11 students recognized for inaugural PTSA award


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Principal Craig Weinreich (left) applauds after presenting freshman Boyd Houser with a certificate in the Lyceum at a recent Parent Teacher Student Association meeting. Houser is among the first group of students to receive the new award in which teachers nominate students for their effort and participation in the classroom.

Cleaning beakers, organizing papers and wiping down tables.

That’s what junior Samantha Zacarias does twice a week in science teacher Alexander Hua’s classroom as a teacher’s assistant [TA] during sixth period last semester. Besides helping Hua prepare lab materials, the junior assists with inputting students’ grades into Aeries and cleaning up at the end of the school day.

Zacarias’ contributions prompted Hua to nominate his TA to be among the first batch of recipients for the inaugural Parent Teacher Student Association’s [PTSA] Exceptional Effort and Engagement award, also known as E cubed.

“It’s a good way to recognize students who don’t really speak up [during class] but do things quietly at school,” Zacarias said. “I was pretty surprised [that I was recognized]. I didn’t even know we had this award at our school, but it made me happy.”

The junior was among 11 others to be honored at the Nov. 30 awards ceremony in the Lyceum. 

Once Hua, who teaches chemistry, received principal Craig Weinreich’s email informing faculty about the new recognition program, the instructor said his TA came to mind.

“I think it’s cool that we can highlight some of the other things students do on campus, not just the smartest kids in the class,” he said. “There’s so many interesting and active things students do on campus that don’t get recognized.” 

Alongside Hua, social science teacher Jeffery Gordon chose freshman Boyd Houser to get a certificate to recognize his fourth-period World History student’s efforts on assignments. 

“I wouldn’t say Houser is different [from other students], but he is maximizing his potential, which is very important for every student,” Gordon said. “The school gave us an opportunity to select students for E cubed, and I have a lot of great students, but Boyd was the winner this time.”

In an email interview, PTSA president Joanna Cho gave the following assessment of the ceremony: “When Mr. Weinreich read out what each staff member had to say about each student, it was a touching moment for all.

“These students all deserved it, and spotlighting their efforts was worth the effort and time of getting this award established.”

Award recipients received an email from PTSA on Nov. 18, inviting them to a meeting to receive a framed certificate with their name along with a special mention in the principal’s Dec. 2 weekly digital newsletter. 

“I felt good that Mr. Gordon nominated me because he is my favorite teacher at Sunny Hills, and it just felt like an achievement when I found out,” Houser said.

Teachers may nominate multiple students at the end of each quarter on the PTSA website. A second E cubed awards ceremony has not been scheduled as of Friday, Feb. 10.