Inclusive Educator Award Presented to Two Rivers Teacher

Published February 2024

Josh Countryman, Two Rivers Choir Director and teacher, was awarded the Inclusive Educator Award for the 2023-2024 school year for School District 197 by our partner, Intermediate School District 917.

The Inclusive Educator Award was developed to recognize staff in the member districts it serves for their outstanding work supporting the inclusion of students with disabilities.

Emma Mayes, special education teacher for Intermediate School District 917's Developmental disabilities, Academics, Socialization and Health services (DASH) program, located inside Two Rivers High School, shares why she nominated Josh. "I thought Josh was a perfect person for it. He is always welcoming my students to join his classes. He is even working with his mass media class to create a mini-documentary about the students in my classroom to share with the general education students."

Emma’s students have complex care and communication needs. Most of her students also have vision losses, making choir a relatively easy class for her students to join. However, when their schedules didn't align this fall, Josh welcomed her students to his mass media classroom—offering her students a different experience. Josh and Emma worked together to find ways to include the DASH students in the mass media class while encouraging his general education students to create a welcoming and inclusive environment. "Josh is always ready to brainstorm and think of ideas on how to include them more,” Emma shared. “My students are able to actually talk with these students and get more purposeful interaction."   

Josh's approach to being an inclusive educator is as simple as inviting students into a new environment. "Hey, we're doing a fun activity—this would be a great one for your kids to pop into… It would be good for all of our students," shared Josh. "We are uncomfortable around those things that we don't understand. A little understanding goes a long way."

Thank you, Josh, for your work to support the inclusion of the unique learners that are served in our school building!