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Making Their Mark: Annual MISD Distinguished Student Awards Honor Standout Students and the Teachers Who Inspire Them

Article|
Shane Mauldin|
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Article Note:
Click the above image to download the 2018 Distinguished Student Awards program. (PDF)
  • On Thursday, May 3, McKinney ISD celebrated its annual Distinguished Student Awards Dinner where they honored top students and their Inspirational Teachers.
  • Andrew Bellah (English Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Carol Winters with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Katie Thompson (English Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Sarah Adams with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Andrew Bowman (Science Award, Boyd)—Inspirational Teacher: Stefanie Jones with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Loren Smith (Science Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Katharine Watson with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Jeffery Whitehead (Science Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Kendall Brewer with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Neelam Bohra (Social Studies Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Mark Bayer with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Alexandra Villalon (Social Studies Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Tanya Smith with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Kristi Doleh (Mathematics Award, Boyd)—Inspirational Teacher: Kelsey Gleason with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Liam Landrum (Mathematics Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Theresa Horvath with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Rebecca Waugh (Mathematics Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Andrew Myers with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Julie Smith (Career & Technology Award, Boyd)—Inspirational Teacher: Dr. Robert Peterson with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Alex Macias (Career & Technology Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Robert Gupton with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Morgan Woodall (Career & Technology Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Erica Ranel with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Jasmine Gagnon (Foreign Language Award, Boyd)—Inspirational Teacher: Jennifer Bennett with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Logan Call (Foreign Language Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Ana Maria Ellis with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Muhammad Shariq Azeem (Foreign Language Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Eloy Gonzalez with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Cassandra Cullum (Fine Arts Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Stacie Entzminger with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Secretary Stephanie O’Dell (right)
  • Alyssa Brown (Fine Arts Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Nicole Brown with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Secretary Stephanie O’Dell (right)
  • Adriane Gilbreath (Fine Arts Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Jessica Lawrence with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Secretary Stephanie O’Dell (right)
  • Gabrielle DeMarco (Fine Arts Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Lisa Custer with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Secretary Stephanie O’Dell (right)
  • Parry Leong (Fine Arts Award, Boyd)—Inspirational Teacher: Michael Link with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Secretary Stephanie O’Dell (right)
  • Austin Henry (Fine Arts Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Cindy Johnston with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Secretary Stephanie O’Dell (right)
  • Calli Lustik (Fine Arts Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Hannah Gassett with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Secretary Stephanie O’Dell (right)
  • Taylor Jordan (Athletics Award, Boyd)—Inspirational Teacher: Scott Martin with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • JaMiya Braxton (Athletics Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Debbie Harris with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Jania Martin (Athletics Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Jessica Richards with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Jake Smith (Athletics Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Clint Coffman with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Zachary Frazier (Athletics Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Mike Fecci with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Jack Monte (At-Large Award, Boyd)—Inspirational Teacher: Colby Peek with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Basil El-Hindi (At-Large Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Carol Winters with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Brendan Corcoran (At-Large Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Faisal Khan with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Riley Mulligan (At-Large Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Alyssa Boehringer with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Chi Chi Odo (At-Large Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Deanne Pratt with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board President Curtis Rippee (right)
  • Smriti Natarajan (Salutatorian Award, Boyd)—Inspirational Teacher: Stefanie Jones with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Ashley Wu (Salutatorian Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Amy Smith with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Grace Molera (Salutatorian Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Stephanie Bird with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Trevor Nguyen (Valedictorian Award)—Inspirational Teacher: Stefanie Jones with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Udani Satarasinghe (Valedictorian Award, MHS)—Inspirational Teacher: Amanda Hughes with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)
  • Samantha Miller (Valedictorian Award, North)—Inspirational Teacher: Loraine Grady with MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel (left) and MISD Board Vice President Amy Dankel (right)

McKinney, Texas – Heavy storms and a late afternoon power outage couldn’t quench the celebratory atmosphere at Eldorado Country Club last Thursday as McKinney ISD staff readied the banquet room for the celebration that would take place later that evening.

In just a few hours, MISD administrators, board members, staff, students and family members would gather to celebrate 45 superlative MISD seniors and the inspirational teachers that the students, in turn, chose to honor.

It was time again for the Distinguished Student Awards Dinner, a celebration of everything that is good about McKinney ISD. Fifteen seniors from each of the district’s three high schools were chosen in 11 categories (English, Science, Social Studies, Mathematics, Career & Technology, Foreign Language, Fine Arts [3 awards], Athletics [2 awards], At-Large [2 awards], Salutatorian, Valedictorian) to receive the Distinguished Student Award (DSA)—the highest honor that MISD bestows upon a student. Honorees were chosen not only for academic excellence, but also for demonstrating character, integrity and selflessness at each of their campuses.

gesturing at podium

McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel speaks at the 2018 MISD Distinguished Student Awards Dinner.

“Any time we have an opportunity to recognize the hard work that ultimately leads to academic success, I get excited,” said MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel about the dinner. “This event showcases the best and brightest students that McKinney ISD has to offer. What’s even more impressive is the fact that they are not only academically talented but are also involved in many other activities across our district. You’ll see the same names and faces in many other types of events. They are distinguished students not just because of their academic success, but also because of their ability to balance many other interests.”

The 2018 MISD Distinguished Students and their Inspirational Teachers:

McKinney Boyd High School
Julia Wilhelm (English)—Inspirational Teacher: Colin Bado
Andrew Bowman (Science)—Inspirational Teacher: Stefanie Jones
Matthew Daley (Social Studies)—Inspirational Teacher: Kristina Steinhauser
Kristi Doleh (Mathematics)—Inspirational Teacher: Kelsey Gleason
Julie Smith (Career & Technology)—Inspirational Teacher: Dr. Robert Peterson
Jasmine Gagnon (Foreign Language)—Inspirational Teacher: Jennifer Bennett
Bryson Jackson (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Joseph Tomkins
Aaron Katada (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Josh Boychuk
Parry Leong (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Michael Link
Taylor Jordan (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Scott Martin
Jake Russell (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Colin Bado
Jack Monte (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Colby Peek
Sara Schuster (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Denise Hachtel
Smriti Natarajan (Salutatorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Stefanie Jones
Trevor Nguyen (Valedictorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Stefanie Jones

McKinney High School
Andrew Bellah (English)—Inspirational Teacher: Carol Winters
Loren Smith (Science)—Inspirational Teacher: Katharine Watson
Neelam Bohra (Social Studies)—Inspirational Teacher: Mark Bayer
Liam Landrum (Mathematics)—Inspirational Teacher: Theresa Horvath
Alex Macias (Career & Technology)—Inspirational Teacher: Robert Gupton
Logan Call (Foreign Language)—Inspirational Teacher: Ana Maria Ellis
Cassandra Cullum (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Stacie Entzminger
Adriane Gilbreath (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Jessica Lawrence
Austin Henry (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Cindy Johnston
JaMiya Braxton (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Debbie Harris
Jake Smith (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Clint Coffman
Basil El-Hindi (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Carol Winters
Riley Mulligan (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Alyssa Boehringer
Ashley Wu (Salutatorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Amy Smith
Udani Satarasinghe (Valedictorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Amanda Hughes

McKinney North High School
Katie Thompson (English)—Inspirational Teacher: Sarah Adams
Jeffery Whitehead (Science)—Inspirational Teacher: Kendall Brewer
Alexandra Villalon (Social Studies)—Inspirational Teacher: Tanya Smith
Rebecca Waugh (Mathematics)—Inspirational Teacher: Andrew Myers
Morgan Woodall (Career & Technology)—Inspirational Teacher: Erica Ranel
Muhammad Shariq Azeem (Foreign Language)—Inspirational Teacher: Eloy Gonzalez
Alyssa Brown (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Nicole Brown
Gabrielle DeMarco (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Lisa Custer
Calli Lustik (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Hannah Gassett
Jania Martin (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Jessica Richards
Zachary Frazier (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Mike Fecci
Brendan Corcoran (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Faisal Khan
Chi Chi Odo (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Deanne Pratt
Grace Molera (Salutatorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Stephanie Bird
Samantha Miller (Valedictorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Loraine Grady

smiling for camera after conlusion of the event

MHS Salutatorian Ashley Wu and her Inspirational Teacher Amy Smith

The DSA awards aren’t handed out lightly, and students of this caliber have a habit of popping up in ways that people notice. Unsurprisingly, some familiar faces walked through the doors at Eldorado last week.

Like Jake Smith, a senior from McKinney High School who was chosen to receive a DSA for Athletics. He first appeared on our radar five years ago as an eighth-grader at Evans Middle School. He and some of his Evans football teammates were featured in a story about their work in the PALS program and the inspiring way they befriended some of their fellow students who had special needs.

Or, Alex Macias. We first met Alex a couple of years ago alongside some of her engineering classmates helping elementary kids make water-propelled rockets while their parents attended an MISD summer workshop. She showed up again in an NBC 5 story as a member of the district’s first all-girl Team America Rocketry Challenge team, then at the TARC nationals and the NASA Student Challenge and at Technology Student Association state competitions. She was featured in an Enterprise video series about her dream to become an astronaut and participate in a manned mission to Mars. Turns out, she’s also pretty good with a pottery wheel. That’s her on the MISD homepage video.

DSA recipient Austin Henry, as a member of the MHS Harmony choir ensemble, seemed to be at every event we attended,lending his deep, rich voice to the proceedings. And, if you happened to read TMEA’s Southwestern Musician magazine, you would have found him on the cover of their October 2017 issue.

When we needed a student performer for the Teacher of the Year Dinner last month, it was Fine Arts DSA recipient from Boyd, Bryson Jackson, who answered the call with a fantastic vocal duet he performed with fellow Boyd senior Paris DuPre.

When the annual MISD Senior Adult Tour visited North earlier this spring, Chi Chi Odo—the recipient of an At-Large DSA—and a fantastic example of excellence in the classroom, on the football field and among his peers—donned his Blue Blazer and served as a goodwill ambassador for his campus, as did Samantha Miller, the North valedictorian.

When we called students together earlier this year for National Merit recognition photographs at Boyd, North and MHS, it turned out to be a Who’s Who of 2018 DSA recipients: Andrew Bellah (English, MHS); Neelam Bohra (Social Studies, MHS); Basil El-Hindi (At-Large, MHS); Jasmine Gagnon (Foreign Language, Boyd); Aaron Katada (Fine Arts, Boyd); Samantha Miller (Valedictorian, North); Grace Molera (Salutatorian, North); Smriti Natarajan (Salutatorian, Boyd); Trevor Nguyen (Valedictorian, Boyd); Udani Satarasinghe (Valedictorian, MHS); Sara Schuster (At-Large, Boyd); Loren Smith (Science, MHS); Katie Thompson (English, North) and Ashley Wu (Salutatorian, MHS).

They can be found on the soccer field, the basketball court and in the community, serving their peers on the student council and in a myriad of clubs and church groups and other service organizations. They lead by example.

Student hugging teacher

MHS senior and Distinguished Student Science Award recipient Loren Smith and her Inspirational Teacher Katharine Watson

To put it succinctly, these students help form the heart and soul of McKinney ISD in big and small ways, both in the classroom and outside of it. They come from all walks of life, and the truth is that for each of the 45 Distinguished Students honored last week, there is somebody who could tell you a story that would provide a fresh perspective for evaluating one’s own accomplishments.

Each of these remarkable students was given the opportunity to single out one teacher who had made a significant impact on his/her life and to explain why they chose them.

Andrew Bellah’s words about MHS English/Humanities teacher Carol Winters were powerful. “When I first moved to McKinney, I was really at a loss in the new environment. I knew no one, talked to no one and felt disconnected from school and everything. Mrs. Winters was my English teacher for my freshman and sophomore years and was always so warm and friendly, encouraging isolated people like myself to express themselves in writing or challenge themselves in their work. Without Mrs. Winters, I wouldn’t be half the reader, writer or academic that I am today – she represents the qualities of teaching that extend beyond the classroom to positively influence students’ lives and their future.” Andrew is headed to Yale University.

Samantha Miller chose Scott Johnson Middle School seventh-grade Texas History teacher Loraine Grady as her Inspirational Teacher. “Mrs. Grady never shied away from challenging material,” Samantha said. “I admit that I learned how to fail often in her class because of this. However, her faith in me also taught me how to persevere and learn from my mistakes.” As mentioned earlier, Samantha is the 2018 North valedictorian and has her eye on a career in medicine.

Over and over, these students noted how their teachers inspired them and pushed them to be better. They helped them navigate difficult times and brought joy to the school day. They have been mentors and role models and have helped kids discover their talents.

And, their efforts hit the mark.

Because McKinney ISD is full of outstanding students, but these students are Distinguished.

And, they represent the best of the best.

Need Help?

If you need additional assistance with the content on this page, please contact MISD Communications Department team member Shane Mauldin by phone at 469-302-4007 or by email here .

Article Note:
Click the above image to download the 2018 Distinguished Student Awards program. (PDF)

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