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Education Awards


2015 State and Regional Classified School Employees of the Year


2015 State Washington Classified School Employee of the Year
ESD 123 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Vickie Wright
Pasco School District
Mark Twain Elementary

Vickie is in many ways the architect of Pasco’s School Nursing Program. When she was hired over 35 years ago by Pasco School District, she was the only school nurse in the district. Over the years, Vickie’s tireless advocacy and determination, coupled with the support of administrators, has expanded school nursing in Pasco to 20 school nurses and 5 health aides.

“Whether she is educating staff, guiding a staff nurse meeting, or visiting with an anxious student to help him get through the school day, Vickie is instrumental in the academic and personal success of Pasco School District students and families on a daily basis,” says Vickie’s colleague Kim Lovelace.

Vickie is an expert in transitioning between the micro and macro worlds of school nursing. Her bedside manner is unmatched. She approaches school nursing as inherently interdisciplinary. From the student whose family suffered from chronic diabetes who learned how to manage his own disease, to the young man who ate lunch in her office every day until Vickie found a donor willing to pay for his braces—each student is a unique puzzle to work out.

Vickie is also an exceptional listener and a skilled liaison with the many different groups of parents and stakeholders in her community. Her ability to step back and take in the big picture is evident in her efforts to increase vaccination—her school now boasts a 99% immunization rate and her skilled analysis of attendance data for students with chronic asthma led to significant reductions in absenteeism for those students. Vickie is also a resource for faculty and staff, coordinating grant-funded efforts that have led to early health interventions for more than one staff member.

“Vickie has impacted generations of students,” says Lovelace. “As the district has grown, she has been instrumental in advocating for students and staff by consistently working with administrators to ensure every student has access to a nurse while at school. Our team views Vickie as a leader, information resource, and invaluable liaison with administration. She has developed protocol and safety measures every nurse currently employs to provide each student a health education, consistent care in the health room, and access to community services to improve student health and wellbeing.”


Northeast ESD 101 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Leanne Rainwater
Central Valley School District
University Elementary

Leanne has spent the majority of her career at University as a kindergarten paraprofessional and transitioned to head secretary 6 years ago. Leanne’s kindness and sense of humor make the office a welcoming place for all who enter and create a sense of ease for frustrated parents, community visitors, and discipline referrals alike. Spend just a few minutes in Leanne’s office though, and you’ll see right away it’s kids who are at the heart of her work as an educator. Whether it’s the new kindergartener who is collecting a blown kiss from Leanne on her way into the building, the fourth grader eager to read a story he’s written to her, or the second grader deep in concentration with Leanne over a particularly challenging math problem – she is constantly surrounded by students.

Leanne is also a critical member of her building’s leadership team. She is a bridge between teachers and support staff. Her strong organizational skills help keep the team on task and focused. As the primary administrative support for her principal, Leanne’s exceptional skill at managing the daily minutiae of a school building means that the principal can spend more of his time in classrooms.

“I most appreciate her caring and compassionate approach to not only the work but also to the staff, community, and most importantly, the children,” says Executive Director for Elementary Learning and Teaching Tim Nootenboom. “She is an active listener, and each person who interfaces with Leanne walks away feeling valued and served. Her care and thoughtfulness radiate throughout the halls of University Elementary School.”


ESD 105 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Pam Gamache
Wapato School District
Adams Elementary

Pam has been a paraeducator at Adams for over 20 years, where she specializes in reading intervention. She is dedicated and persistent and frequently uses not only observation but manipulatives, games, and more to figure out a particular student’s challenges. Pam perfectly describes the success of her students as bittersweet—as a reading interventionist, success means her students are always transitioning out of her “class,” but she says it all pays off when she receives a graduation announcement or hears about a former student who is now on the middle school honor roll.

Outside of the classroom, Pam is respected as a visionary and leader. She has written numerous grants to get more books in the hands and homes of Adams students and the laundry list of events and traditions she has had a hand in starting at Adams is exhaustive. She also started the PTO.

She is also described as an “awesome asset” in the classroom. “Pam demonstrates exceptional skills working with students, whether with an individual student requiring one-on-one help to master basic phonics skills or with a group of students with advanced skills who benefit from that extra push and enrichment experience offered through a literature group novel study . . . Pam is very deserving of being named Classified School Employee of the Year. Her history of dedication to all of our students and their families, leadership, initiative, and skill in the classroom demonstrate why.”


ESD 112 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Eddie Sawyer
Vancouver School District

Eddie started working at Vancouver School District over 20 years ago as a student data tech connecting schools to the Internet. He now works as part of Instructional Technology. While Eddie and his team are currently engaged in implementing the district’s significant 1:1 technology initiative to put instructional devices in the hands of every student, Eddie never loses sight of the larger goals of using technology to unlock student potential and creating an environment for students to become digital citizens.

Eddie is described by his supervisor, Mark Ray, as an “accidental visionary.” His creativity, persistence, and energy mean that Eddie is always on the lookout for ways to make technology more useful and less cumbersome to implement. This year his team streamlined a mid-year rollout to an entire school and cut pull-out time significantly, ¬meaning students and teachers spent more time learning how to use the technology in the classroom setting. Eddie has also developed an app to connect kindergarten parents to their students’ progress and is a tireless advocate for his community’s most vulnerable students. He led an effort to get iPads into classrooms of students deeply impacted by autism, giving them the tools to communicate effectively in ways they never had before. He also organizes his unit’s annual toy drive.

“He is an icon, a well-known and respected connector within the Vancouver community,” says former CIO for Vancouver Lisa Greseth. “He catalyzes those connections to enable others to share resources, ideas, practices, and new learning. He serves as a bridge between technical and teaching teams, speaking both ‘languages’ fluently to facilitate powerful and substantial solutions.”


ESD 113 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Donna Duke
Gravity High School

Donna was hired in 2011 as an Educational Assistant for the new GRAVITY GED and re-engagement program in Mason, Thurston, Lewis, and Grays Harbor Counties. Since then she has helped over 80 students complete their GED. Donna has recently been promoted to a part-time case manager. She believes the keys to helping GRAVITY students—many of whom are profoundly distrustful of school—are taking their dreams seriously and just plain showing up. Sometimes this means actively bandaging up a teenager when he falls off his skateboard. Other times it means just being in the room during truancy court so that your student knows you are a presence in their life.

Donna knows that little gestures can make a tremendous impact. She is the curator of GRAVITY’s Hall of Fame and proudly displays a certificate for every student who has earned their GED. In her one-on-one interactions with students she focuses on listening and coaching students to think beyond just a job; to imagine a dream. Then she goes to work helping them build a pathway to that dream—little steps that lead to a big result.

“Donna is a friend to any teenager in need,” says principal Dale McDaniel. “She is the ‘Grandma’ in our program and the students treat her with total respect. They often bring their friends and family into her office to meet her. She listens to everyone, but insists on each student moving to ‘the next level.’ No one is left behind. She remembers each kid, and they remember her.”


Olympic ESD 114 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Rebecca Thomas
Central Kitsap School District
Emerald Heights Elementary

Rebecca is the English Language Development Paraeducator at Emerald Heights. She specializes in differentiated instruction. Rebecca has developed her expertise through her work internationally in both Italy and Newfoundland and her experience as a kindergarten teacher in Massachusetts. She is a dedicated educator who is constantly on the lookout for meaningful professional development in language acquisition and special education, much of which she attends on her own time.

Rebecca follows 25–30 students a year. Collaboration is key to her students’ success, and she works closely with not only her fellow educators, but also students’ families who she relies on to provide a fresh perspective on how students are progressing. Rebecca is hailed by colleagues as a team player who always does more than her share of the work. Recently, she coordinated a family literacy activity for the districtwide ELL family night that included a story and collaborative art activity for students to do with their family.

Working with her has inspired me to achieve higher goals,” says third-grade teacher Auriann Roberts. “Becky’s ability to communicate effectively with students, staff, faculty, and the community promotes efficiency in the workplace. Her continued fulfillment of developing and achieving goals displays a strong emphasis on student success and elaborates on the importance of meeting the needs of all learners.”


Puget Sound ESD 121 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Christine Lee
Auburn School District
Lakeland Hills Elementary

Christine has served as the library paraeducator for the past 9 years, where she supports the school librarian and works with students in small groups and individually. She became interested in a career in education after volunteering in her own kids’ classrooms and was motivated by a desire to, as she says, “do something in life that mattered.”

Christine wears two hats at Lakeland Hills. She also coordinates the school’s Safety Patrol. In the library and outside of the school, Christine is focused on bringing out the best in every student, and she believes leadership activities like safety patrol and her library helpers program offer unique opportunities for student growth. She believes educators have a duty to model collaboration to students, to show them that you can’t learn new things in a vacuum, you have to learn from others. Christine is always going the extra mile for students and the school, from turning eggs and feeding birds over the weekend during the schools annual egg hatching science experiment, to hosting monthly safety patrol breakfasts.

“Christine clearly goes above and beyond to increase student learning, enriching the lives of our students who struggle the most as well as our students who excel,” says former principal Ryan Foster. “She is a model educator who strives to help each student find success at Lakeland Hills. She is everything a principal and employer could want in a staff member.”


North Central ESD 171 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Kristi Meadows
Eastmont School District
Cascade Elementary

Kristi worked for many years as a paraeducator in ESD 112 before her family relocated and she became Cascade’s office manager 4 years ago. Kristi strives not only to know each of the students at Cascade, but to be known by them as an adult who cares about them. She realizes that a school day is made up of hundreds of tiny moments, each with the potential to make a huge impact on a student’s life. This reality was never more evident to her than when her own daughter told her that the school nurse had saved her life when she put a bandage on her scraped knee. Kristi aims to make that kind of impact on the students in her building.

Kristi is described as the hub of Cascade whose kindness, energy, and organizational skills have created a culture of welcome and warmth for both new and returning families. She recently worked with her principal to update the emergency procedures and create manuals for all adults including substitutes and other visiting adults. Kristi is a leader herself as the president of her bargaining unit, and also initiated the school’s student leader group. Colleagues describe her as the perfect office manager—a highly-efficient, bubbly multitasker with an uncanny ability to anticipate needs of students, faculty, and families.

“Kristi would be an excellent representative of and model for classified school staff across the state,” says Eastmont’s Executive Director of Elementary Education Spencer Taylor. “She is one of the most professional, hard-working, servant-leaders that I know. The school community and our district are better places to learn and work because of Kristi.”


Northwest ESD 189 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Juana “Suzie” Cartagena
Lynden School District
Lynden Middle School

Suzie is just finishing up her second year as an English Language Learner Paraeducator at Lynden Middle School where she serves over 80 students, provides classroom support, and supervises the Access Intervention Class. Suzie believes the most important things she can teach her students is to set goals and dream big. She uses her own training in early childhood education and her experience as a former ELL student to develop differentiated strategies based on each student’s unique circumstances.

Suzie believes students need more than one person to help guide them to success. They need their families, teachers and paras like her to work together. One of the largest parts of Suzie’s job is to be a liaison between families and the school. She connects with families about both academic issues and life skills. She coordinates parent-teacher meetings, organizes family nights and an afterschool homework club. Suzie is a bundle of energy and ideas, taking on new challenges and opportunities as fast as she can.

“Suzie possesses the ability to connect with kids and challenge them to take advantage of their educational opportunities,” says teacher Dirk Denniston. “She empowers them to work hard each day to see what they are capable of. She offers constant praise and compels these kids to reflect upon current family circumstances to understand what they want out of life . . . Suzie’s ability to listen to our students, relate to them and advocate on their behalf as improved their self-esteem and self confidence, and growth mindset.”


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