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2020 Winners

Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year
Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Melito Ramirez

Intervention Specialist
Walla Walla Public Schools

Melito was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, his family was a migrant family moving from state to state looking for agricultural work. They traveled all over the country sometimes attending 4–5 schools in one year. Finishing his education was difficult, as school districts did not have an appropriate tracking system for transferring credits so many times. His family came to work here in the late 70’s and he fell in love with the area, coming to Walla Walla was always a treat. They lived out at the Farm Labor homes and worked in several areas working for several growers and companies before they would make their way back home to Texas. When he got married, he decided to stay in this area and raise his children in the Walla Walla Valley.

Melito applied for a job with the College Place Public School District in 1980–81 school year and Superintendent Con Murphy, and Davis Principal Dick McRae, gave him his first opportunity at a professional job. Melito was hired as a bilingual instructional assistant helping migrant students. He connected with them instantly, as that was his background. Within a 3-month period he was offered the position of Migrant Program Recruiter and Records Clerk for the College Place Public Schools and he accepted the challenge. Building a relationship with parents and staff took many years of dedication and working towards a partnership that is still alive today. That was the start of his career in education. Melito’s passion for supporting all students took hold and continues to this day.

Melito then held the positions of Home School Liaison, Special Education Secretary, Bilingual and Migrant Program Secretary/ Records Clerk, Bus Driver, Custodian, and Translator for the College Place School District. In Walla Walla School District, he worked for several years in positions as Migrant Home Visitor, Migrant Program Recruiter, and Bilingual Program Coordinator at the District office. Melito also spent some time working at Opportunity Program, Lincoln Alternative High School, and as a Migrant Program Summer School Coordinator.

In 2008, Melito applied for his current position as Intervention Specialist at Walla Wall High School and has held that position to this day. He also served for 5 years the position of Migrant Program Recruiter for ESD123 and worked for a cohort of school districts, Columbia, Prescott, Finley, College Place and Walla Walla. In that roles, he connected with families, district staff, and communities. Melito has also recently accepted the position of Latino Club Advisor at Walla Walla High School, and the club is very active in their community.


ESD 113 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Kirsten Tratnick

MTSS Paraeducator
Pioneer

Kirsten has worked for Pioneer School district for 22 years. The first 8 years she worked as a bus driver. While driving for the district she was also a driver trainer for the Co-op that the district belongs to for 2 years. Being a driver trainer is where she discovered her love for teaching.

When her daughter was in school full time, she started volunteering in her class and found her true passion, teaching children. She was offered a job in the elementary and made the switch. For 13 years she was a grade level para teaching kids in all facets of the school. Now she is running a MTSS room in the elementary working with children on how they can be successful in our ever changing world.

Within the last 14 years she has been the president of the PSE Association for the classified staff, negotiating contracts and advocating for her fellow staff members.


ESD 101 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Robin Woltering

Paraeducator
Palouse

Robin is a long-time resident of rural Washington. She represents the essence of what small towns offer children; a strong sense of community, friendship and family. These three have molded her values, and she works diligently to spark inspiration and dedication in her students.

Robin's journey in education began when she was afforded the gift of being a stay at home mom and childcare provider. Twenty-two years ago, she began working as a paraeducator in the school. She has worn many hats over the years, as is a typical practice in rural schools. She has filled each position with enthusiasm. She has worked in Food Service, Pre-School Education, High School Study Skills, and has found her home in the Special Education Department focusing on children with specific needs concentrating mainly on Autism.

Robin believes that being a paraeeducator is rewarding yet humbling, and believes each of her colleagues across the state are worthy of this great recognition.


ESD 189 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Erin Wood

Behavioral Health Specialist
Monroe

Erin is a licensed mental health counselor who began her career working with youth and families in a community mental health clinic. She quickly realized her love of working with young people who struggle with symptoms of anxiety and depression; and is a tireless advocate for emotional and psychological wellness at every age. In her role as the Behavioral Health Specialist for a school district, Erin revels in the challenge of bringing mental health awareness and direct service to students and staff alike.

As a specialist in the assessment, prevention, and intervention of youth suicide, Erin works to implement and support multi-level, evidence-based prevention strategies from kindergarten through graduation. This includes direct service of students, consultation with teachers and district leaders, and support of parents and community members. As a result of these strategies, youth-reported rates of attempted suicide in her district are at an all-time low!

Erin believes that the youth in her district are not just academic students, but whole people with complicated lives and ever-changing needs. The landscape of education is changing to more fully recognize and respond to the emotional and psychological wellness of our young people, and Erin is honored to play a part.


Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year
Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Melito Ramirez

Intervention Specialist
Walla Walla Public Schools

Melito was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, his family was a migrant family moving from state to state looking for agricultural work. They traveled all over the country sometimes attending 4–5 schools in one year. Finishing his education was difficult, as school districts did not have an appropriate tracking system for transferring credits so many times. His family came to work here in the late 70’s and he fell in love with the area, coming to Walla Walla was always a treat. They lived out at the Farm Labor homes and worked in several areas working for several growers and companies before they would make their way back home to Texas. When he got married, he decided to stay in this area and raise his children in the Walla Walla Valley.

Melito applied for a job with the College Place Public School District in 1980–81 school year and Superintendent Con Murphy, and Davis Principal Dick McRae, gave him his first opportunity at a professional job. Melito was hired as a bilingual instructional assistant helping migrant students. He connected with them instantly, as that was his background. Within a 3-month period he was offered the position of Migrant Program Recruiter and Records Clerk for the College Place Public Schools and he accepted the challenge. Building a relationship with parents and staff took many years of dedication and working towards a partnership that is still alive today. That was the start of his career in education. Melito’s passion for supporting all students took hold and continues to this day.

Melito then held the positions of Home School Liaison, Special Education Secretary, Bilingual and Migrant Program Secretary/ Records Clerk, Bus Driver, Custodian, and Translator for the College Place School District. In Walla Walla School District, he worked for several years in positions as Migrant Home Visitor, Migrant Program Recruiter, and Bilingual Program Coordinator at the District office. Melito also spent some time working at Opportunity Program, Lincoln Alternative High School, and as a Migrant Program Summer School Coordinator.

In 2008, Melito applied for his current position as Intervention Specialist at Walla Wall High School and has held that position to this day. He also served for 5 years the position of Migrant Program Recruiter for ESD123 and worked for a cohort of school districts, Columbia, Prescott, Finley, College Place and Walla Walla. In that roles, he connected with families, district staff, and communities. Melito has also recently accepted the position of Latino Club Advisor at Walla Walla High School, and the club is very active in their community.


ESD 121 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Mayela Martinez

Family Outreach Liaison
Northshore

Mayela started her involvement in education when she became an elementary teacher in Mexico. After she immigrated to the United States; deep inside she knew her background in education from Mexico would help her to support and help other immigrants like her.

Mayela found the perfect avenue to motivate, empower, and engage bilingual/bicultural parents in their children’s education when she became a paraeducator in the English Learners (EL) program.

Now, as a Family Liaison, Mayela connects, guides, supports, and motivates parents and guardians; especially from bilingual families, to participate actively in schools. She uses her knowledge, and skills to alleviate the stress, barriers, and misunderstandings between parents and school staff. She connected families with community resources. She is able to create strong, trusting relationships between PTA, NL, and schools. Always ready to provide support and service to her community in a very respectful, humble, and kind way. Through Natural Leaders, Mayela is leading and empowered parents to seek answers, information, and higher education for themselves, and for their children.


ESD 112 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Traicy Bernal

Secretary
Vancouver

Traicy Bernal graduated from college with a degree in international studies and political science, who migrated with her family from Panama to Kansas in 1994. Traicy was introduced to the joys of working in the field of education through her mother, who has been a district Spanish Interpreter/Translator for nearly sixteen years. Her mother encouraged her to apply with her school district after Traicy’s only child was born and she was seeking to go back to work. Seeing the rewards her mother experienced, and the love and compassion she demonstrated helping families and students, impacted Traicy profoundly. She decided working in education would be a desirable opportunity for herself and families in need.

Traicy made the switch from the corporate world into the complex and fulfilling field of public education, the best career decision she has ever made! Traicy brought her strong multitasking, organizational, technical and interpersonal communications skills to her new role. Her commitment to customer service prepared her well for interactions with students, families, staff and community partners. As a secretary in a school with a high poverty rate, Traicy’s greatest joy is being a conduit for students and families who struggle to overcome the various challenges of their unique backgrounds and situations.


ESD 105 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Karla Hill

Paraeducator
Cle Elum-Roslyn

Beginning with Karla's admiration for her third grade teacher, she discovered at a young age that becoming an educator would be her dream career. After having a family, and volunteering in her son's school, her decision was achievable.

Her role as a para educator allows her to be creative, informative and caring to many high needs students. With restaurant and bookkeeping skills in her background, she played an integral part in helping to create a service program that serves morning beverages to staff members in the district. Her students learn all aspects of the business including sales, customer service, and inventory. In addition, she attends general education classes daily with her students to support their educational needs.

Karla is a quiet leader who inspires through example. She demonstrates patience and dedication daily by working closely with the most reluctant students. Kindness and generosity have shown through the multiple purchases of prom tickets and formal attire for under privileged students. Most importantly, Karla has taught countless special education students that through perseverance and hard work, they could accomplish their ultimate goal of earning their diploma.


ESD 114 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Katie Lee

Special Education Paraeducator
North Kitsap

Katie is a special education paraeducator who started volunteering in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom in 2006. Eventually, she was offered a job teaching small groups in the resource room. This began her passion and life’s work.

Katie loves working with kids with special needs. She has volunteered as a coach for special Olympics for the last four years. She co-leads a 4-H club. She volunteers at an event that allows special needs students young and old, to experience farm life with other kids that are like them. Katie has a small farm that she loves educating the community on farming. Katie’s family are also commercial fisherman in Alaska. Teaching her family how to fish helps teach them know how to survive in life. In the spring the school district participates in the salmon release program. Katie used her knowledge and passion to create a Coho challenge for elementary school students to learn how to estimate and learn the salmon life cycle. This is another example of her knowledge that she loves to share with the students.


ESD 171 Regional Classified School Employee of the Year

Rock Witte

Maintenance and Facilities Director
Ephrata

Rock started working at the school district’s maintenance department when low prices for hay and wheat weren’t supporting his family farm. Rock liked the challenge of working for the district: there were a lot of problems to solve and he had free rein to fix whatever was broken. He worked his way up to Maintenance Supervisor because he wasn’t afraid of working hard and trying new things.

Under Rock’s leadership, the district saves money by being self-reliant, from constructing the football goal posts and bleachers, to maintaining and rebuilding HVAC systems. One summer, his team completely remodeled Parkway school. Rock designed all irrigation systems in the district (78 acres) and saved the district about $30,000 annually by arranging to irrigate 30 acres with Bureau of Reclamation water.

Rock started a summer work program — an unofficial CTE program — hiring up to 16 students for grounds upkeep and building maintenance. Student employees learn to be on time, learn skills and develop a good work ethic. It is an important source of jobs in a small town. In the community, Rock and his students build 2–3 wheelchair ramps each year for residents who need accessible homes, combining lessons in construction and public service.