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August 31, 2020

2020 Staff Excellence Award Winners

Meet our 2020 Staff Excellence Award winners!

Each year, we honor employees from around our school district who exemplify the very best of us. They're skilled, they're dedicated and they're hardworking. They go above and beyond for students and families. They go the extra mile for their colleagues.

These nine employees fit that description. Our Administrator of the Year, three Staff Support Person of the Year winners, Creativity in Curriculum winner, Certificated Specialist of the Year, Elementary Teacher of the Year, Middle School Teacher of the Year and High School Teacher of the Year are heroes to us in the Kennewick School District.

Read on to learn more about each Staff Excellence Award winner.

Administrator of the Year: Lori McCord, Principal, Highlands Middle School

Lori McCord, principal of Highlands Middle School, cares about her staff and students deeply, and she does everything she can to give them the best place to learn and work. That includes everything from making sure the school landscaping looks inviting, to placing high value on her staff's ideas and feedback, to making every decision with her students' best interest at top-of-mind. She "exudes what it takes to be a great leader," one colleague said.

Staff Support Person of the Year: Kim Brawdy, Paraeducator, Southgate Elementary School

The word "dedicated" comes up again and again when colleagues describe Kim Brawdy, a paraeducator at Southgate Elementary School. During the school day, she works with students who need extra support in core subjects. She also helps with Southgate's afterschool program and lends a hand in many other ways. She "is involved in pretty much everything at our school," one of her principals says. "She is dedicated and driven. She is passionate about helping all kids and always gives extra effort.”

Staff Support Person of the Year: Johanna Clapp, Secretary, Eastgate Elementary School

At Eastgate Elementary School, everyone knows and counts on secretary Johanna Clapp, from students, to parents, to the most tenured employees to brandnew staff members. As a secretary, she’s often the first face people see when they walk in the doors – and she's always smiling and ready to help. "She is wonderful in all the ways you want someone to be wonderful. She does everything with heart," one of her colleagues tells us. "She lights our school. She runs the school – there is no one who knows more, does more, or cares more than her.”

Staff Support Person of the Year: Rhonda Elvbakken, HR Specialist, Administration Center

When it comes to organization, HR specialist Rhonda Elvbakken is the best there is. Her job requires her to keep track of a massive amount of paperwork and files, and she knows exactly where every last folder and piece of paper is stored. She’s also on top of all the rules and regulations that her department must follow. In the words of her supervisor, “She keeps us in line.” And she does so with a great sense of humor and a caring heart.

Creativity in Curriculum: Mark Russell, Technology Specialist, Westgate Elementary School

Mark Russell, technology specialist at Westgate Elementary School, was a hero for our district last spring when we had to shift to distance learning as the pandemic forced the closure of our school buildings. He created a class to help educators throughout our district become proficient in Google Classroom and other platforms in the Google Suite. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes how he innovates. He uses his technological skills, his creativity and his enthusiasm in all sorts of ways to encourage and deepen learning at his school and beyond. 

Certificated Specialist of the Year: Jeanne Bakker, Lead Nurse

Jeanne Bakker, the district's lead nurse, has a vital job – a job that’s all about providing care to students and improving lives. And she delivers on both of those tasks. Her colleagues say that she’s always looking for ways to increase her knowledge and stay up to date on best practices. She makes sure to share what she learns with them, which makes our entire district safer and healthier. This hero of caring is a leader among our school nurses and a mentor to them. She’s also an advocate for students – both in her role as the district’s lead nurse and in the direct care she provides at her own schools

Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Bambi Pescasio, Canyon View Elementary School

Bambi Pescasio, fifth grade teacher at Canyon View Elementary, is a technology leader in her building and districtwide. She's also known for creating a classroom environment where every student feels like they belong and can do their best. One of the paraeducators who works her puts it like this: “She always says that we all win together or we all lose together, and that we are a community in our classroom. She creates a safe place for each student.”

Middle School Teacher of the Year: Victoria Smoot, Horse Heaven Hills Middle School

For Victoria Smoot, special education teacher at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School, one of her passions is helping smooth the often-challenging transition to middle school. She’s so good at it. Students love and appreciate her, families love and appreciate her. Her colleagues do, too. They marvel at time and patience she dedicates to making sure they have the tools and resources they need to do their best. One colleague says that, "she is the most professional, organized, caring, honest and helpful co-worker I have ever had.”

High School Teacher of the Year: Lisa Page, Southridge High School

Lisa Page, science teacher at Southridge High School, has a warmth about her that makes her students, her colleagues – really anyone in her orbit – feel valued and cared for. Her classroom is a fun place, filled with colorful charts and posters. It's also a safe place, always stocked with Cup-of-Noodles for kids who've forgotten their lunch or who just need some comfort food and a quiet place to take a break. She extends that same compassion to her instruction, making sure her teaching is inclusive of various learning styles because she understands that no two students learn exactly the same way.