The Nell Baham Achievement Award has been given out 20 times at Sinclair Elementary School and, despite obstacles presented by COVID-19 and social distancing, the 21st year was no exception.
Fifth grader Emily Garcia was presented with her award – virtually – by the award’s namesake, longtime educator Nell Baham. Garcia is the daughter of Nadia and David Garcia and has a younger brother, Ian. She will attend Frank Black Middle School in the fall.
“Emily is an ideal student who has set high goals for herself and has a passion for working with younger children,” fifth-grade teacher Sarah White.
Students who receive the prestigious award, which comes with a cash prize matched by Baham, must exhibit good citizenship traits, excel in academics and make worthy contributions to Sinclair and within the community.
It was established in 1999 in Baham’s honor by then-PTA president Jill Hlavinka to recognize her dedication to the education of children for more than three decades. Baham taught at Sinclair for more than half that time.
The award presentation was part of a Zoom promotion ceremony organized by the fifth-grade teachers and principal Lee Mashburn.
In addition to a drive-by parade in front of the school, students logged on to Zoom to attend a ceremony and receive awards. At the conclusion of the program, Baham gave closing remarks to all the students before presenting the award to Emily Garcia, who then closed the ceremony by sharing reflections of her years at Sinclair.
Baham said she had just learned about Zoom herself, participating in her professional association meetings, so she was prepared for the virtual element.
She did not get to meet Garcia in person but enjoyed seeing her receive the award. As White has a passion for working with children, Baham said she was an especially fitting recipient.
“It was a really nice (program) for all the students,” Baham said. “And Sarah made a lovely speech.”
Baham’s own remarks were abbreviated this year, due to the medium, but it wasn’t her first time speaking to the fifth-graders.
“I talk about the award to classes at the beginning of the year,” Baham said. “One of my favorite sayings that I like to share with students is ‘Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.’ ”