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Education Awards

2017 Teacher of the Year

Camille Jones

Camille Jones
North Central ESD 171 Regional Teacher of the Year
Quincy School District | Pioneer Elementary
Whitworth University, MA, expected in 2018
Seattle Pacific University, BA, 2008

Photos of Camille

Short Introduction
Camille was raised on a farm in rural Quincy, Washington and returned to the area to teach in 2010 because she believes we ought to bloom where we’re planted. She teaches schoolwide enrichment and highly capable programs at Pioneer Elementary in Quincy where her rural students are mostly still learning English and living in poverty.

Camille embraces her identity as a millennial, saying it reinforces her commitment to recognize the changing needs of her students. She is constantly adapting her practice to expand her students’ worldview and provide a globally-relevant education.

Camille has led an overhaul of the schoolwide enrichment program to focus more on STEAM and develop future-ready skills like collaboration and critical thinking. As the Highly Capable District Lead, Camille led an initiative to better identify giftedness and nurture potential in marginalized students. Today, Camille’s advanced programs include students from all backgrounds – including special education – and the opportunity gap in Quincy’s highly capable programs is narrowing each year.

Longer Biography
Camille grew up on a farm where she learned two lessons: you must “work with the soil you’ve got,” and with support and consideration, you can “bloom where you are planted.” Majoring in Spanish, studying abroad in Mexico and Spain, and pursuing an MA in Teaching the Gifted and Talented, Camille came home to Quincy to cultivate all farm kids with a unique perspective on language and roots.

Part of that relationship that Camille has with her hometown includes her “passion to be a positive impact.” Serving on the 2014 Levy Steering Committee and promoting the $108 million-dollar bond campaign, Camille organized community-home meetings for young couples as well as the farmers who would bear a large amount of the bond’s tax burden. With their support, the bond passed at 64%. Camille is also involved with Habitat for Humanity, through which her students have both seen life-changing events and benefited first-hand through supplies donated for her enrichment units from the Habitat Store. She is planning a service-learning project through Habitat in the future.

At Pioneer Elementary, Camille serves as a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Enrichment Teacher, providing opportunities for ALL students. Her approach is inspiring, says her principal. “Students in her Enrichment and Highly Capable Program come from poverty, ELL, and Special Ed backgrounds, and her ability to bring out the best in ALL students is an absolute pleasure to watch.” For example, Camille facilitated Pioneer’s first international collaborative project, which involved over 40 schools in 7 countries to create a “Big Friendly Monster” for display in each participating school. She also led a team to “Destination Imagination,” a student-led, creative problem-solving competition.

Giving her students challenging tasks and having high expectations, Camille communicates with them in a way that reinforces their progress and helps them develop “confidence within their struggle.” She often hears students say, “I’m being gritty!” and thereby knows she’s on the right track. “If every kid leaves Pioneer knowing what a civil engineer, a sculptor, or a chemist is, and if a few aspire to those careers in the future, I will have done my job well.” Camille hopes that every student leaves Pioneer with understanding, excitement, and STEAM!


2017 Regional Teachers of the Year

Tim Larson

Tim Larson
ESD 101 Regional Teacher of the Year
Odessa School District | P.C. Jantz Elementary School
University of Washington, BA 1993
Concordia University, Masters in Curriculum & Instruction, 2001

“As hard as it is to deal with someone, it’s even harder to be that person.” These are the words Tim Larson has tried to live by throughout his 22 years of teaching. “An outstanding educator should be able to do many things,” Tim reflects, “but first and foremost they must be able to put themselves in other people’s situations and try to understand what drives them to do what they do.”

Having a BA in Psychology has helped Tim understand his learning community each and every day. He has watched the demographics of his district change dramatically over the last eight years, especially, with what he calls the hard-hit “recession students.” Poverty is the number one issue Tim would like to see addressed in education reform. “You need to get through Maslow before you can get to Bloom’s,” Tim says.

Tim is experienced and enthusiastic, always working to know his students by “name and need.” Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) is one of the other programs Tim has implemented. PBIS extends learning into the community by way of a ticket system. Store and small-business owners hand kids tickets when students “open a door, pick up dropped groceries, or shovel a snow-covered sidewalk.” The community gets to see that Odessa schools are trying to guide smart and considerate kids. “It’s important for students to know that proper behavior doesn’t stop when they exit our school doors at the end of the day.”

After the school day, Tim switches his teacher hat to the caps of volunteer, coach, referee, and camp leader, knowing firsthand with his own two children that having another connection with a teacher inspires student effort. High test scores are an indication of Tim’s academic success; but it is the whole child, Tim believes, that the teaching profession needs to keep in mind, support, and inspire.


Jose Corona

Jose Corona
ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
Toppenish School District | Kirkwood Elementary School
Heritage University, MA, 2013; WSU, BA 1995

Devoting his entire 20-year career to Kirkwood Elementary School, Jose Corona teaches 3rd grade in Toppenish, where he grew up working in the fields alongside his father. Not only can he relate to his students, who are predominantly Hispanic and Native American, Jose also believes that he is “one of them.” Like them, he knew poverty; like them, he struggled with English; like them, he never believed he could attend college. When the doors were opened to education and “a new world of possibility,” Jose began a remarkable journey as a role model to the students and families of Toppenish.

Jose’s practice has to meet the needs of a wide range of learners. His colleagues say that he “has a special talent of being able to work with the most difficult student,” and “knows what works with kids and makes allowances for their individual needs.”

Jose cultivates a classroom that is collaborative and supportive. His use of technology, for example, encourages students to help and teach one another. “Students are eager to share their thinking on the Smart Board,” says the Director of Early Learning. “When students make an error in solving a math problem,” Jose’s students reinforce the positive. “’That’s okay,’ one student tells another. ‘Let him see his mistake!’” He is building a community of trust and shared responsibility. It is also one of compassion that does not allow bullying behaviors.

“Adversity,” Jose observes, “should not be an excuse that impedes growth. It should be the catalyst for advancement.” Now teaching his second generation of students, children of the children he first met at Kirkwood 20 years ago, Jose Corona is that catalyst, changing so many young mindsets. He is helping students transition from seeing themselves as insignificant to imaging a future full of purpose and potential.


Kendra Yamamoto

Kendra Yamamoto
ESD 112 Regional Teacher of the Year
Vancouver School District | Martin Luther King Elementary
Lesley University, Med, 2001
Northwest Christian University, BA, 1998

Kendra serves as the teacher mentor for all newly hired kindergarten teachers for Vancouver Public Schools, preschool teacher at King Elementary, and coordinator for the “Jump Start Kindergarten Program” for all 21 VPS elementary schools. As a member of the district’s Early Learning Task Force, “Kendra’s passion for promoting those efforts,” says Vancouver’s Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, is “exemplary in every way.”

Kendra is determined to provide “high quality learning experiences for our earliest learners.” When her Title I preschool program filled this fall, creating a long waitlist of children who would not have an opportunity for a Pre-K experience, Kendra created an evening preschool program called “King’s Early Explorers.” In order to offer this program, Kendra secured funding to employ support staff and purchase materials and food. With the Director of Family Engagement and Family-Community Resource Centers, Kendra applied for and was awarded a mini-grant from the Association of School Superintendents and National Joint Powers Alliance’s Helping Kids Program. Today, children attend a weekly three-hour preschool program that is “rich in rigor and routine.”

Kendra also publishes a monthly electronic newsletter called Early Learning in Vancouver, which is translated into Spanish and Russian and provides timely information about opportunities to support early child development. The newsletter has become a critical communication tool and has increased participation in parent-child enrichment programs.

Perhaps the most important reason Kendra is worthy of this award, says Tamara Shoup, is that “she is a magical teacher. I cannot think of many occasions in my life that I have been swept away with curiosity. In [Kendra’s] preschool class, I felt like a learner. The children I sat with during circle time were eager to participate, too. Kendra inspires children and adults. She is a rock star educator!”


Carol McKay

Carol McKay
ESD 113 Regional Teacher of the Year
Olympia School District | Capital High School
North Carolina State University, MS Wood & Paper Science, 1989
University of Washington, BS, Paper Science & Engineering, 1987
National Board Certified Teacher

Teaching is Carol’s second career, having first worked as a product development engineer for the paper industry for ten years. When the economic downturn closed the research facility of her company, Carol switched to marketing for a tech company, being equally adept at speaking with engineers and with customers seeking solutions. When her family moved to Olympia, Carol reflected on her career and evaluated new options, becoming certified to teach math and chemistry through the Alternate Routes to Teaching Program Pacific Lutheran University. She began teaching at Capital High School in 2006 and has “not looked back since.”

A lifelong learner eager to incorporate best practices, Carol became inspired by watching a master teacher using cooperative groups in a middle school math program. She wanted that energy in her classroom. A “Complex Instruction” course motivated her further to incorporate a community agreement, which encourages her students to talk about math, ask questions, take risks, and manage their own behavior. Five years into teaching, Carol earned her National Board Certification, a process that helped her to reflect and focus on how she can best affect student learning. She now serves as a mentor teacher, department head, testing coordinator, and has even testified before the legislature on state testing issues.

Outside of the classroom, Carol has volunteered at Barb’s Community Dinners for ten years, serving the homeless and those on the margins of society. She works at the Kiwanis Gardens to supply the Thurston County Food Bank with fresh produce and has been a cook at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen. At each of these events, she has come across students from her school—both as recipients and as volunteers—which keeps her mindful of how very different their lives may be from hers.

A living example of how education impacts career opportunities, Carol is a strong proponent of job shadowing and internships, not only to help at-risk students stay in school, but also to inspire college-bound kids to explore the job market. Carol advocates developing partnerships with businesses in the community such as Olympia’s GRUB (Garden Raised Urban Bounty) program and AT&T’s national Aspire model, which develops mentor relationships. A role model for both students and colleagues, Carol “listens well, builds consensus, and finds alternate paths to equitable solutions.” As an industry professional, outstanding teacher, and generous colleague, Carol is a testament to risking that alternate path.


John Gallagher

John Gallagher
Olympic ESD 114 Regional Teacher of the Year
Port Angeles School District | Port Angeles High School
Mississippi State University, MS, 2000; University of Washington, BS, 1987

John teaches astronomy, geology, and integrated science at Port Angeles High School, where his 20-year impact on the lives of those students and their families has been, you might say, seismic. John’s evolution as a science teacher began when he was an undergrad with a job at a science center explaining the Puget Sound flow model and eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Realizing that he loved explaining science to the public, John decided to teach.

“Come look at the moon!” Those are the first words students hear from John as they arrive in his classroom. Over the course of more than two decades, John has provided many exciting opportunities for his students. Here are just a few of them: Family Weekend Astronomy and Lunar Eclipse Star Parties, attracting as many as 300 people and dozens of telescopes; a science stage with guests from USGS, NASA, JPL, and the Lunar and Planetary Institute; a science club with the YMCA; an earthquake curriculum package called “Seismic Sleuths”; and, most significantly, a portable STARLAB planetarium, which has provided outreach to over 10,000 people.

John also brings the arts into his curriculum, taking students to various venues that blend the disciplines. Examples include “Visions of the Universe,” an exhibit about the Chandra X-Ray Telescope; the play “Silent Sky,” about the life of astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt; an astronomy-themed symphony; and Ray Troll’s “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway” lecture, opened by PAHS’ own Vocal Unlimited singing “Earth Song.” Port Angeles’ Earthquake and Tsunami Preparedness event was opened with the school’s elite choir Bella Noce singing geology-themed songs and a Native American storyteller sharing flood stories.

“In a sense John Gallagher is like a gravitational wave,” observes Lillian Cone, Assistant Principal at Port Angeles High School. “He came to Port Angeles High School 20 years ago as a young teacher. Each year his actions with students, teachers, and community members have rippled through Port Angeles. Twenty years later the impact of John Gallagher is profound, and in 20 more years his actions will still be changing lives for the better.”


Alisa Louie

Alisa Louie
Puget Sound ESD 121 Regional Teacher of the Year
Auburn School District | Evergreen Heights Elementary
Western Governors University, M.Ed Ell, 2016
Western Washington University, BA Elementary Education, 2006
National Board Certified Teacher

As Learning Specialist, ELL Coach, and National Board Certified Teacher, Alisa is a dedicated teacher and exceptional leader both in Auburn and “far beyond the boundaries” of her school. “Her passion for education is unparalleled,” says a colleague, and she has “the kind of enthusiasm that is going to change the face of education.”

Students at Evergreen Heights have made tremendous progress, thanks to Alisa. Pioneering close reading instruction, Alisa provided professional development in how to engage students with the text, and facilitated book studies with teachers seeking to enhance their instruction. Evergreen Heights was also honored for closing the achievement gap for ELL students, much of that was a result of Alisa’s work with the University of Washington’s Teaching English Language Learners program (Project TELL).

Beyond teaching, Alisa invests in her community’s academic success in other ways. For several summers, Alisa has provided an enrichment program for kids in housing clusters where kids are most likely to need academic support between school years. She asked the apartment manager for a space to use, and then started visiting the apartment complex on a weekly basis, helping kids with science and math projects, and concluding with a family pizza party. This past summer, her program expanded to two apartment complexes.

Alisa also has been involved in CORElaborate, a social media project put together by the Puget Sound Educational Service District. Here she has blogged about her experiences in education, especially Common Core implementation, creating an open dialogue between teachers online. This work connected her with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she became one of over 50 teachers nationwide to provide “a teacher voice about the needs of districts and schools.” Clearly, notes Instructional Specialist Staci Erickson, Alisa is “a powerhouse in education.”


Elizabeth Loftus

Elizabeth Loftus
Northwest ESD 189 Regional Teacher of the Year
Oak Harbor District | Olympic View Elementary
Franciscan University of Steubenville, BS, 2003
Elmira College, MS in Education, 2007

As a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst who teaches students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD), Elizabeth brings exceptional skills to an expanding population of kids who are seriously at-risk. Her introduction to special education was in New York, where she taught 7th and 8th graders at a school near a prison. From those kids Elizabeth learned about some of the too common obstacles to learning: poverty, gangs, and abuse. What they learned from her is that somebody cared.

Fast-forward to today, where Elizabeth teaches EBD students in Oak Harbor, a Navy community with “another set of challenges.” Elizabeth strives to create community not just in her classroom, but among parents, families and caregivers too because parents of special needs children often feel isolated. Elizabeth’s principal praises her ability to build the kind of trusting and non-adversarial relationships that can be life-changing for both her students and the adults who care for them.

Elizabeth works daily with “some of the most challenging students in the district,” says one colleague. The issue that she sees as most critical, beyond all others, is the severe lack of mental health support systems in our public schools. Her students are autistic, bi-polar; suffer from PTSD, Tourette’s, OCD, ODD, and GAD. They’ve been beaten, sexually assaulted, taken into foster care, lost family, have addicted family, and family in prison— it’s no wonder her students have such “a wide array of issues.” The direct connection between the lack of mental health support and violent crimes is indisputable—and Elizabeth would like to see “much more funding and … adequate resources to make a real difference.”

With such a challenging group to teach, Elizabeth comes back every day, and that, she says, is perhaps why she was nominated for Teacher of the Year. “I come to work, smile, laugh, cry, raise my voice, whisper, share my apples, and talk in silly accents when I teach math.” And she shows up, because Elizabeth knows she may be the only person in a child’s day who makes sure that he or she feels “special and loved.”


   Updated 9/13/2017

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