As part of a 15-year tradition, Dawson County educators have recognized one of their own for excellence in special education.
Dawson County School System Compliance Monitor Jim Gregoryk was recently named as the 2015 Philip Wright award winner.
"I was shocked. I thought it was going to someone else," he said. "[The special education department was] in a meeting and they said my name and I thought we had skipped something in the agenda and moved on to me. It's a very high honor to be chosen by your peers as the top."
The award is named for Philip Wright, an extensive advocate for children with special needs.
Wright assisted in the establishment of many special education programs in school systems throughout Northeast Georgia.
"It is our honor to recognize Mr. Jim Gregoryk as the 2015 Philip Wright Award winner," said Dawson County Schools Director of Special Education Hershel Bennett. "Jim is an advocate for all special education students, parents and teachers."
As a compliance monitor, Gregoryk makes sure everything is running in accordance to the law.
"I make sure we are doing things on the ‘up-and-up' and are doing it legally and giving the least restrictive services required by law to the students," he said. "I spend most of my time going to meetings, sitting down with parents and being available whenever there are any issues."
It's a role that is not an easy one, according to Bennett.
"Mr. Gregoryk has a very demanding role as the Dawson County Schools Special Education Compliance Monitor, yet his care for students far surpasses his title," he said. "Mr. Gregoryk has been entrusted with a great deal of responsibility and regardless of deadlines or other pressures; he always delivers for our students. "
Gregoryk started at Dawson County Middle School in 2008 as a special education teacher specializing in emotional behavioral disorders. He said he got into this field because of his own experiences as a child.
"I had learning disabilities and probably a touch of autism when I was younger, so I struggled as a child," he said. "When I realized that there was help, I decided I could probably do this and do a good job."
Bennett said that Gregoryk is a favorite with the students.
"Whenever an important meeting is called, teachers, parents and students all want Mr. Gregoryk to attend.
"Teachers always ask: ‘Can Mr. Gregoryk be present to assist?'
"Students always respond: ‘Will Mr. Jim be at my meeting?' and parents request his presence at meetings even if they are not sure of his name," he said. "Many times he has been referred to as ‘the man with the beard who knows everything and always looks out for my child.' I think that's a wonderful statement about Mr. Gregoryk."
Gregoryk will be formally honored and presented with the award at the Dawson County Board of Education meeting April 20.