Written by Phil Cerroni
By Will Jukes
Irving ISD hosted its 13th Annual ICE Awards at Irving High School on Feb. 20 honoring teachers, students and parents who participated in outstanding projects at their schools in the past year. Awards were divided by education level into elementary, middle and high school and given in the categories of humanities, fine arts, math and sciences, athletics and physical education, community service/citizenship, special campus/district and parent involvement activities. An overall “best in show” award was given to Barton Elementary School for Popeye: A Play To Stop Bullying, and a Golden Apple, a special category recognizing outstanding educational partners in the district, went to the Heritage Senior Center for their collaboration with Pierce Early Childhood Schools.
The top award winners were difficult to select according to Debbie Debrick, a member of the ICE Committee responsible for reviewing nominations and selecting winners. The committee evaluated over 200 nominations this year, and “Ultimately we agreed that it deserved to win, because it's a major issue in the district, but it was a tough choice,” she said regarding the selection of Popeye: A Play to Stop Bullying for the overall ICE Award. Popeye took on the controversial issue of bullying in a performance for students and parents, urging students to treat one another with kindness and respect, and to report bullying to teachers, administrators or other adults.
But it wasn't just a matter of making sure the best programs got their due; included is a prize of up to $1,000 for the top award winner, something the district hopes will be reinvested in outstanding programs in the coming year. This year, the prize was larger than ever. Debrick attributes the committee's generosity this year to the generosity of their sponsors.
“All our funding comes from sponsors, and we don't really know how much we'll be able to give until all the money comes in from them, and this year after we collected it all we found had enough to give $1,000,” Debrick said.
Despite this, Debrick thinks that the ICE Awards are as much about recognition and respect as financial remuneration.
“I think that's definitely the real motivator for a lot of these students and teachers,” she said. “But a lot of them don't know about it. A lot of people there [at the ceremony] had never been before or never heard about it. So we definitely are trying to get the word out.”
This vision of expanding the ICE Awards is central to its mission to motivate parents, teachers and students to improve the district, a goal pursued not only through sponsorship or celebrity presenters - this year's awards were presented by Catherine Whiteman, local television personality - but by encouraging more interest in the awards themselves.
“Last year we got 25 percent of our submissions from PTA programs. We want to go above and beyond that,” Debrick said. “We want to grow teachers, grow parents and grow children.”