Wade Winner: Devon McLaws

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Congratulations to Devon McLaws on being chosen as our latest Wade Award winner! Mr. McLaws was nominated by Michelle Martinez for this award, which is bestowed on those professionals who are recognized by their peers for consistently showcasing the qualities of a Wade:

  • Exuding passion for what they do
  • Sharing and inspiring their passion in others
  • Making a positive difference every day

In her nomination, Mrs. Martinez wrote,

“Mr. McLaws is relatively new to teaching a CTE course, coming from the law enforcement industry; within the second year of teaching, he was asked to teach our CAVIT Connect course, a specialized class for transitional special education students. These are student who may never become law enforcement agents; yet Mr. McLaws finds ways to engage them in activities and assist them in learning successful strategies to achieve in life. He does this while maintaining his traditional law enforcement program, an award-winning program that local agencies are actively hiring from when our students complete police academy. He does this with passion, enthusiasm, and respect for all students.

Passion: Devon McLaws is passionate about several things: his family, hunting, and instilling the pride of law enforcement to his students. His ability to combine the respect demanded of such a career with the sense of humor that it takes to deal with the pressures of the same career is remarkable. He often answers his phone, “Devon McLaws, living the dream”…this is a man who has found his true career in inspiring young men and women to pursue this career path.

Sharing and Inspiring: Mr. McLaws inspires his students in many ways: 1)by personal example…Mr. McLaws served in the Navy and as a Gilbert police officer before coming to teaching. He infuses his lessons with personal experiences, and his stories of life on the “streets” are both danger filled and humorous; this inspires his students to see what a life in law enforcement can be. 2)By using industry and agency representatives: Every police agency in Pinal County is part of our law enforcement program. Mr. McLaws has guests in from all walks of policing life: K9 officers, search and rescue robotics officers, military personnel, and many more. These guests not only share their experiences, but often will assist in teaching students some specialized skills; our students now see various pathways within law enforcement to pursue. 3)By building relationships with his students…Mr. McLaws is somewhat like a giant “older brother” who gets everyone excited, participates alongside his students, but also gives great advice and reflection as they go. His students do more than just learn about police work; they learn valuable life skills as well.

Positive Difference: I would argue that Mr. McLaws has made a positive difference in all of his students’ lives, but I will highlight the transitional students that he teaches in the afternoon. These are students who came to our school with myriad learning and physical disabilities. Within days, Mr. McLaws taught them to greet all staff by shaking their hands and asking how they are doing. Within days, Mr. McLaws has shown them how to wear our CAVIT uniform with pride, as a police officer would. As he teaches a skill, he allows them to critique each other and improve with each other; for example, when they were learning radio calls, each student would practice in front of the class, and then everyone would give them feedback about how they did. He has made the class into a mini-family; they may not complete skills at the same level as a traditional class, but they are completing skills none the less, and you can see the pride on their faces as they do so. It is inspiring to me to see these young men walk on campus, shake my hand, say, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Martinez” and walk off to class, because I know Devon has put that pride in them. No matter what these students pursue after CAVIT, they will do so with that pride, because Mr. McLaws has made that difference in their lives.”

As a company specializing in the education field, we feel privileged whenever we hear about teachers like Mr. McLaws, who are making such a positive difference for their students. In our interview, we asked Mr. McLaws some questions about his profession and best practices. Here’s what he shared:

Q: What drives your passion to see students succeed?

A: I was a proud Police Officer for over 10 years in the Phoenix metro area. During my time on the road I dealt with people from all walks of life. Many of those encounters were with children. Many of those children were forced into bad situations or acted out, simply because of their unfortunate home life. I watched good kids with tons of potential fall through the cracks. I watched them become something they were not proud of. As a Police Officer you are tasked with enforcing the law and often times left with little to no wiggle room. As a teacher I have more room to work and less red tape. I feel so empowered to create change in these kids’ lives. I see them for two hours a day, five days a week. In some cases that’s more time than they spend with their own parents during the week. This drives me to want to make my time with them nothing but positive. In my mind, even if they are coming from a less than fortunate household, I can effect positive change in their life and change their self image, which in return will change their outcome. I strive to create success stories, not statistics.

Q: Why do you feel it is so important to instill pride in your students?

A: I would not take credit for instilling pride in my students. What I try and do, with their help, is create a program around the students that makes them feel complete pride in what they do. Part of that is allowing them opportunity to make a positive impact on their peers and community. They then feel good about themselves and what they are doing. They have ownership and pride in their position. They end up craving these feelings of success and service and want to feel them all the time, not just in school, so they start making a positive impact wherever they go. They become “young service warriors.” So by having pride in the things they do and create, they in return have pride for themselves. It is self generated.

With that said, I believe pride within the student is mandatory in order to live a happy, full life and accomplish the goals they have set for themselves.

Q: What are some of your tactics for helping students see all the possibilities for their career in law enforcement?

A: I work for the Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology, a great district. My district and administration support all the staff in every way one can imagine. They never create roadblocks, only roads. One of my tactics is pure exposure to the different pathways within the career field. This requires time out of the classroom to see firsthand what is out there. It requires guest speakers and industry experts to help train and educate, which requires support from school administration. I spend a lot of time getting to know the individual students and what their specific goals are. I then use that information to make connections in those specific areas so that each student feels their individual interests were met.

Q: What are some challenges your students face, and how are you helping them overcome those obstacles?

A: Right now Law Enforcement as a whole is under heavy scrutiny. It is being viewed negatively due to recent unfortunate events. This is an obstacle for young students interested in this noble career field. They have questions and concerns about things they see, read, or hear about on the news. First I want to say how proud it makes me feel to see so many of these younger kids still interested in Law Enforcement. Now, how I help them overcome this obstacle is through honest communication and education. I always leave time during every session to answer questions and hold general discussions about current police related incidents in the media. I give them both sides if you will. I go over what is being reported, then I discuss the laws behind the specific incident and break down police tactics and training related to the specific incident. This helps them to see the full picture and have an educated opinion about the event, not simply an understanding of what the media may be reporting.

Q: Are there any additional personal best practices that you’d like to share with other education professionals?

A: I am learning every day I come to work. I learn more from my colleagues here than they will ever learn from me. The Wade Award is about being a motivator. It’s about being that person your co-workers and students go out of their way to approach, not turn the other way when they see you coming. So I would say, try and be a moment of happiness to those you come in contact with, have fun, and get your teach on!


We want to thank Mr. McLaws for taking the time to share these helpful insights, and congratulate him once again on his award. Please feel free to share your congratulations in the comments as well!

Also, we welcome your nominations for those colleagues in your organization who are true Wades. Visit our nomination page to submit a candidate today. We look forward to hearing from you!

About the Author
Mark C. Perna Mark C. Perna is a best-selling author and the founder of TFS in Cleveland, Ohio, a full-service strategic consulting firm whose mission is to share and support every client’s passion for making a difference.

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