Goats, clowns, dogs and robots figured into the Cleburne Rotary Club’s Thursday luncheon as the club presented vocational service awards to a Cleburne fireman, policeman and a Cleburne ISD teacher.
Members of the award winners’ respective professions nominated the recipients who were recognized for their efforts above and beyond duty’s call.
The recipients included Cleburne Fire Department Engineer Danny Wilson, Cleburne Police Officer Charles “Trey” West and Smith Middle School sixth-grade science teacher Roel Pena.
Danny Nanny
CFD Chief Clint Ishmael called Wilson a credit to the department.
“Since he joined the fire department in 2002, Danny has been on thousands of calls and his attitude and care for people is second to none,” Ishmael said.
Realizing that fire prevention and safety programs are important for adults and especially for children, Wilson and other department members took steps to upgrade CFD’s prevention program efforts.
“With kids you don’t want someone just standing at a podium lecturing because they’ll quickly lose interest in that,” Ishmael said. “So you need to impart the importance of the safety message but you also have to make it interesting and have fun with them. So Danny, with the help of some others, started the clown program where they go around schools and visit with kids and deliver safety programs.”
Ishmael joked that it probably wasn’t the best timing for CFD to launch the clown program at the time clown scare episodes were making news.
“But we persevered and the kids have enjoyed the program,” Ishmael said. “The thing is, we’ve learned that during emergencies kids tend to be way more calm and relaxed than adults. Especially if they’ve had safety messages and instruction ingrained through prevention programs like this.”
Wilson, Ishmael said, goes by several nicknames at CFD.
“One of his first calls when he was a rookie involved a deranged goat chasing children around the playground at Adams Elementary [School],” Ishmael said. “I’m not sure why the fire department got that call instead of animal control. But we went out and corralled the goat and got it into the back of the truck. Danny, being a rookie, was responsible for riding in the back of the truck and holding on to the goat. Needless to say, there were several pictures taken that day and names such as Goat Boy and Danny Nanny, which follow him to this day.”
Best West
CPD Chief Rob Severance joked that the police department has no goat stories he’s aware of but does have a dog story, referring to a controversial officer dog shooting incident several years ago.
West, who had no involvement in that incident, later began teaching canine encounter training for officers at CPD and other departments.
West also proved instrumental in the department’s attainment of the Texas Police Chief’s Association’s Best Practices Recognition earlier this year, Severance said.
Severance said achieving the recognition was one of his goals when he came on board as chief in 2012. Employing 164 directives, the multi-pronged process covers a department’s procedures, policies, transparency, practices, accountability safeguards and more. Countywide, CPD and the Godley Police Department are the only two departments to have achieved the goal. Statewide, only about 125 out of more than 1,000 departments have done so.
For those projects and other training initiatives, West represents the logical choice for this year’s award, Severance said.
“Because of Officer West and our other officers, we have one of the best training programs and one that can compete with those of the much larger departments,” Severance said. “Often when I’m visiting with chiefs from other departments they will ask about our training programs and want more information.”
It is rocket science
Cleburne ISD Director of Communications Lisa Magers joked that few school districts can brag about having a rocket scientist on board, but CISD certainly can.
Rotarians recognized Pena, who was also named CISD’s secondary teacher of the year in 2015, with the Vocational Service Excellence Award for Teaching.
After working more than 20 years as an aerospace engineer at Lockheed Martin, Pena began volunteering with CISD and gave his time to create a physics club at Gerard Elementary School.
Pena, who said he felt “spiritually nudged” to get an education as well as an engineering degree, went on to establish the robotics and Engineering Club at Smith Middle School, a program that has since received multiple grant awards from the Cleburne Education Foundation.
“We are using his program as the model in implementing robotics initiatives at all CISD campuses,” Magers said.
Pena has also worked with children through CASA of Johnson County.
“I feel so accomplished when a student who I have been helping achieves success in their studies,” Pena said. “I am glad to live and work among people who feel the same. The transition form aerospace engineer to classroom teacher has been an amazing journey.”
Rotarians also recognized Cleburne High School English Teacher Ashley Fowler, who also serves as faculty sponsor for the school’s Interact program, a group of students who will be working closely with the Cleburne Rotary Club on numerous projects.
The credit, Fowler said, goes to the Cleburne Rotary Club for their support of Interact and CISD students.
Rotarian Stew Asimus said all four honored and recognized deserve credit for their efforts.
“It’s important that all of us in Rotary show our support to the members of these critical professions in our community and let them know how much we appreciate them every day,” Asimus said.