Kim Hawkins, director of preschool and special education at Allen County Schools, was presented with the 2021 Grissom Award for Innovation in Special Education at the Kentucky Board of Education’s (KBE) Aug. 5 meeting.
The Grissom Award honors Johnnie Grissom, who provided strong leadership in and commitment to special education in her role as the Kentucky Department of Education’s associate commissioner for the former Office of Special Instructional Services. The award is given in the spring of each year to a Kentuckian or a Kentucky organization to honor outstanding dedication to improving student achievement for students with disabilities. The award recognizes those who exhibit leadership, commitment and service to promote high student achievement through instructional equity and in closing the achievement gap for all children.
Hawkins was nominated by Melissa Biggerstaff, chief academic officer for Allen County Schools.
In her nomination, Hawkins was praised for being innovative and strategic, with the core belief that all students can learn at high levels. Biggerstaff noted that Hawkins never turns away from an opportunity to help others and positively impact students who are most at-risk.
“She is a strong instructional leader and commits to ongoing growth, support and learning of our special education teachers,” Biggerstaff wrote.
During her career spanning more than 25 years, Hawkins has invested her time and energy into continuous improvement to ensure that all her students are successful.
“I went into special education because I feel that the impact is authentic and genuine. I want to be an advocate for students who do not have a voice or those who are marginalized. It’s very rewarding for me,” Hawkins said.
Biggerstaff said that since Hawkins’ time at Allen County, the district has seen “consistent gains in student performance, a decrease in negative behaviors, an increase in co-teaching across the district, and a significant increase in students transitioning to postsecondary with a job or prepared for their next level of work.”
Hawkins earned a bachelor’s in learning/behavior disorders and elementary education, a master’s in counseling, and a Rank I in educational administration and director of special education certification from Western Kentucky University.
Hawkins said that she is “truly humbled, very surprised and extremely grateful for this award.”