Excellence Award winners

The following employees were selected for the October 2019 Excellence Award recognition. They were honored at the Oct. 8 school board meeting. Pictured from left:

  • Mary-Catherine McElroy, teacher librarian, Ogden Elementary
  • Brienne Schneider, creative movement teacher, Franklin Elementary
  • Vanessa Crowe, clerk, McLoughlin Middle School
  • LaNnae Pust, teacher, Lake Shore Elementary
  • Gina Gasser, counseling clerk, Columbia River High School

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.

A former interpreter, Vanessa is a vital connection between McLoughlin staff members and hundreds of Spanish-speaking students and parents. Her communication skills are nuanced. She brings care, warmth and respect to every conversation to facilitate empathy and understanding. Vanessa also developed a proactive program to reach out to Spanish-speaking families and increase their involvement at the school. She later expanded the program to Fort Vancouver High School. Her efforts go a long way in giving more families a voice at their children’s schools.
Well loved by both students and staff members, Gina is the friendly face that people encounter as they enter the counseling center. She brings positivity and warmth to every task she accomplishes. Not only does Gina support students as they access counseling services, she has helped them secure coats during the winter, provided food and assisted in program transitions. She also communicates with parents and students about the library and International Baccalaureate program. The River community is stronger because of her!
Parents and co-workers praise Mary-Catherine’s commitment to Ogden students in the library and beyond. Students look forward to going to the library because of the unique books and fun learning activities that Mary-Catherine has planned. She coordinates Ogden’s Battle of the Books to enrich students’ love of reading and boost their confidence. She also is a founder of the school’s Kindness Club and has coordinated opportunities for students to participate in initiatives such as Global Youth Service Day. Mary-Catherine encourages students to think big.
Students thrive in LaNnae’s classroom, where they receive additional support and instruction in both academic and real-life subjects. To practice their math skills, students learn to bake a cake on their birthday. They earn daily paychecks that they can use during visits to the class store. LaNnae also holds story times and social circles that build students’ confidence and help them be successful at school, home and in the community. Because LaNnae believes so strongly in her students, they believe in themselves.

Brie is a leader in the arts. At the district level, she’s led professional learning communities, managed arts resources, mentored teachers and coordinated scheduling. Last year at Franklin, she produced three shows and a dance festival—including the score, costume and script. She also offered an improv class and provides culturally relevant opportunities for students. Brie gives students the space to fall in love with the arts. She believes that every child can learn, create and have a positive impact on their world.

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