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Education Awards

2016 Teacher of the Year

Nathan Gibbs-Bowling

Nathan Gibbs-Bowling
Puget Sound ESD 121 Regional Teacher of the Year
Tacoma School District | Lincoln High School
The Evergreen State College, MiT, 2006 & BA, 2004

Nathan is starting his 10th year of teaching in Tacoma. He currently teaches AP Government and Human Geography at Lincoln High. Nathan became a teacher because of his belief that education is perhaps the greatest transformational force for both individuals and communities. He strives as teacher to make the impossible become possible for his students. His students are actively engaged in the democratic process and pass the AP exam at a rate 3 times the district average.

As a colleague, Nathan challenges teachers to take up the mantel of leadership and embrace the opportunity to create real change that their profession affords. He reminds us that research shows students do best when great teachers are clustered together and is a strong advocated for high-quality, collaborative professional development. He insists that teachers, systems, and communities must create solutions that put students’ needs above all else and is not shy about sharing these beliefs and convictions with statewide leaders.

Visitors to Nathan’s classroom emerge awestruck by his knack for providing strong leadership and direction while letting the students do the majority of the talking. Much of his success can be attributed to his skill at relationship building which has its roots in his deep commitment to the community where he grew up and now teaches. He is a mentor for the College Success Foundation, his church adopted a school without a PTSA, and he’s even a star announcer at athletic events. Nathan is so committed to his students that they have trouble shaking him even after graduation. He recently helped organize a fall alumni support tour where a group of teachers traveled to see Lincoln alumni who are now at college.

“Even if I aced the test, he always saw room where I could do better,” says former student Trang Tran. “He continuously pushed me to my limits, never allowing me to settle with what was good. He wanted great. This made me driven and determined to strive for greatness beyond what I even expected of myself. I worked harder, applied to schools that I never even dreamed of, and got more involved. I wanted to make him proud of me.”

2016 Regional Teachers of the Year

Alecia McAdams-Sing

Alecia McAdams-Sing
Northeast ESD 101 Regional Teacher of the Year
Nine Mile Falls School District | Lakeside High School
Whitworth University, BA, 1998
National Board Certified Teacher

Alecia is entering her 17th year at Lakeside where she teaches senior English and AP Language and Composition. Although she was at first reluctant to embrace her vocation, Alecia realized teaching was her calling after she transferred to Whitworth. Colleagues describe her as an intuitive educator with an extraordinarily positive outlook and a remarkable determination to see every student succeed.

Alecia says she was fortunate to have many great teachers as a child, but just one negative experience at an early age made a tremendous impact on her love of school and self-esteem. She strives to be the inverse of this experience for her students – to embrace each student as a whole person and make sure they always feel welcomed and honored. Her dogged pursuit of that “a-ha” moment for every student continues even after a student leaves school. Most recently a student who didn’t graduate with her class came back and finished last spring – thanks in large part to Alecia’s open door and encouragement.

Her classroom is an engaging and imaginative place. It is infused with Alecia’s infectious enthusiasm and made richer through Socratic seminars, Lincoln-Douglas debates, poetry slams, and even the occasional historical cosplay. She is also a vibrant member of the community outside of the classroom – advising National Honors Society and the Poetry Out Loud club and working to connect her kids to service opportunities and teach empathy as well as academic subjects.

“Even as a young teacher fresh out of college, Alecia’s ambition to effectively teach complex subject matter surprised me,” says colleague Matt Sullivan. “The fact that she could pull it off impressed upon me the need to expect more out of students than I normally would have, and to not shy away from redoubling my efforts to improve my own craft. I would find it difficult to find anyone who is more deserving of recognition than Alecia.”


Joyce Stark

Joyce Stark
ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
Sunnyside School District | Sunnyside High School
Washington State University, MS, 1995
Pennsylvania State University, Teaching Certificate, 1975 & BS, 1970

Joyce has been teaching science for over 30 years. She currently teaches at Sunnyside High School and she a leader in her district and the state for active and engaged learning. Last year 99% of her honors Biology students passed the state’s End of Course exam. She is a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and a previous Einstein Fellow with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Anyone who knows Joyce knows her mantra: “To learn science, students must do science.” Her classroom almost hums with activity – critters croak and bask in the sun and students are constantly working in groups to teach each other and ask higher level questions. As a young teacher, Joyce was inspired by a trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair. She just knew her rural students could compete at that level. Today this Sunnyside “dynasty” has sent students to the International Science Fair 28 of the last 33 years. Joyce now has the pleasure of teaching with one of the earliest attendees, colleague Teri Alvarez.

Colleagues describe Joyce as a life-long learner. Her commitment to a rich professional community has served as a model for others and has cemented her belief that great teachers are accountable to both their students and their disciplines. She is constantly on the move, adapting, and preparing for the future. She embraces the opportunities of mobile technology and social media while also teaching students balance. Her science club is busy grooming the next generation of Sunnyside scientists during weekend camps with Harry Potter and CSI themes.

“Joyce’s impact on students and other teachers is immeasurable,” says colleague Robin Driver. “I am only one of many who have been positively impacted by Joyce. Without a doubt I am the teacher I am today due to her generosity in her time, her advice as a mentor, her belief in and advocacy for authentic and inquiry learning, and her willingness to collaborate.”


Bethany Rivard

Bethany Rivard
ESD 112 Regional Teacher of the Year
Vancouver School District | Fort Vancouver High School
Portland State University, MEd, 2006
Hunter College, BA, 2001

Bethany teaches English Language Arts at Fort Vancouver where she is a passionate advocate for equity and justice. Bethany’s initial dreams of becoming a teacher were delayed by the financial strains of study and working in New York City. She used her undergrad education to become a content expert. Now over a decade into her teaching career, she still seeks better ways to work by researching international models and networking with colleges and universities.

She puts this expertise and research to good use in her international lit course, with her writing club, and in her work to connect students with the stories behind stories. Bethany’s students learn from Peace Corps volunteers, Holocaust survivors, and, perhaps most importantly, each other. Colleagues report with some envy that her classroom discussions are legendary and she “does something amazing in class pretty much every day.” Also legendary is her ability to relate to and build relationships with students. Student achievement soars because of Bethany’s unwavering belief in their abilities. Students know that in Bethany, they have found a teacher who truly understands them.

Bethany’s dedication to lifting up the struggling or marginalized student is unmatched. She has started a Chicano student group, piloted an early admission program for Washington State University, helped secure numerous scholarships for students, and is the unofficial lunchroom for students who need a safe place. Bethany has a particular concern for students who are English Language Learners, recent immigrants, or undocumented, and she is their tireless advocate in the big questions of education improvement and reform.

“To watch her teach is like watching a master conductor in front of a symphony, calling for more from some, encouraging others, and helping each musician/student find their voice,” says colleague Ben Jatos. “Having a student find his or her true authentic voice is what she does best. Bethany Rivard is seriously just an absolute teaching wizard. She inspires students to be better people and learners each class period.”


Maegan Skoubo

Maegan Skoubo
ESD 113 Regional Teacher of the Year
Raymond School District | Raymond Junior Senior High School
Grand Canyon University, MiT, 2007
Eastern Oregon University, BS, 2002
National Board Certified Teacher

Maegan is a middle school math teacher at Raymond Junior Senior High where she is described by many as a “natural teacher” and “math crazy.” Now entering her 2nd decade of teaching, Maegan embraces the benefits of teaching in a small community where she has been able to work with students at many different grade levels. The community connection Maegan has with her students and their families infuses her work with the richness of relationships long cultivated. Her days are peppered with casual run-ins with parents and early morning hang outs in her room – the community is like a family.

Maegan believes great teachers are both leaders and learners. She continues to be eager to test new strategies. In her work as a Washington State Math Fellow, Maegan has brought new ideas and techniques into her community. She has been a leader in standards based grading, Positive Behavior Intervention Support, and utilizing Open Educational Resources. She is passionate about tackling achievement gaps – especially in math – early on before they have a chance to grow. Maegan is also a vocal advocate for creating more equity between math and reading readiness at an early age.

Maegan is a coach in and out of the classroom – always demonstrating an expert balance between cheering and challenging students to work harder. Her students help craft their own behavior matrix at the beginning of the year, and her focus on truly knowing and appreciating her students – their skills in class and their passions outside of class helps her develop strategies for motivating and engaging them. Outside of class she coaches both cheer and the math team.

“Maegan has an amazing talent for zeroing in on the concept begin taught while keeping her students actively engaged and involved in their learning,” says colleague Karen Camenzind. “Her classroom management skills are especially impactful. She utilizes research based methods to ensure that all students are not only actively engaged in learning math, but also treat each other with the respect required to have a fair and equitable classroom learning environment. It is a classroom full of rich experiences and where learning is valued.”


Theresa Holland-Schmid

Theresa Holland-Schmid
Olympic ESD 114 Regional Teacher of the Year
North Kitsap School District | Kingston High School
University of Colorado, BA, 1986
The Evergreen State College, MiT, 1993

Theresa has worked in education for over 20 years. She started in North Kitsap with the Spectrum alternative program and currently teaches English and Social Studies at Kingston High. At both schools Theresa has been known for both her high standards and her flexibility in how students meet standards. This makes her classroom a place for students of skill levels and abilities. Students are greeted at the door to Theresa’s classroom with the famous quote from Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” This sets the tone for what will prove to be an exciting journey for students through history and culture, peppered with vivid examples of past events.

Theresa’s goal is to build lessons and experiences so engaging that students cease to feel school is work and begin to feel more the joy of discovery. She enhances her classroom and lessons with the artifacts of history: art, photographs, music. Students are transported into a world from the past – so alive that they can see the connections to our current world more clearly.

This history can sometimes reveal shocking truths, but Theresa does not shy away from tough conversations. She is a constant ally and advocate for the disenfranchised and downtrodden. She believes strongly that education is more than just a collaborative effort. It is a collective responsibility to all children, even before they enter her classroom. This is why she is a vocal proponent of more investment in early childhood education – particularly Head Start. She believes nurturing our littlest learners is one of the greatest educational investments we can make.

“Students at Kingston High School hold her in the highest regard for her compassion towards others, progressive teaching philosophy, and inherent love of education,” says former student Danielle Fox. “She can always be counted on to provide a smile and warm welcome as you enter her classroom. Her constant upbeat energy and respect for her students makes learning infectious; something that shows her adaptability and responsiveness to students as individuals. Mrs. Holland goes above and beyond expectations when it comes to curriculum standards and more importantly, connecting with her students.”


Omar Escalera

Omar Escalera
ESD 123 Regional Teacher of the Year
Pasco School District | McLoughlin Middle School
Heritage University, BA, 2004

Omar is a Two Way Dual Language teacher at McLoughlin and a Dual Language facilitator for Pasco School District. He is a respected dual language expert in his region and across the state. Omar’s earliest inspiration to become a teacher was his father – a teacher who taught him education was the ticket to a better life. His path to teaching was a bit rocky. As a new immigrant, Omar struggled with the language barrier and frequently moved. He became part of a gang, but thanks to some caring adults who encouraged him, Omar returned to his original dream of teaching. He now believes his primary role is to help his students realize their own potential.

Omar is the kind of teacher who is always doing an extra bit here and there for his students. He offered an extra Spanish class at the middle school to ensure elementary dual language students would have a class to keep up their language skills once they got to middle school. He teaches a GED class at the local community center. He has been a volunteer athletic club coach for over two decades. Students relate to Omar and his story. They know he understands their struggles because he has lived them himself. This also makes it easier for him to ask for and get their best effort.

Omar believes we must make recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers should be a top priority. Omar says teachers have a responsibility to collaborate as professionals and support each other as people. He affirms that teaching is a wonderful profession, but can be emotionally draining and great colleagues know how to support each other in and out of the classroom. Omar challenges educators to step up and tell the story of their kids, schools, and communities. Only then, with the public have a full and accurate picture of the state of education in America.

“If you talk to parents, colleagues, students, or community members that have had the privilege of work or collaborating with Omar, you will hear that he is positive, engaging, hardworking, and dedicated to children,” says administrator and parent Diana Cissne. “I admire his ability to be a positive instructional leader who strives to create a collaborative learning community, using best practices to maximize the potential of each student. He truly represents the heart of teaching. His level of commitment and compassion for educating our youth make him an excellent role model for all teachers.”


Ashley Leneway

Ashley Leneway
North Central ESD 171 Regional Teacher of the Year
Lake Chelan School District | Morgan Owings Elementary
Boise State University, MEd, 2012
Western Michigan University, BS, 2008

Ashley has taught 3rd grade at Morgan Owings and this year moved into a new position as the Technology and Curriculum Integration Specialist. Ashley says she was mentored and inspired by many great teachers, especially her own grandmother whose classroom she visited as a child. She is a solutions-oriented collaborator who believes in the uniqueness and capability of every student.

Early on in her career, Ashley learned that to be an effective teacher – especially with challenging students – she needed a cool head, a deep toolbox, and a willingness to continuously learn new strategies. Her ease with technology has helped her develop the second two in that list. She models for colleagues how to use technology to individualize the classroom experience for each student. Recently her 3rd graders made a big splash at a school board meeting where the demonstrated their new iPods for board members.

Ashley is passionate about engaging parents and families as students’ first teachers. She believes important adults in students’ lives need to be a part of early conversations about changing standards and assessments because education happens all around in schools, homes, and even in her dance studio where she has a chance to see students as artists as well as scholars. Ashley is as focused on her students’ toolboxes as she is on her own. Her inventive and active lesson plans – especially the personal finance unit where students have class jobs and pay desk rent – empower students and leave an impression long after they leave her class.

“My son came home beaming last week,” says parent Rose Olcutt. “His homework included practicing “Superhero Stance.” My son stood firmly, with confidence, and recited all his favorite things about himself. He holds his chin a little higher every day now. I could not have asked for a more perfect teacher for my son. Ashley not only teaches our children the required curriculum, she teaches them how to be good people. Wherever these children find themselves in the world, they are better off for having her – a teacher who is completely invested in her students.”


Michael Werner

Michael Werner
Northwest ESD 189 Regional Teacher of the Year
Granite Falls School District | Granite Falls High School
Central Washington University, MA, 2008

Michael is a 2nd career teacher. He started out in Switzerland as a machinist and engineer. Then, like so many other teachers, he was started to volunteer in a school and was hooked. He now teaches Career and Technical Education and Manufacturing at Granite Falls High where he focuses on bringing the real world into class through hands-on teams like Eco Car Club and the first ever all girls team to compete in Shell’s Eco Marathon – Shop Girls.

Because Michael came to teaching from industry, he has a depth of knowledge about the skills needed for success in the world of manufacturing. He has assembled a committed industry advising board that works collaboratively with him to advise on the program and mentor students. He believes strongly that STEM subjects must be taught in an integrated way with supposed “soft skills” such as critical thinking, work ethic, and timeliness woven throughout. He is an advocate for bringing more shop into schools earlier, and his high school students even run camps and workshops for elementary students.

Michael’s skill at motivating students and reputation have grown quickly. His classes fill quickly and his outreach efforts at all levels continue to grow. Michael believes that good students must risk failure to become great and the goal of CTE programs should be to open up opportunities for students to innovate. We need a creative disruption in education, he says, if we are to keep up with the tremendous changes industry and technology that lay ahead of us.

“Michael, his program, and his passion for learning have had a significant impact on the lives of his students,” says principal Michele Wadeikis. “For the past five years at Granite Falls the class valedictorians have all been associated with our manufacturing program and have gone on to pursue engineering or aerospace degrees at colleges such as MIT, University of Washington, Stanford, and CalPoly. Granit Falls High School and the community of Granite Falls is fortunate to have an innovative, dedicated, and passionate educator that serves our students and celebrates their successes.”


   Updated 9/24/2015

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