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Lawson Named Best Early Childhood School in the State

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Lawson Early Childhood School has earned the 2020 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award for Early Childhood Education. They were chosen from among five finalist schools located across the state.

Lawson Early Childhood School has earned the 2020 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award for Early Childhood Education. They were chosen from among five finalist schools located across the state.

McKinney, Texas – When Susie Towber introduces herself in a video by saying, “I’m the luckiest person. I’m the principal at Lawson Early Childhood School in McKinney, Texas,” she absolutely means it.

Click here to view the H-E-B feature video on Lawson Early Childhood School.

If anybody has found their dream job, it’s Susie Towber and her Lawson staff because, in spite of the challenges inherent in the work, they wholeheartedly love what they do. And, while that love drives them forward, it’s their talent, expertise and unrelenting commitment to their students that have propelled their work to stratospheric levels of excellence.

So much so that H-E-B has named McKinney ISD’s Lawson Early Childhood School the 2020 H-E-B Excellence in Education winner in the Early Childhood School category, choosing them from among five finalist schools from across the state. The announcement came during a virtual version of H-E-B’s award ceremony held Tuesday, May 5. In addition to the recognition, Lawson will receive $25,000 for their school. Lawson was a finalist in 2018.

Students at Lawson Early Childhood school take part in STEAM lab activities prior to the current school closure.

Since the program’s inception, H-E-B has awarded more than $11.5 million in funding to benefit outstanding Texas public schools. To determine overall statewide winners, a panel of judges visits each early childhood facility, tours campuses and talks with administration, staff, parents and community members.

“Lawson Early Childhood is, without question, one of the shining stars in our wonderful district,” says MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel. “The leadership of Mrs. Towber, combined with the enthusiasm and love for kids expressed by all Lawson faculty and staff, are the primary reasons for them receiving this award. I could not be more proud of their efforts, and I am extremely happy that they are receiving this outstanding, well-deserved recognition.”

Towber and her staff have been over the moon since the announcement, but Towber is quick to deflect the recognition toward her teachers.

“I want it to be about them,” she says, “because this is celebrating early childhood schools, and our teachers put their heart and soul into it. They are so passionate about early childhood education, and they’re all there for a reason. It’s about them.”

Lawson Principal Susie Towber joins students as they work their way through the school’s Sensory Pathway prior to the school closure.

Lawson is home to the district’s youngest learners—from 3 years old to 5 years old—who participate in Early Head Start, Head Start (Bilingual, ESL, Monolingual), Pre-K (Bilingual, ESL, Monolingual), Early Childhood Special Education, Low Ratio Early Childhood Education and Preschool Language Program.

At the beginning of 2019-2020, Lawson changed its half-day Pre-K program to a full day program, allowing more students to attend. Inspired by the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, the school has implemented a “House System” this year featuring the Houses of Kindness, Courage and Friendship, which serve to foster a more tightly knit community within the school.

The school’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Lab, which was introduced three years ago, provides a place for students to engage in open-ended, hands-on experiences focused on specific concepts such as energy or transportation. The Lawson team designed a teaching cycle (thinking, planning, doing and reflecting) to ensure success in the lab as students engage with higher order questions, visuals, “I can” statements and reflective questions that help them grasp essential academic and social vocabulary.

This year, through a grant, Lawson added a Sensory Path that builds neural pathways and helps students develop balance and gross motor skills, while at the same time offering an option for students experiencing strong emotions to de-escalate through self-regulation. That is coupled with breathing techniques that help them learn to understand and process their emotions in healthy ways.

The Lawson team build engagement and community with parents through home visits, the Sidewalk Librarian initiative and IMPACT nights (IMportance of Parents and Children Together), which bring Lawson families to the campus for a carnival-like atmosphere and activities that reinforce critical skills. Families leave with lessons they can use at home, and every child leaves with a book.

Lawson students take part in a music activity prior to the school closure.

During the school closure, some of this has been different, of course, but Lawson’s teachers have taken their efforts to new levels to provide as much uninterrupted learning as possible for MISD’s youngest students.

“Our teachers are working 24/7,” says Towber. “They’re teaching online. They create amazing videos and lessons and Zoom with their kids. They create group lessons, individual lessons. Our teachers are working so hard to do the best they can to meet the needs of our students.”

And, that reveals the heart of Lawson Early Childhood School—the devotion they feel toward their students that reaches far beyond obligation.

Towber thinks she’s lucky to work at Lawson. Based on the remarkable work taking place at the school, one is tempted to believe that the students and parents of Lawson feel pretty lucky that she—and her staff—are there, too.

We asked Lawson staff members for their response to the H-E-B award. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“What the H-E-B award means for me is truly the importance of early childhood education. We are building the foundation for the littlest learners here in McKinney, and for H-E-B to recognize how important that is means the world. We want the success of our students to carry them through kindergarten, to college, and beyond. McKinney ISD and H-E-B both value the importance of what Lawson does, and for that I am truly thankful.” — Justin Bourgeois-Delgado, Head Start Teacher, Lawson ECS

“What a wonderful way to start a new day of teaching! Teaching from a distance is emotionally so difficult, and the validation of this award is just what we needed in this challenging time! I’m so blessed and proud to be a part of this special campus as it is recognized for the excellence it represents.” — Alyssa Works, PPCD Teacher, Lawson ECS

“Earning this recognition validates the exceptional teaching that our Lawson staff delivers every day. We are the first face of MISD schools for many families. Our focus on helping our district’s youngest learners begin to recognize and regulate their emotions and behaviors is critical. Combining that social growth with rigorous academic instruction ensures that our students have life-long opportunities for success. This is challenging work, and we are gratified to have our passion and commitment recognized.” — Kelly McKee, Librarian, Lawson ECS

“Not only am I extremely thrilled that Lawson ECS was selected by H-E-B as the early childhood school of the year, I am honored to be one of the members of the staff of this prestigious campus. Yes, we strive for excellence on a daily basis, but the joy of Lawson is that every day on this campus is a new day, an opportunity to make the day better than the day before. As a teacher, I often wonder if I am doing enough. With this age group, it is not often that these precious learners will remember us personally in the future but I do know and hope they will remember the difference we made to inspire their love of learning, their curiosity, and that there is never only one way to explore, communicate, or play. To receive this award is a confirmation that not only do our precious learners receive the benefits of a campus such as Lawson but also serves as confirmation to visitors outside of our campus to recognize that what we do is meaningful, important, and that we are laying the foundation for life long learners. Our students are not only good friends, they are important, and they are Lawson Sea Lions!” — Elizabeth Lopez, ECSE, Lawson ECS

“Loving children well is at the very core of our mission at Lawson. We have come to understand that we have to first capture the hearts of our children to be able to teach their minds. This is accomplished by creating a classroom family that can celebrate, learn, make mistakes, and forgive. We can then use play, imagination, literature, music and movement to open up a world of learning opportunities. Our building has a palpable soul that thrives on the success and joy of the most diverse population of youngest learners in McKinney ISD. We are both humbled and grateful that H-E-B could sense this in our school and graciously presented us with this award.” — Brandy Wirstrom, Head Start Teacher, Lawson ECS

“Lawson Early Childhood School School is honored to be recognized by H-E-B as early childhood school of the year. At Lawson, we put a strong focus on social and emotional learning. We believe that students who can recognize emotions, calm their bodies, and express their feelings are not only going to be better students academically, but also strong and successful members of society. H-E-B recognizes the importance of social and emotional learning from an early age. Many lives will be touched by this award.” — Jen Mitchell, School Counselor, Lawson ECS 

“We are beyond thrilled that H-E-B has honored Lawson with the 2020 Excellence in Early Childhood Education Award! We are incredibly grateful that H-E-B and McKinney ISD recognize and invest in the importance of an exemplary early childhood education. I am so proud to be a part of such a passionate and caring team committed to delivering highly effective learning experiences for our Sea Lions. What we do at Lawson truly matters!” — Veronica Muizers Assistant Principal, Lawson ECS

“As a parent and as part of the most wonderful educators of early childhood, this recognition means the world to me. I am so grateful to be part of Lawson and witness first hand the passion, care, and love that every individual pours into everything they do for our Lawson Sea Lions. To have the opportunity to help our students grow academically and, most importantly, emotionally, is a huge challenge, but with support from our parents and the right tools, we are showing our community that it is possible. We are proud to teach our students that we can do anything we set our minds to. The sky is the limit when you dream big and do everything with kindness, courage and friendship.” — Silvana Galdos, Special Education Clerical Aide, Lawson ECS

“Before I was part of the amazing Lawson staff, I was a parent of a Sea Lion. I could not have been more lucky to witness first hand the hard work and dedication that our administration and teachers provide to the Lawson Community. Our students are always encouraged to be unique and be confident in themselves and their abilities. I know that each and every one of these students goes home with a new way of thinking and knowing that they are loved and cared for.” — Marcela Mora, Pre-K Bilingual Teacher, Lawson ECS

“The staff of Lawson Early Childhood School is honored to represent McKinney ISD and share the importance of providing wholesome early childhood education. Lawson’s mission is to foster student growth by providing support in academics, social and emotional learning, and the idea of living kind. Winning the 2020 Excellence in Early Childhood Education Award aids us to embark on the new adventure of being a leader in innovation for surrounding early childhood schools. We are thrilled to be able to share our growth and learning with all.” — Zulema Lujan Flores, Bilingual Head Start Teacher, Lawson ECS

“The first time I came to Lawson was in 2013 when I was offered an opportunity to teach summer school. Before then, I had never thought about leaving the elementary school where I worked, but Lawson was truly special. That was the first time I considered becoming an early childhood teacher. Here, I was in a place conceived of and built just for early learners and equipped with expert and passionate teachers who understood the uniqueness and challenges of educating young minds. Three years ago, I joined the Lawson team, and I have learned a lot about the outstanding work teachers of 3 and 4 and year olds get to do everyday. Teaching little ones is not easy; a special skill set is required. These children are not babies, but little people with big personalities, big feelings and enormous and curious minds. Many of them live in difficult circumstances and have experienced trauma at a young age. At Lawson there is an intentional focus on building academic, social and emotional needs to prepare students for their first day in kindergarten and beyond. Our culture promotes learning, safety and love for all students, regardless of ability and background.

“Despite the overwhelming research showing the critical importance of quality learning for children from birth to age five, entire communities continue to see early childhood as unimportant. The reality is that the labor Lawson does is exceptional and it impacts student lives. Hopefully, through recognition like this and laws promoting and supporting early childhood education, more students will enjoy the benefits of a school like ours, and we will change more lives.” — Iliana Gonzalez, Assistant Principal, Lawson ECS

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