The Ocean Springs Education Foundation is honoring the life of a parent volunteer gone too soon through an award that will become a tradition for Oak Park Elementary.
Many of us can think of at least one teacher we've had that simply stands out from the rest. That educator that went beyond the call of duty, making an impact that we won't soon forget. For Pieper Niolon, that teacher was Ms. Caroline Knight.
"Pieper was in 7th grade and Ms. Knight had been her first grade teacher. So that many years later, she gave very specific examples as to why Ms. Knight was always someone that she would remember. That spurred Jan to suggest that we create an award. Sadly only about two weeks after that both Jan and Pieper were lost to us," OSEF President Cheryl Cooper said.
But despite the tragic loss, Jan's wish to honor teachers that had the kind of effect Ms Knight had on her daughter was fulfilled.
"It's a new award that OSEF started this year to honor innovation and creativity in classroom teaching. It's special to us because of the name, Jan Pieper Niolon. Her daughter, Peiper, is named after her maiden name so the award honors them both," Cooper said.
For Ms. Knight, who had no idea about the presentation, it was truly an honor to accept the award.
"It really means a lot to me to be recognized by both of them. In Pieper's letter, she just remembered all the fun an whimsical things we did in the classroom. It was a completely other thing for Jan to take the time to recognize me. That was overwhelming," Knight said.
Ms. Knight said she loves what she does and receiving this award is just confirmation that she's making an impact.
"I feel like I'm right where I belong. I love teaching children and it's a gift to have that. To be able to do that, if that joy was shared, then that just makes it all the better. I'll never forget. Thank you," Knight said.
The "Teacher of the Year" award honors the life of Jan Niolon and her daughter, Pieper. The two were murdered in their Ocean Springs home back in March. Now the school is celebrating both of their lives and honoring the legacy they left behind.
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