The Frisco ISD Board of Trustees recognized Wakeland High School teacher Joanna Cone this week for her selection as the Tom Norris Texas Academic Decathlon Coach of the Year for medium schools.
Cone was nominated for the honor by her current and former students, who described the dedication and enthusiasm she brings to Academic Decathlon.
“I am truly amazed by the way she is able to make the hundreds of pages of content seem so interesting and engaging,” wrote Ishani Kaul. “Mrs. Cone goes out of her way to find clever methods to ensure that the content reaches her students in an interactive yet meaningful manner.”
They also praised her leadership and ability to inspire and motivate them.
“Whenever I feel dispirited or anxious, she always makes me feel that I am worthy and valuable,” wrote Labiba Uddin. “She acknowledges all of our efforts and pushes us to work to our full potential.”
That ability, they say, is transformative.
“Her caring leadership, guidance, and encouragement has turned dyslexic students into essay medalists and shy bookworms into speech champions,” wrote Jeremy Maness.
“I came into this program shy, uncertain, reserved and self-conscious, but now I know what I am capable of and how to work to get what I want,” added Ilisa Norman. “I have learned to set high goals for myself, as they are more achievable than I realize.”
Students say Cone has shaped who they are as people.
“Mrs. Cone believed in me before I even believed in myself,” wrote Hannah Lee. “She encouraged me and made me see the potential that I had not just in Academic Decathlon, but also in other competitions, in school and in life in general. Without Mrs. Cone, I would not be where I am right now or who I am right now.”
“I, who had never been able to hold proper conversations, found myself a three-time winner of Interview at the state level,” wrote Benjamin Hsu. “Even now, as a sophomore attending university, I find that I still have not met a professor who has had anywhere near the level of interpersonal focus that Mrs. Cone had. She knew all of our strengths, she knew all of our weaknesses, and she was able to draw out what we didn’t even know we had to make us into fierce competitors. She took the hardest subjects and turned them into interesting, entertaining lectures that I still find relevance in today. My spark has been ignited, along with so many other students, and there is no one who was as pivotal in lighting my fire as Mrs. Cone.”
Cone was selected for the honor by Academic Decathlon coaches from across the state and was awarded a trophy and $1,000 prize.
The School Board also honored all of the FISD Ac Dec students who received medals at the state competition. Lebanon Trail High School, which competed in the small schools division, advanced to the national competition in Frisco later this month. Wakeland’s Hannah Lee was also invited to compete at nationals based on her scores.
FISD is also home to the 2017 Tom Norris Texas Academic Decathlon Coach of the Year for medium schools, Heritage High School teacher Gabe Fain.