Dana Thompson moved into the New Smyrna Beach community in 1999. One of the first orders of business for her was to report to her school to offer volunteer time. As a result of her service, the New Smyrna Beach Middle School mentoring program was started, and she has continued to be its lifeblood. Her mentor program pairs at risk students with qualified members of the community who meet with them regularly. The mentor provides a stable role model for the student and in some cases, is the only dependable, successful adult the student knows. Ms. Thompson has kept the program thriving in spite of major obstacles. She has also worked with the local elementary and high schools to start their own programs, which ensures vital continuity in the mentoring process.
In addition to the mentoring program, Ms. Thompson initiated and nurtured many other “drop-out” programs at her school. These programs, such as Wright Flight were highly innovative ways of capturing the interest and engendering enthusiasm with students who were less than successful with a traditional curriculum. The Wright Flight program is an aviation history program that uses the many accomplishments of aviation heroes to motivate children toward improved academic performance and rewards successful students with the thrill of flight. Ms.Thompson enlists local pilots to come and assist in teaching the children about aviation. They were even able to get a flight simulator donated from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to benefit her program.
As of August 2002, Wright Flight has grown into a semester elective credit course in aviation at New Smyrna Beach Middle School. Ms. Thompson applied and was awarded grants from the Richard Grannis Memorial Fund and Aerospace Education Educators, which help to fund field trips to Kennedy Space Center, The Astronaut Hall of Fame and a War Bird Museum.
In many instances, a teacher may have problems with a student and send them to Ms. Thompson’s office because of her unique ways of intervention. There she would respond with an innovative idea like allowing them to work on the school newsletter, in the school store or at the post office. This gives the child a cool down period to get settled and prepared to re-enter the regular school day.
Ms. Thompson also has developed relationships with a number of business partners from the community who are now valuable supporters of the New Smyrna Beach Middle School. These relationships ensure personal and corporate involvement in a wide spectrum of the community. Her partnership with the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS) has established a School Museum operated by students. The museum features of variety of changing exhibits loaned by MOAS and local collectors.
In addition, Ms. Thompson supervises the butterfly gardens, the school post office, the photography club, the spring fashion show and the career connections. Ms. Thompson ensures the children learn real world business practices to the students who work there. The was selected as the Teacher of the Year at New Smyrna Beach Middle School in 1987 and the Silver Sands Middle School in 1997. She won the Crystal Apple Award in 1992 and again in 2000 and was the Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year in 2001.