Updated: Oct 19, 2018
Aug. 14, 2018 - A 16-year veteran of education, Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School’s Chris Koek has held a number of titles, ranging from math teacher to Assistant Principal. But now, the Duval County Public Schools administrator can add another title to his resume – “life changer.”
The National Life Group Foundation announced that Koek is a nominee for the 2018-2019 National LifeChanger of the Year award, which recognizes K-12 educators and school district employees across the United States. If selected as a winner, Koek has the potential of receiving a prize of up to $10,000 to split 50-50 with his school.
“As a school leader, I strive to impact students’ lives in a positive way,” said Koek. “I make a conscious effort on a daily basis to connect with students and ensure they know they have my support. They know that my door is always open and that I will make the time to address their concerns or needs.” Koek was nominated by Danielle Willis, a Mayport parent who credits the assistant principal with helping her son, Xavier, succeed in spite of his ADHD diagnosis.
"I was absolutely petrified of middle school for him," Willis said of her son, who will enter 8th grade in the fall. "When my son started in the 6th grade, I went in blind, wondering if I should call a meeting with all staff to explain my child or just wait and see what happens. I was scared they would think I was making excuses for him."
As a student who struggles with forgetfulness, impulsivity, and attentiveness, Willis was concerned her son would not only get into trouble, but also fail to meet the standards expected of him. But Willis said from the moment she met with Koek and her son’s teachers, her fears were alleviated – and have remained that way ever since.
"Mr. Koek took me into his office, sat me down and assured me it was going to be okay. We arranged his schedule with teachers my son would relate to, teachers who would be able to keep him on track. I am not sure where we would be without Mr. Koek and his determination to see my son excel," Willis said.
Koek began his career in education in 2002, and has been with Duval County Public Schools and Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle since 2005. He has held the assistant principal position for four years.
The LifeChanger of the Year awards are sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation. A total of seventeen winners – who will be chosen by a selection committee comprised of educational professionals and former winners – will be named throughout the spring, beginning in January. Prizes awarded will range from $3,000 to $10,000. To be considered for an award, nominees must meet a number of criteria that include making a positive impact in the lives of students, and possessing a proven record of professional excellence. To view Koek’s nominee profile, click here. To learn more about the LifeChanger of the Year awards, including the nomination process, click here.