William McGinnis receives Inclusion Champion: Educator of the Year award

William McGinnis, the Adaptive PE and Special Olympic coordinator at Harlandale ISD, has been named the 2019 “Inclusion Champion: Educator of the Year” by the Down Syndrome Association of South Texas.

The award, which recognizes individuals in the educational and business world that have shown their commitment and dedication towards the concept of inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome, was presented to McGinnis during the 2019 Buddy Walk on Oct. 19.

“I’m really grateful to receive this award,” McGinnis said. “Winning an award like this motivates me to continue to create more opportunities for our students to thrive and be included fully in Harlandale ISD.”

McGinnis began his career at Harlandale ISD in 2010 as a Life Skills Unit coach at Wright Elementary and then moved up to the Special Education Department as the Adaptive PE coach. He was motivated to work with students with disabilities since he was in the fifth grade after seeing firsthand how inclusion positively impacts both the student with and without a disability.

“I knew that my purpose in life was to help students feel included, and words really cannot describe how much I appreciate the Harlandale community for embracing my ideas and allowing me to become the educator I am today,” McGinnis said. “My dream has grown throughout the years and has spread from a districtwide initiative and meeting with city leaders all the way to promoting inclusion at the state level.”

It was a Harlandale ISD parent, Antonia Moreida, who decided to nominate McGinnis for the prestigious award. She credits the coach for motivating her daughter, Kasi Moreida, a fifth-grader with Down syndrome attending Carroll Bell Elementary, to become more active and feel included in the last two years.

“He truly deserves this award,” Moreida said. “He goes above and beyond with the Partners in PE Program and Get Active Day. Other school districts do not have that, and my daughter has changed. She is more outgoing; she wants to try more things, and most importantly, she is included with everyone else. The other kids are also seeing that it’s ok to have friends with disabilities.”

Moreida enjoys seeing her daughter ride an adaptive bike and participate in cheerleading, which is something she never thought would be possible.

“I see the difference in the way she is treated, not just in PE, but all the aspects of education in this school district,” Moreida added.  

Harlandale ISD Special Education Director Della Taylor accompanied McGinnis during the acceptance of his award and feels lucky to have him be a part of her team.

“I am proud of William receiving this amazing award,” Taylor said. “He has taken this program to the next level, expanding with special activities, with Unified Sports, and really recognizing a lot of the areas we had not before. It has just been wonderful. He is so passionate and dedicated, and I always look forward to all his great ideas.”

McGinnis hopes to create more opportunities for students with special needs in the future.

“My future goals include having Harlandale ISD fully participating in Unified Sports and creating more leadership opportunities for our students with disabilities,” McGinnis said. “As an educator, I love creating opportunities for students to experience an activity for the first time without limits or obstacles standing in their way. When you remove the obstacle you create a bridge for students coming from different walks of life to work together to conquer a common goal.”

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