Educational Professionals
February 20, 2019

Resource Leaders in Educational Excellence (LEEA) and Educational Support Staff (ESS) Award Recipients Create a Culture of Care, Trust, and Respect

Both Tessa Dickinson and Amy Kotcho had mothers who inspired them to pursue careers in education. Both have classroom and special education teaching backgrounds. And, both were recently recognized by colleagues for their work with students.

Dickinson, a third grade teacher from Annandale Schools, received a Leaders in Educational Excellence Award (LEEA) in October. Kotcho, Early Childhood Special Education Student Support Professional from Sauk Rapids-Rice Schools, received an Educational Support Staff Award (ESS) in November. They were among 256 honorees who attended recognition events hosted by Resource Training and Solutions, at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center.

The common bond that these women share extends to the connections they each foster with students. While George Washington Carver once noted “All learning is understanding relationships,” Dickinson and Kotcho might qualify this and say that all learning occurs because of relationships. To that end, they each work to create a culture of care, trust, and respect to help students thrive. Dickinson believes building positive student-teacher relationships is the best part of working in a school and should be at the center of education. “How students feel in school is just as important as what they learn,” she says. “Some kids don’t have good relationships in other places, so school needs to feel like a good place. Students need to feel taken care of and respected. They have to know that the adults they come into contact with at school are invested in them.”

"How students feel in school is just as important as what they learn."

Kotcho says creating a relationship of trust is key to helping students progress. She explains that regulating feelings and emotions is often challenging for her students, so being a positive, consistent presence and modeling ideal behavior is what often works for her. She most enjoys analyzing tasks and asking, “How can we break this down so I can help students be successful?”Both women also advocate for caregivers at home to help support students outside of school by spending quality time with them. Much research backs up this family-involved approach—when caregivers and communities are involved with students, achievement and success at school increases. Making time for students at home can be challenging as families are stretched by many responsibilites and time demands, yet caregivers and educators can work together to nurture student success inside and outside of the classroom.Dickinson and Kotcho are honored to be recognized by their peers but are quick to share the credit with those same co-workers: “I don’t think I’d want to go to work every day if there weren’t great staff surrounding me,” Kotcho states. Dickinson concurs and says, “I am so fortunate to work with staff who are supportive of one another and strive to collaborate and share in an effort to always do what’s best for students.”

Check out this organization with ideas, tips, and strategies for nurturing student success at home and school.