Excellence Awards, Chinook, Lincoln, Columbia River

Four employees were selected for the April 2017 Excellence Award recognition. They were honored at the April 25 school board meeting. Pictured above from left to right are:

  • Sarah Miller, teacher, Chinook Elementary
  • Catherine Reynolds, paraeducator, Lincoln Elementary
  • Lo Balik, paraeducator, Chinook Elementary
  • Pat McGraw, paraeducator, Columbia River High School

The Excellence Award is given to two to four employees and/or small teams from October to May each school year. Nominations are open to staff, students, parents and community members. Nominees are selected for recognition by a committee of their peers.

Family engagement is one of Sarah’s specialties. From connecting with her students’ parents on the first day of school to a mechanism for families to celebrate their children’s successes, she facilitates a unique level of involvement that results in empowerment and excitement for learning. Said her nominator, “Sarah is a highly skilled teacher, who has a gift for reaching all of her students through lessons that engage them and make them think deeply, prompting an intrinsic love for learning. I am so lucky to have had an opportunity to know Sarah. Her work and love for her students do not go unnoticed.”
Working closely with students who have special needs requires heart and dedication. Fortunately, Catherine has an abundance of both. As a result, students are able to enjoy and thrive at school. Said one of Catherine’s colleagues, “Seeing her interact with students reminds me every day that children are unique and to be celebrated no matter what size the victory.” Added another, “Catherine has a challenging position, in which she must be engaged and mindful every minute of the day. She has taken on many learning and behavioral challenges with grace. With Catherine’s guidance and work, her students make real progress.”

If patience is a virtue, Lo is exemplary. Many students and staff members will attest to her ability to help struggling learners. Explained one teacher, “She figures out the holes in understanding that are preventing the kids from being successful in math. She then lets me know what they need and if she has an extra moment during the day, she works with those students to help them catch up.” Lo also is a positive force in providing students with a supportive learning environment. Said one, “She lights up the room and helps students, no matter what. She’s always there for you.”

Because her enthusiasm for teaching and learning is contagious, Pat has a unique ability to reach students. Over the years, she’s learned special skills such as American Sign Language to engage students better, and it’s her vigilance that helps those at risk of slipping through the cracks stay on track to graduate. Explained one nominator, “She is more than an assistant. She is often a co-teacher.” In addition, Pat is quick to volunteer to help her colleagues. “She truly embraces our school as a second family,” said one of them, “and goes out of her way to encourage and support everyone.”

Congratulations to these staff members! They join the many VPS employees who have received Excellence Awards since 2007.