Friday, December 10, 2010

Wow! A Crystal Apple!?!?!?!

December 9th, 2010

Dear Miss Kolis,

Congratulations! You have been selected as a winner of the prestigious Plain Dealer Crystal Apple Award sponsored by Bryant & Stratton College for the 2010-2011 school year. As an award winner, you join a very select group of educators in Northeast Ohio who have been recognized for outstanding efforts and accomplishments in education. We, at the Plain Dealer and Bryant & Stratton College, are proud to be part of this recognition process.

The recognition process begins today and includes a plan to inform more than one million readers of Ohio's largest newspaper of this honor when we publish an announcement about your accomplishment within The Plain Dealer on Sunday, December 19, 2010. Then at the end of the school year, you will join the other 2010-2011 Crystal Apple Award winners at a special banquet where you will be presented with the actual Crystal Apple Award. The Crystal Apple itself is intended to be a constant reminder to you of this special day and the special place you hold in the heart of Erin Harwood.

What makes the Crystal Apple Award so special is that educators are nominated by the people best qualified to observe their abilities... students, co-workers, administrators, family, parents, and friends. All of the nomination letters received each context period are narrowed down at The Plain Dealer and then are forwarded to a team of educators throughout Northeast Ohio who make the final selection.

Please accept my congratulations on behalf of all of us at The Plain Dealer and Bryant & Stratton College and our best wishes for your continued success.

Sincerely yours,

Terrance C. Z. Egger
November 19, 2010

On behalf of my son, Alex Harwood, I would like to nominate Miss Morgan Kolis, Special Education Teacher at Hilton Elementary School (K-3) in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights School District, for the Plain Dealer's Crystal Apple Award. Alex, age 9, is in third grade at Hilton Elementary and has autism. Morgan Kolis entered our lives three years ago when Alex transitioned to the public schools for kindergarten. Morgan embodies everything you would want in an educator: passion, dedication, strong work ethic, open-mindedness, creativeness, collaborative, and a superior communicator. Yet, Morgan's deservedness goes beyond these desirable traits and she truly has inspired not only my son, but our family and other families whose lives she has also touched. From an individual and global perspective, Morgan has tackled the challenges of educating children with special needs and finding and supporting ways to improve their overall lives. She not only looks at the individual academic needs but the needs of the "whole" child, and explores ways to incorporate various therapeutic interventions and technologies to further enrich the educational experiences of her students.

Morgan's work day does not end at 4:00pm nor does her school year end in June. In the summer, she organizes a "Room 5 Reunion" with a pool party at her home or a trip to Handels Ice Cream to bring the families, teachers, and staff together. Morgan also takes time out of her weekend and summer schedule to meet with Alex's home tutors to discuss curriculum, programming, and IEP goals to ensure carryover and generalization of all skills learned at home and at school.

Morgan has embraced technology and alternative interventions to meet the specific, individual needs of each of her students. When Alex struggled with handwriting and the use of a computer mouse, Morgan wrote a grant proposal and was awarded a computer "touch screen" to help him better explore technology, adapt his communication methods, and keep pace with his peers. After purchasing our own augmentative communication device for Alex (who is non-verbal), Morgan worked collaboratively and enthusiastically with our private speech therapist to train herself on the equipment so that she could incorporate use of the device into Alex's academic and social settings at school. This was despite the fact that the device was not part of Alex's IEP at the time nor was it recommended for Alex by outside agencies contracted by the district.

Beyond her day to day teaching responsibilities, Morgan embraces the individual philanthropic causes of all her students. Every year, she organizes a team of teachers, aides, administrators, and others to join our family team for the Autism Speaks Walk Now for Autism. Not only does she "walk" in support of Alex and others with autism, she raises money through on-line campaigns and has organized fundraising events such as Spotlight on Special Needs where supporters walk as one group, in the dark, shining their flashlights through the community.

As you can see, Morgan Kolis holds a very special place in our heart. It is difficult raising a special needs child but, when someone comes along who is so devoted to your child and it gives you strength and inspiration that there is a better life ahead for him. I cannot think of a more deserving candidate for the Crystal Apple Award and I encourage the committee to reward this extraordinary educator.


Erin Harwood

November 20, 2010

There are so many ways to look at a child’s success in school.  Is your child a social butterfly, a book worm or maybe a busy bee somewhere in between?  What about the child that is still growing into their wings?  That is the child that needs to be shown how to find their own unique way of flying.  Our daughter Marina is one of those children.  She is a 3rd grader at Hilton Elementary School in Brecksville- Broadview Heights School District.  She is also a child with autism  -  a child that has made so much progress thanks to all the wonderful staff and classmates at Hilton.  But among the supportive and nurturing staff is a special education teacher that has been Marina’s biggest champion  -  Morgan Kolis; she is an amazing special education teacher. 
With guidance and determination, Morgan has helped Marina achieve so many levels of success.  She has helped teach her to read, write and work on math problems.  More importantly, she has given her confidence to fit inside a world that sometimes makes her feel like an outsider.

Morgan has opened up a whole new world of being with friends, enjoying music, art and coping with uncertain day-to-day situations.  She has made school a place to have fun, be happy, and reach all the academic and social goals that all families have for their children.

By fostering an environment of acceptance and patience at school, Morgan goes beyond the academic challenges faced by children with special needs; she encourages staff and students to understand all the differences and similarities in children.  Encouraging kids and parents to use new technology to improve and make academics fun, she has created blogs and websites to share information.   Morgan spends much of her own time writing grants to get equipment for her resource room and creating extra academic aides for other teachers and families to use.   

Our daughter loves school, which she often calls “Miss Kolis school”.  She is doing well academically, is making friends and most of all has a brighter future thanks to Morgan Kolis.

Maria Hearns


Diane said...

An amazing tribute to a very special and deserving teacher, who is a role model for others. Congratulations on the award and for the many lives you teach, touch, and inspire every day!

Morgan said...

Thanks Diane. I really appreciate your sweet comments. :)

Kate At Home Mom said...

I'm not at all surprised that you have been selected for this award. You have worked hard for years for special education and you deserve all the recognition that comes with it and more. Be sure to keep your apple sparkling just like Y O U!

Sandy said...

Morgan, you are the (crystal) apple of your students' eyes. It takes a special person to do what you do in trying to help your students to reach their individual potentials. Congratulations!!!