Monday, February 26, 2024

Nixon honored as 'School Hero'

Staff Writer | February 9, 2024 1:00 AM

With the help of the Idaho Lottery, Sandpoint Middle School was able to pay tribute to a "School Hero" late last month.

It was, for Jennifer Nixon, a surprising start to the morning. The middle school Life Skills paraprofessional was about to take a quick break when Lottery officials surprised her by walking into her room, led by her son.

"We just want you to know you're valued and appreciated for all the hard work that you do to benefit public education, not only here at the schools, but in greater Bonner County and the state of Idaho," Workman said.

Tearing up several times, Nixon joked that she always cried at special moments and couldn't imagine anything better than her son being present for the presentation.

"I love it," Nixon said of teaching. "I love working with the kids, and that's my life. I can't imagine doing anything else. I love being here."

Nixon's son, Joshua Mata, had nominated his mom for the award, telling Lottery officials that her mom's love for what she does is inspirational.

"She works hard every day," Mata told Lottery officials. "She loves all of her students. She says she may learn as much from them as they learn from her.”

Idaho Lottery staff slipped into the building with the help of Lake Pend Oreille School District officials, who had been tipped off to the surprise award and arranged for her son to escort the group to Nixon's class.

Middle school officials said they were more than happy to help Nixon get a little recognition for her hard work and dedication.

"We are thrilled that the Idaho Lottery chose to recognize Jennifer, an integral member of our Life Skills team," Geoff Penrose, SMS principal, said. "Jennifer and the whole team do wonderful, important work with our highest-needs kids every day, and do it with good cheer and great heart."

That heart is well-known and respected at both the school and the district. Seeing her recognized by others is great to be a part of, Penrose said.

"We love to see that Jennifer's contributions to SMS are recognized by our community as a whole," he added.

School heroes, who can be nominated by parents, community members, or colleagues, receive an oversized Sweethearts box filled with $275 worth of items useful for their position.

Each year, the Lottery's School Hero program celebrates 35 people for their efforts and honors the impact they have on those around them. The partnership with Sweethearts Candy helps the Lottery help others thank school staff, from teachers to counselors for all they do, Workman said.

To nominate a school hero, go online to

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