Lori Ritchey, music specialist, Walnut Grove Elementary School
Meredith Wales, teacher, Skyview High School
John Zingale, teacher, Vancouver iTech Preparatory
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.
Tracy, Paige and Nita often are among the first faces that visitors see when they enter Chinook, and they are resourceful, cheerful, helpful ambassadors for the school. All are master multitaskers. On a typical day, you might find Tracy helping a student with a personal issue while also assisting teachers and greeting parents. Paige is quick to jump in when any student needs help and as a result, they adore her warm presence. Nita also is welcoming to everyone she encounters, whether they’re students or the cafeteria team. Said their nominator, “Individually, Tracy, Paige and Nita are fantastic. As a team, they are simply phenomenal.”
Lori’s leadership qualities earned her several nominations from her colleagues for this award. This active leader and longtime district employee presents her peer music educators with professional development opportunities and curriculum resources. She has even undertaken the enormous task of inventorying, ordering and distributing proper equipment and materials to ensure that all VPS elementary schools can implement an instructional method that integrates music with movement, speech and drama. Lori also is a key figure in Walnut Grove’s assemblies and events. When it comes to the success of music education at the school and in this district, Lori is instrumental.
Meredith is a champion for social justice and equity. As adviser of the school’s diversity committee and Gay-Straight Alliance and an advocate for Skyview’s first-ever Black Student Union and MEChA club, Meredith empowers students. Her leadership class helps them find their voices as they mentor freshmen, raise cultural awareness and demonstrate their skills in a TED Talk–style event. She continues this work by helping to improve Skyview’s school-wide culture as a climate and culture coach. As a result, students feel more comfortable and valued, and Skyview enjoys nearly an entire building of leaders. Meredith is an unfailing source of calm in the Storm!
Such is John’s influence that his students gravitate to and even dress like him. John channels that influence to challenge them to think in greater terms about the world around them. Endlessly creative, he gives his students opportunities to create a virtual reality tour of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, think critically about citizens who stood up for what they believed in and develop museum exhibits. His cross-discipline assignments deepen students’ understanding not only of history, but of other subjects, too. John is a highly respected educator—and now he’s also the first person to win an Excellence Award while working at iTech!
Congratulations to these staff members! They join the many VPS employees who have received Excellence Awards since 2007.