by: LORI HALL - Second-grade teacher Jody Amri gets emotional June 13 after learning she earned the Education Celebration Award.

Stafford teacher earns Education Celebration Award

There was an air of excitement in the Stafford Primary School gym on June 13. The school year was almost over, the kids had just gotten done with field day and summer was within reach. But that was not the only reason for the buzz. There was a secret about to be revealed.

'We have something interesting today that we've been holding to ourselves,' Principal Jen Freeborn told the gym full of students and teachers.

Second-grade teacher Jody Amri was about to get a surprise. She was named the spring term recipient of the Education Celebration Award, presented by the Oregon College Savings Plan.

The award goes to an educator in the public school system who has been deemed to motivate and inspire children to be better students. Amri was among the 167 nominations received for the award and was chosen after a committee conducted a site visit. As part of the award, Amri was presented with a plaque and a check for $1,500, and the school received a check for $5,000.

'I'm so surprised. This is so wonderful,' Amri said. 'I do feel it is an honor for my whole school.'

Amri has been a teacher for 20 years and in the district for 11 years, having spent 10 of those at Stafford Primary School.

Two parents, Tracy Gilday and Sally LeBlanc, nominated Amri for the honor.

Amri is recognized in the school as embracing technology as much as her students do. From blogs to iPads to VoiceThreads, she not only teaches her students how to use technology but also how to learn through it.

'Kids are really into technology, and it's easy to get inspired by their interests,' she said.

Michael Parker with Oregon College Savings Plan said the award committee looks for concrete examples of educators making a positive impact on students. He said during a site visit to Amri's class the students were doing a math race online with other students around the world and were having fun while learning.

'Jody is a phenomenal teacher. She has strong relationships with students and families. Mrs. Amri is that teacher kids come back and visit each year,' Freeborn said.

Because of Amri's embrace of technology, Freeborn said she would like to invest the $5,000 into more of it, with the input of Amri and other teachers, of course.

The Oregon College Savings Plan's Education Celebration Award program recognizes three teachers each academic year, giving away a total of $15,000 in donations to three schools, plus another $4,500 to the teachers. This is the inaugural year of the program.

The fall term winner was Stephen Buckley from Sunnyslope Elementary in Roseburg. The winter term winner was Catherine Hawkins, a kindergarten teacher at Central Linn Elementary School in Halsey. Nominations may come from any Oregon resident who has the opportunity to observe an effective educator in action.

The Oregon College Savings Plan, which is part of the Oregon 529 College Savings Network, started in 2001. For more information about the Oregon College Savings Plan, visit or call toll-free 866-772-8464.

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