Debbie Phares, an elementary school teacher at Maple Grove Primary School in Battle Ground, Wash., was selected as the recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Teacher Award. The award was presented to Phares on the strength of a nominating letter composed and written by Jennifer Coleman, an 8-year-old former student and Oregon Mensan. Phares was honored at a ceremony including the school board in December.
A teacher for sixteen years, Phares received her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She also has a reading endorsement.
The following is taken from a story on the award written by Diana Maul, Scholarship Chair for Oregon Mensa, and published in the October 2005 Omen, the newsletter of Oregon Mensa.
"Jennifer has only been a Mensa member for a year.... As one of her first acts as a member, she wrote her essay and submitted it to the contest. The real drama comes because Jennifer was just 8 years old when all this happened.
"Within the first month of school, that hectic period of adjustment and adaptation for both students and staff, Debbie Phares identified how exceptional this one student was. Miss Phares didn't make a notation to do something when things calmed down. She acted immediately to consult with the family and to initiate the process to get Jennifer tested so the school protocols would be followed and Jennifer's intellectual needs could be best met. This is the mark of an oustanding teacher.
"Jennifer was accelerated to a higher grade. She enjoyed one short month in Miss Phares' classroom, yet that month was long enough to change Jennifer's life and to stimulate Jennifer to acknowledge her appreciation for that special teacher with the Distinguished Teacher nomination. We have two special people in our midst: one is a fine educator and the other is a gifted young lady who exhibits many of the same characteristics that made her teacher so special."