Beloved Lower School Performing Arts Teacher, Karen Clark, received the Jackson T. Stephens Outstanding Lower School Faculty Award at the All-School Convocation held on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. Mrs. Clark was announced as the winner of the prestigious award by Head of School Dr. David Perkinson in front of all of the School's faculty and students gathered in the Championship Gym.
Along with the Jackson T. Stephens Outstanding Senior Award, the Faculty Award was established by Mr. and Mrs. Warren A. Stephens in May of 2004, and are the highest honors bestowed upon members of the Episcopal Collegiate faculty and senior class. The awards are named for Mr. Jackson T. Stephens in honor of his lifelong support of education and the significant role he played in making Episcopal Collegiate School a reality.
"This year, we recognize a lower school teacher who is humble, energetic, innovative, and who sets high expectations for student learning," said Dr. Perkinson. "She makes a daily commitment to creating a learning environment based upon mutual respect, trust, and compassion, thus facilitating the development of confident learners and leaders.
"As a founding member of Lower School faculty, [Karen] worked with passion and enthusiasm to establish a strong program and a positive learning environment. She demonstrates a keen understanding of her discipline and is proactive in seeking the most current approaches to craft instruction. She embraces what it means to be an educator at an independent school— committing fully to each day's instruction, leading activities outside the classroom, investing time in the evenings and on weekends to extra-curricular activities for students, and nurturing the mind, body, and spirit of our students. She seems to have a mission and dedication to serve others, always with a smile on her face. [Karen] is the most sincere representation of a team player, always working for the greater good. She is also an effective leader—confident and poised enough to make changes when needed, but humble enough to ask for help when necessary. Kindness and humility mark her path.
"As a practicing professional in her trade, [Karen] is continually growing. She always welcomes constructive criticism from colleagues and supervisors as a catalyst for that growth. Her classroom is full of engaging lessons and exciting resources designed to meet the needs of all students—cultivating and promoting the gifts and abilities of each of her students. In this classroom, play is recognized as the work of young children. She praises effort and achievement, and the students feel safe to take risks and set high goals with guidance. This kind of environment fosters a love for learning coupled with an understanding and acceptance of others. Not surprisingly, she floats in and out of the office throughout the day with stories celebrating student successes—large and small.
"Her zest for teaching and nurturing young students is matched only by her enthusiasm for life. The impact that this teacher's generous, fun-loving, and kind-hearted spirit has on her colleagues lasts long after she has retreated to her classroom, or rather, stage. Her boundless energy and relentlessly positive outlook are both mysterious and contagious.
When you meet [Karen], your first thought is always, 'How do I bottle up just a little bit of what she's got?' All three divisions benefit from her influence and commitment to our school community. From writing scripts for the Christmas program, to organizing Grandparents Day, to providing vocals for chapel every week, to leading Wildcat Chorale and Women's Glee, all while researching and implementing a new curriculum, being a dedicated missionary, mom, and wife, [Karen] actually does it all. She is an inspiration to all of us, and we are beyond fortunate to have her bless our students and our community with her presence and expertise."
The Jackson T. Stephens Award includes a $10,000 grant - $5,000 that may be used at the recipient's discretion and and additional $5,000 for continuing education.