students in return.
“It was a wonderful marriage between middle school kids with their emotional need to show affection and get unjudgmental affection in return,” Wish said. “This served as a wonderful vehicle.”
He said it was often the underprivileged students who were most attracted to the dogs.
After working a year in Tonopah, Wish moved to Carson City, working at the high school for about seven years before transferring to Eagle Valley Middle School when it opened in 1982.
He and his wife, Claudia, became involved with the 4-H’s guide dog program and raised their own dog in 1982. Since then, they have raised 21 dogs, and have overseen the club’s graduation of 65-70 puppies.
At one time, Wish said, he put up a bulletin board at the school with pins marking where the guide dogs ended up.
Pins stretched across Canada from Nova Scotia to Vancouver and across the United States, including New York City and Chicago.
“It is difficult to mention Mr. Wish’s name around Carson City without someone recalling they had him as their counselor or raised a guide dog puppy under his leadership,” wrote the Krahn family in a letter nominating Wish for Educator of the Year. “His professional and personal legacy is one of calm strength, good humor and sincere concern for the well being of both his two-legged students and his four-legged charges.”
Wish retired from education at the end of this school year, but he and his wife will continue to raise guide dogs.
“It’s truly a bittersweet feeling right now,” he said. “I’ve had so many fantastic memories and fantastic rewards. The satisfaction was tremendous.”