Shawnee Mission special educators receive first-ever Golden Eagle awards

Golden Eagle
Tracy Livingston, third from left, received the Golden Eagle award for her dedication to special education as a speech/language pathologist in the Shawnee Mission School District. Photo by Shawnee Mission School District

A new award to recognize teachers in special education is circling the Shawnee Mission School District.

The Golden Eagle award is a new honorary certificate and trophy given to special education teachers for their efforts to help students grow and reach their own potential. Tracy Livingston, speech/language pathologist at the Shawnee Mission Early Childhood Education Center, was the primary honoree, and Brandi Newry, a school psychologist with the Shawnee Mission School District, was the secondary honoree.

Livingston said she was “pretty surprised” when she found out she had received the award Oct. 19.

“It was late on a Friday afternoon, and so it was a little shocking,” Livingston said. “That was not at all what I was expecting.”

Another speech/language pathologist had nominated Livingston because of her dedication to children when they first enter the district. She is on the center’s evaluation team, so she often has first contact with young children and their families.

Newry is in her second year working for the district; she’s mostly stationed at Trailridge Middle School and Indian Woods Middle School. Before that, she worked briefly for Kansas City Missouri public schools, following nine years in the Wichita School District.

“I honestly didn’t know that this existed,” Newry said. “I was so taken aback and surprised. I didn’t see it coming.”

Golden Eagle
Brandi Newry, left, received the Golden Eagle award for her dedication to students as a school psychologist in special education in the Shawnee Mission School District. Photo by Shawnee Mission School District

Newry said that she has worked closely this semester with Deb DuPree, a special education coordinator for secondary schools within the district, who bestowed Newry with the award Oct. 17.

“There was obviously something that she saw in me within those first nine weeks,” Newry said. “I was just honored. I just couldn’t believe it. The work that we do as educators isn’t always recognized, and this is the first time in 12 years I’ve been recognized in any way.”

DuPree had told Newry that she has seen her work very hard for families and students who come with “lots of challenges.”

“She said that she just really appreciates me jumping into action for these students and the families and making connections with kids and just being able to handle a lot of tough cases with some ‘poise,’” Newry said.

The Golden Eagle award is named for its symbolism of how its honorees inspire learners to soar like eagles. Recipients keep the certificate as part of the recognition, but they pass the traveling trophy to another outstanding special educator within the district. Already, Livingston has nominated Sara Moses, a school psychologist within the district, to receive the trophy. Newry is in the process of nominating the fourth recipient of the award.

Livingston called Moses, the third recipient, a leader among their colleagues.

“If you have a question, it usually involves, ‘Ask Sara,’” she said, adding that the traveling trophy allows educators to “continue to recognize colleagues and focus on that positive.”