The following employees were selected to receive May 2021 Employee Excellence Awards and recognition via Zoom at the May 11 school board meeting. Learn more about each recipient below:

  • Sofia Avila, Ekaterina Walla and Fawn McKay, interpreters/translators and secretary, special services department
  • Toree Hiebert, teacher, Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies
  • Gabe Bravo and Dion Graham, building operator and custodial assistant, Columbia River High School
  • Donna Eisinger, senior dispatcher, transportation department
  • Lisa Woodruff, paraeducator, Lincoln Elementary

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.

Sofia Avila, interpreter/translator; Ekaterina Walla, interpreter/translator; Fawn McKay, secretary
Special services department

Fawn McKay, Ekaterina Walla and Sofia Avila

From left: Fawn McKay, Ekaterina Walla and Sofia Avila

Vancouver Public Schools includes more than 3,000 parents and guardians who speak Spanish and more than 500 who speak Russian. Sofia, Ekaterina and Fawn, based at the Jim Parsley Administrative Center, are part of a larger district-wide team that ensures Spanish and Russian speakers receive important information. Their talents are critical to the ongoing work in the areas of equity and family engagement. And despite often near-impossible deadlines and changes, they remain organized, efficient and responsive. This talented and skilled translation team makes sure all VPS families get the information they need to make important decisions about their children.

From the nomination:
“Their services have been especially critical during the pandemic with frequent messages related to remote learning, hybrid schedules and health and safety protocols.”

Toree Hiebert, teacher, Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies

Toree HiebertThe many teaching challenges created by the pandemic have only vaulted Toree’s teaching methods into new areas. She has pivoted her instructional methods to create powerful learning experiences for her students by combining technology with the hands-on experiences that are fundamental to her horticulture curriculum. Toree demonstrated a remarkable willingness to ask questions and learn new skills. As a result, her students are able to perform incredible experiments at home and produce videos of their work.

From the nomination:
“Toree asked many questions when she was unsure how to do something … but knew the possibility existed for what she wanted to do.”

Gabe Bravo, building operator, and Dion Graham, custodial assistant, Columbia River High School

From left: Dion Graham and Gabe Bravo

From left: Dion Graham and Gabe Bravo

Gabe and Dion worked tirelessly to help prepare River for hybrid learning, and they continue to ensure that the building is safe for students and staff members. Dion sanitizes common spaces after every lunch to ensure that they are clean for more students. Gabe is responsive to any need that is presented to him. Both Gabe and Dion are praised by their colleagues for their willingness to perform their jobs with positive attitudes in all situations.

From the nomination:
“We are lucky to have them at River and appreciate greatly all that they do!”

Donna Eisinger, senior dispatcher, transportation department

Donna EisingerWhen it comes to assigning students to bus routes and making changes quickly, Donna’s talents shine. Always able to think creatively, she ensures that routing decisions are beneficial and that both students and bus drivers remain as safe as possible. If a problem occurs, she will resolve it quickly. Donna also maintains a customer service-oriented approach when speaking with parents or guardians, and she works hard to meet their needs.

From the nomination:
“Donna is a model of employee excellence!”

Lisa Woodruff, paraeducator, Lincoln Elementary

Lisa WoodruffLisa is a keen educator who isn’t afraid to take initiative. She performs home visits, teaches small groups of students via Zoom and in person, provides supervision at lunch and on the playground and still always finds time to ask others if they need help. Coupled with her can-do spirit is a healthy dose of joy. Her colleagues appreciate her joyful approach to her job. One of Lisa’s favorite sayings is “This is going to be the best day ever!”

From the nomination:
“She continues to be a positive influence on everyone, including students, staff and community members.”

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