They are the superintendent of a school district, head of a charter school, grade-level principal at a high school, assistant principal at a high school, science teacher at a high school, eighth grade math teacher at a middle school, science lab teacher for grades 3-5, and master teacher at an Early Head Start center.

They are the St. Louis American Foundation’s 2020 Excellence in Education Awardees, and they will be recognized on Saturday, October 17 at the Salute to Excellence in Education virtual gala. The foundation will foster over $1.95 million in scholarships and grants this year for area youth and educators.

LaShanda R. Boone

LaShanda R. Boone

“Urban public schools with a higher concentration of low-income and minority students disproportionately receive fewer resources than the schools that serve primarily Caucasian students in suburban areas,” said LaShanda R. Boone, head of school at LaSalle Charter School.

“Studies show that there are four factors that can drastically impact student performance: small schools/class sizes, high quality curricula and instruction, highly qualified teachers and high-quality academic support. An Education Equity Bill would further ensure equitable resources for all schools regardless of area and or student demographic. It would ensure that all institutions would receive the same state and federal allocations to provide equity in resources for all students.”

Shantana  Goodwin-Payne

Shantana Goodwin-Payne  

“We must teach children to be accepting of all cultures and nationalities. There tend to be deficiencies in teaching the history of other cultures and the suffering at the hands of other races,” said Shantana Goodwin-Payne, master teacher at the Magnolia Head Start/Early Head Start Center for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

“Children learn and experience other races and racism in grade school and college. By this time, it is too late to have empathy for others and their suffering. There is an urgent need to mandate the teaching of relevant cultural-base history with standards and objectives beginning during the foundational years (pre-k). It is my belief believe we then could have a chance to eliminate racial inequality and injustices.”

Karen I. Hall, Ed.D

Karen I. Hall, Ed.D

“On February 16, 2017, I collaborated with the Maplewood Richmond Heights Board of Education to craft and approve the Resolution on Educational Equity and Social Justice. I consider it a landmark document, unique in its boldness, wide-ranging in scope and enduring in content,” said Karen I. Hall, Ed.D, superintendent of the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District.

“It pledges that our district will continue to vigorously support all of our students, staff, families, and community members, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sexual orientation and/or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or any other individual characteristic and continue to enrich the lives of children and provide the foundation for their many future successes in life.”

Romona Miller

Romona Miller

“One day in class a teacher made a statement about the presence of women and minorities in the area of science, and the overarching theme was that we weren’t successful. I was so taken aback that I wasn’t sure I could complete the class,” said Romona Miller, principal of Pioneer Pathways at Kirkwood High School.

“I did push through, but that forever changed how I perceived the impact of negative expectations. Had I bought into his scenario, I would have failed his class and failed in my pursuit for education in the area of science. I did graduate with a BS in Biology, and as I work with my students, I always share the mindset that they are in control of their destinies, not anyone else.”

Sheryl Denise Rogers

Sheryl Denise Rogers

“One of the primary obstacles facing educators is not enough resources. In many schools, students still do not have adequate technology. Students have to share Chrome books in class.  They do not have technology in their homes. I have students using their cell phones to do assignments,” said Sheryl Denise Rogers, a science teacher in Normandy Schools Collaborative.

“Another obstacle is lack of parental support. I have tried to incentivize parental involvement with gift cards, extra credit, dinner, with little or no response. When parents do not place a high value on education, neither will their children. I can only continue as I do, encouraging my students to present the best they have to offer.”

Rhonda C. Stovall, Ed.S

Rhonda C. Stovall, Ed.S

“As educators, I feel that we have a moral obligation to learn about the trauma and racial inequities and disparities of other ethnic groups and cultures,” said Rhonda C. Stovall, Ed.S, Science Enrichment Lab teacher for grades 3-5 at Gateway MST Elementary in Saint Louis Public Schools.

“There has to be a deliberate awareness of the social injustices that are prevalent in our world. This awareness, whether one believes it exists or not, will allow for collaboration as it pertains to working together not only as a district, but as a community to reduce the racial inequities and disparities that exist.”

John E. Thomas

John E. Thomas

“For teachers to have a greater impact on reducing racial inequity and disparities, we first need to increase teachers of color. The few staff that we have are simply not enough,” said John E. Thomas, assistant principal at Webster Groves High School.

“Beyond that we have to connect with our kids, they need to know that we care about them as individuals. There are far too many times when students feel us going through the motions. Our potential to help them and to potentially change the trajectory of their lives is immense. If we do not approach each day with that as our primary objective, then we let them down.”

Craig A. Waddell, Ph.D

Craig A. Waddell, Ph.D

“If educators really want to reduce racial disparities, they need to increase student adeptness. Too often, when students perform poorly, we lower the bar rather than raise expectations,” said Craig A. Waddell, Ph.D, eighth grade algebra/math teacher at Hazelwood North Middle School.

“When our graduation rates drop, we relax the grading scale rather than improve learning. When discipline deteriorates, we reduce detentions rather than enhance civility. And when performance declines, we increase seat time rather than elevate engagement. We delude ourselves when we create diploma mills in lieu of high-caliber educational institutions. A high tide raises all ships.” 

The 33rd Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship & Awards Virtual Gala Weekend will be celebrated online as free virtual events on Friday and Saturday, October 16 and 17 on stlamerican.com, the St. Louis American’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. For additional details on how to participate, please visit givebutter.com/SaluteEdu.

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