U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-District 21) recently honored two local heroes with Congressional Awards that come with a mention in the historical Congressional Record. Mary Baldwin and Melissa Davison each received the honor during a Zoom broadcast on Friday, Aug. 14.
“I know you don’t like attention, but these actions can’t go unnoticed,” said Frankel, introducing the two women, who were joined virtually by a wide array of friends, family and co-workers who were “present” for the broadcast, each at their own location.
Baldwin, an assistant principal at Wellington Landings Middle School, was nominated for the award by Sandra Villegas. She said that Baldwin has a “superpower” of kindness and compassion and had helped her oldest child become an A student despite previous difficulties with school.
Baldwin is a veteran educator who has been teaching since the 1980s, with experience as the school’s Exceptional Student Education (ESE) administrator.
“I would be remiss if I did not mention that hundreds of others are also doing the work I am doing,” she said. “Every child needs an advocate… It has been a privilege to get to know thousands of students over the years.”
Baldwin also noted the difficulties with continuing her mission of supporting students during the current pandemic.
“Now we are in the virtual world, and we try to keep things as normal as possible, doing whatever we can do to bring school to the students,” she said.
In accepting the award, Baldwin related stories of students she had worked with, including the story of a challenging student who she got to know and helped set on a path to success.
“We all want to succeed. We just need the right people in our corner,” said Baldwin, who explained that the system needs to identify students having difficulties so no student is lost and that teaching is part tutoring and part cheerleading that goes way beyond a 9 to 5 schedule. “Teenage time is anytime.”
Wellington Landings Principal Blake Bennett said that she first met Baldwin nine years ago. “She can reach the most unreachable student. No matter what the issue — problems at home or regular middle school drama — she understands the angst of an 11- to 14-year-old,” Bennett said.
Bennett added that it is not uncommon to hear from adults reaching out to thank Baldwin for her work with them back when they were students.
“She has changed thousands and thousands of student lives, and she has made me a better principal,” Bennett said. “She’s our superhero.”
Baldwin was honored by all the attention. “I am proud to be a part and play a role in our community,” she said.
The other honoree was Davison, head nurse for infectious diseases at JFK Medical Center’s North Campus, who has been in nursing for more than 30 years with 14 years in infection prevention.
“The coronavirus is a huge challenge to everyone out there,” she said. “This is new, it evolves quickly, and we must adapt to its changes. There is no ‘I’ or ‘me,’ only ‘we and ‘us.’ As we evolve, we are better able to provide care to our patients.”
Davison said that she wanted to recognize all of the people working at JFK. “I accept this award on behalf of all of them,” she said.
Frankel thanked her for the role she plays in the current emergency.
“I think nurses have a very dangerous job right now,” she said. “I think we have always taken them for granted. They are on the front lines, just as a teacher is, but in a different way.”
Frankel saluted both Baldwin and Davison for their service to the community.
“Mary and Melissa are exceptional, and I know they feel they are accepting this award on behalf of a lot of people,” she said. “We will put some words into the Congressional Record, so they become part of history. The cases of these two women are special. They deserve congressional recognition.”