Four employees were selected for the December 2015 recognition. They were honored at the Dec. 8 school board meeting. Pictured from left to right are:

  • Ben Jatos, teacher, Fort Vancouver High School
  • Diane Horner, paraeducator, Hazel Dell Elementary School
  • Erika Riggan, teacher, Alki Middle School and Vancouver Flex Academy
  • Cristy Graham, paraeducator, Jason Lee Middle 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.

Reading interventions are strong at Jason Lee with the addition of Cristy’s professionalism and work ethic. Her colleagues say that she approaches her work with a positive attitude and that her genuine concern for her students’ success drives her to work hard to meet their needs. Cristy’s meticulous nature also helps keep the intervention program organized. She is instrumental in ensuring that students are reading at the correct level and staying on task, as well as in monitoring their progress. In addition, her near-constant presence lends consistency to the program. Cristy is a much-appreciated member of Jason Lee’s reading intervention team.
Before the sun rises, Diane is toiling to make the school day run smoothly. She is the first to arrive each morning and brews coffee for the rest of the staff. She then makes copies and delivers important announcements before she moves on to her crossing guard duties. Throughout the day, she works with children in small groups, helps students make good choices and fills in for co-workers whenever, wherever she is needed. After school, she continues to help by coordinating family nights. For more than 20 years, Diane has been an essential part of what makes Hazel Dell great.
Thanks to Ben, more than 100 Fort students have received or will receive college credit for an English class through Central Washington University. He also helped establish the school’s Freshman Academy and consistently takes on new challenges, such as AP classes, that will improve student outcomes. To provide his students with real-world writing examples, he brings in authors and holds a special writing event that allows professionals and students to share their work. Ben not only is an exceptional teacher, he also is an advocate for his students. That must be why many of them say that he’s an inspiration!
This “ball of fire,” as Erika is known to some of her students, blazes with a passion for teaching. Erika provides study aids for her students and celebrates their successes. She also brings a high level of kindness to her role. Said one student, “One time I had forgotten my lunch and was joking to one of my friends about how hungry I was. She offered me her salad. Of course I couldn’t take it, but how many teachers do you hear of who do that?” Clearly, her lessons continue to ignite learning that extends well beyond the classroom.

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