Four employees were selected for the March 2016 recognition. They were honored at the March 22 school board meeting. Pictured from left to right are:

  • Erynn Torrey, math facilitator, Washington Elementary School
  • Chelsea Unger, Family-Community Resource Center coordinator, Hudson’s Bay High School
  • Melissa Cantwell, teacher, Hough Elementary School
  • Cindy Kaplan, custodian, Lincoln Elementary 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.

Melissa gave a voice to the voiceless when she wrote a grant in 2010 that put iPads in the hands of students in the district’s structured communications classrooms. It was a groundbreaking moment. With iPads, students with special needs are empowered to communicate. They can learn more easily because their needs are met. But Melissa didn’t stop there. Now, as a learning support teacher, she continues her advocacy for her students, who love her belief in their abilities and her demand for their personal and academic best. She is a champion for children. She demonstrates the very best of education.
A talent for customer service paired with an outstanding work ethic are just a few of the things that make Cindy worthy of this award. No matter whom she encounters, Cindy has a smile and makes sure every need is met. As a result of positive relationships with the Lincoln staff and students, she is considered a trusted staff member who can be counted on in any situation. She also applies extra effort to all areas of her responsibilities and has developed an impressive knowledge of district systems and procedures. Her co-workers are proud to have Cindy on their team!
Since joining Washington’s staff, Erynn has supported the school in many ways, from running after-school classes and supporting family math events to working with students during interventions and training her colleagues at Washington and across the district. She’s an expert in GradeCam, which allows students and staff to receive immediate assessment feedback, and has helped develop instructional materials and assessments that benefit students and staff. As you can imagine, she’s also a valued member of Washington’s core instructional team. Said her nominator, “Washington is truly a better school because of the time and energy that Erynn puts into her craft.”
Chelsea establishes strong connections with students—some of whom might otherwise fall through the cracks—and offers them the kind of support they need to continue their education. This is more than just a matter of practice; she has a real passion for meeting students’ needs. It’s evident in Hudson’s Bay’s FCRC, a homey space where students and families feel safe and welcome. It’s also evident in her regular homework groups and work on behalf of families affected by trauma and loss. As Chelsea has said of her work, “Building trust and a relationship is the foundation.” Clearly, she does it well.

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