May Excellence Award winners

The following employees were selected for the May 2019 Excellence Award recognition. They were honored at the May 28 school board meeting. Pictured from left:

  • Peggy Haugen, counselor, Harney Elementary
  • Ann Medellin, teacher on special assignment, curriculum department
  • Brett Andre, counselor, Chinook Elementary
  • Barb Graves, teacher, Washington Elementary
  • Darra Black, physical therapist assistant, special services department

The Excellence Award is given to five 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.

Building positive connections is Brett’s forte. He helps students make new friends at recess, teaches them how to self-regulate and checks in on students who are absent from school for prolonged periods of time. Brett also connects with his co-workers and collaborates with them to best serve students. His office is always open, and he welcomes everyone with a smile on his face. He is an excellent listener and an effective problem solver.
Darra brings a high level of creativity to her work. She uses children’s literature, for example, to inspire gross motor activities, helping students experience movement and bringing books to life. At the same time, her students are building their language skills and becoming excited about reading. Darra is a great asset to her co-workers, too. Her knowledge and time management skills help serve students effectively and efficiently. Darra also prioritizes continuing education courses to elevate her work.
There’s a running joke: We are all just one degree of separation from Barb. She’s gained many fans over the years. Some of the most ardent were once her students or teachers she mentored early in their careers. Said one of the latter, “I am currently in my 24th year as a teacher, and I am certain that without the opportunity to have worked with someone like Barb Graves, I would not have been able to reach my full potential as an educator.”
For all children, and especially kids who have experienced trauma, Peggy is a source of safety. She brings a quiet calm to her work and embodies the principles she teaches. Her influence is widespread. She provides support and leadership to help her co-workers meet students’ social and emotional needs and practice culturally aware teaching. Peggy also organizes activities like yoga and therapy dog visits that help students. Said one nominator, “Working alongside Peggy has made me a better teacher and person.”
There is rarely a workshop, concert or performance that Ann does not attend or assist in some way. To boost her co-workers, she arranged for new high-quality professional development and organized a monthly meeting at which arts teachers can plan events, collaborate and share lessons. She also creates a weekly newsletter that shares stories of arts successes in VPS classrooms and secured additional credits for secondary music students. Ann is a staunch advocate for the arts.

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