Four employees were selected for the May 2015 recognition. They were honored at the May 26 school board meeting. Pictured from left to right are:

  • Zoya Snigur, cook, Roosevelt Elementary School
  • April Leonard, teacher, Chinook Elementary School
  • Sophia Johansen, Success Academy coordinator, Fort Vancouver High School
  • SueEllen Hayler, physical therapist, motor team

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.

Any way you slice it, Zoya is a star in the nutrition services world. Her top-notch cooking and baking talents have won over students and staff ever since she first joined the Roosevelt team as an assistant in 2009. She also has the ability to work with many interruptions while still meeting all expectations for taste and presentation. And she excels in treating her co-workers in the kitchen with kindness, dignity and respect, deftly stepping into a leadership role when needed. Zoya’s pride in what she does is evident on a daily basis, and that’s just one reason among many why this cook has the chops to be an Excellence Award winner!
April’s professionalism and warmth will set even the most anxious parent of a kindergartener at ease. From the first-day notes to let parents know that she’ll take good care of their children to the fun, educational lessons that follow in the days after, she is an exemplar teacher. This year, she took on the challenge of teaching multiple sets on twins in the same class. According to one parent, April is sensitive to twins’ bonds while also being instrumental in their burgeoning confidence as individuals. She gives all her students a gift of education that will continue for many years.
With Sophia in their corner, struggling students can academically punch above their weight. This wise Success Academy coordinator knows that half the battle is just getting students there, wherever “there” may be: a state test, an intervention or a weekend study session. She uses motivation, encouragement, gentle reminders—even pizza, if necessary. In addition to acting as a coach, she also often is the intermediary between parents, students, teachers and counselors. It’s clear to everyone who knows her that Sophia won’t give up on any student. Just as importantly, her influence usually means that the students won’t give up on themselves.
What’s special about special services is the ingenuity and spirit of people like SueEllen. Her title is “physical therapist,” but her skills extend beyond a traditional scope of duties. Recently, she constructed a wheelchair modification using pool noodles to help prevent a student’s arms from falling off the tray. Afterhours, she can be found working on a supplemental contract to tutor children whose medical conditions preclude school attendance. And SueEllen also is generous to those in her profession, mentoring college-age interns and her peers alike. Those who work with her say that her passion for what she does is extraordinary.

Congratulations to these staff members! They join the more than 250 VPS employees who have received Excellence Awards since 2007.