The following employees were selected to receive October 2021 Employee Excellence Awards and recognition at the Oct. 12 school board meeting. The recipients will be recognized via Zoom.

  • Michelle Ames, family-community resource coordinator, Truman Elementary
  • Celia Antonini, Erin Pendergast and Tyler Stanley, teachers, McLoughlin Middle School
  • Julie Graves, paraeducator, Skyview High School
  • Halie Marsh, teacher, Anderson Elementary
  • Paul Stern, data strategist, assessment and performance management department

The Excellence Award is given to five employees and/or small teams from October to June each school year. Nominations are open to staff, students, parents and community members. Nominees are selected for recognition by a committee of their peers.

Michelle Ames, family-community resource coordinator, Truman Elementary

Michelle AmesMichelle is a strong link between Truman and its students and families. Throughout the pandemic, she has delivered food and schoolwork packets. She secured a large donation of refillable water bottles for Truman students, and holds monthly food pantries. Connections that Michelle has formed with school partners provide valuable support. In addition, Michelle earned a grant for a parent engagement opportunity and serves as an active member of Truman’s attendance committee. Through her daily commitment to improving her community, she makes a strong impact on everyone around her.

Celia Antonini, Erin Pendergast and Tyler Stanley, teachers, McLoughlin Middle School

From left: Tyler Stanley, Celia Antonini and Erin PendergastDespite hailing from different disciplines, these three educators rallied together several years ago around a shared goal: Helping new teachers. Thus the Mac Mentors Program was born. The program pairs veteran McLoughlin teachers with educators both new to the profession and new to the school, and provides support in areas ranging from activity and lesson ideas to the day-to-day details. Because of the program, new teachers “feel connected, heard and genuinely supported,” said their nominator.

Julie Graves, paraeducator, Skyview High School

Julie GravesFor the past three years, Julie has coached Skyview’s Unified Sports team, bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities. During the pandemic, she has rallied students to participate in virtual activities, meetings and a reading club. These activities gave students from Skyview and Columbia River high schools opportunities to connect with one another when in-person meetings were not possible. Her hard work culminated in Skyview winning the Special Olympics Winter Wellness Cup for the state of Washington. In addition, Julie is helping Skyview work toward becoming a Unified Champion School, which indicates social inclusion for all students and a climate of acceptance.

Halie Marsh, teacher, Anderson Elementary

Being the veteran teacher of Anderson’s kindergarten team, Halie mentors new educators and lifts up others around her. Said one of her nominators, “This, in turn, means her students benefit tremendously from the careful planning and details she puts into all her lesson plans. It is impressive to watch the way she takes an idea, molds it into a kindergarten-friendly lesson and then further sculpts it by making it accessible to all students in Spanish.” While navigating the pandemic, she also earned her master’s degree. No wonder she’s described as one of the hardest-working people you’ll ever meet!

Paul Stern, data strategist, assessment and performance management department

Paul Stern, associationFrom graduation rates to attendance figures and many points in-between, data provides powerful information for a school district. Paul understands how to use it responsibly and meaningfully, transforming numbers into insights that lead to important decisions and actions that help VPS better serve its students. He shares his technical knowledge with others as well. Said one nominator, “In the past year, I have developed my Excel and data analytics skills, and my progress is completely because of Paul’s guidance.” Paul also shares his knowledge broadly through his long service to the Washington Educational Research Association.

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

Nominate an employee for the award