The following was submitted by Misty Choate.
“This nomination is for the Principal of Freedom Elementary School in Hooper Utah, Diane Rockwood. Ms. Rockwood has far exceeded our expectations as concerned parents of a newly diagnosed child with high functioning Autism. Last year we contacted Ms. Rockwood after a horrible situation at a Charter school. My son (who was later diagnosed with autism) was pushed aside and considered a lost cause at this charter school. They threatened to expel my son in first grade however we were able to move him to public school before that was officially done.
Ms Rockwood and the staff at Freedom Elementary has changed not only our son’s life, but ours as his parents. I have a hard time explaining the stress the previous school put on me as a working mother without shedding a few tears. They would call me 2-3 times a week wanting me to go to the school to get my son. He was suspended many times for things my teacher friends say is normal in a 1st grade class room. They told us he was to had to handle and that moving him to a public school wouldn’t help him. We decided to move him anyway, and we are so glad we did.
Ms. Rockwood took it upon herself to make sure our son transitioned and thrived at his new school. Our first meeting with Ms. Rockwood and her staff included her, the school counselor, Special Ed, District helpers, and his new 1st grade teacher. They had a plan in place the day he started and made him feel so welcome. She personally went above and beyond for our son. When he acted up, she would walk him around the school to calm him down. She downloaded album after album on iTunes so she could have his favorite music available for him when he was agitated. She would call me and my husband in the evenings to give me updates, and encouragements. We often had meetings discussing new issues that would come up with our son and she was always so positive, expressing how gifted and smart he was. She knew she could help him and that he would soon be mainstreamed in the classroom. He had a rough transition, but nothing compared to the charter school. The staff there showed him love and respect, which helped him to feel more comfortable and safe. I read a quote one day saying “he didn’t need to be fixed, he only needed to be loved” and Ms Rockwood and her staff did just that.
Because of Ms. Rockwood our son has excelled. She calls him “their greatest success”. He is now in 2nd grade and is thriving. He went from a kid with behavior problems so severe that he was hardly in the classroom, to being in the classroom most of the day. With Ms Rockwoods encouragement, the staff at Freedom have guided him to be a responsible, and successful 2nd grader and he thanks to their help is working hard to catch up to his class mates. His teacher this year, Mrs Montgomery is sensational as well, as is the special Ed teacher Mrs. Edwards. We love them both dearly and wish they could be awarded for their help with our little guy. Though all of the staff at Freedom are exceptional, we know it comes from administrators like Ms Rockwood to encourage teachers to do their best and work hard for these children. We are so grateful for everyone at this school. So happy we took the leap to move our son.
Side note: Diane Rockwood is such a fun principal for all the kids. I have seen her greeting the kids in the rain yelling “Happy Wednesday” opening doors for them as their parents pull up. She knows so many of their names. She high fives them as she walks through the hall. She tries her hardest to make every child there feel welcome and wanted. She dressed up as a dinosaur for halloween, and even let every single child in the school dump ice cream sundae ingredients on her after shaving part of her head because they met their fundraising goal. She goes above and beyond what is expected from a principal and I believe she needs to be rewarded and recognized for her outstanding service to our school. She is truly one of Utah’s greatest teachers/administrators. Please consider her for this award. She is more than deserving.”