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Congratulations to our 2023 Staff Excellence Award Recipients

At Kennewick School District, we're a big family: over 2,400 staff and nearly 19,000 students under our care across 34 schools and learning programs. Though what we do wouldn't be possible without the contributions of all staff, at the beginning of each school year, we like to take a moment to recognize a few of them who really go above and beyond in their commitment to our students, schools and KSD community.

Please join me in congratulating our 2023 Staff Excellence Award Recipients, which were awarded earlier this week at the Back to School Kickoff Assembly in the presence of the entire KSD community as well as the recipients' family members who showed up to surprise them and share in the joy of their accomplishment.

Here's a glance at who was honored:

Nathan Gregory is the assistant principal at Chinook Middle School and "sets an example of excellence" daily for both his school community and in his activities outside of it. He takes the time to get to know students and staff personally, building trust by communicating in a way that shows he genuinely cares about their well-being. As his fellow Chinook administrator said of him, "His dedication to our staff and students is second to none. I don't just look at him as a great colleague, but a friend as well."


Nikki Wood is the school counselor at Eastgate Elementary. She serves an important role in attending to the social and emotional well-being of the student body as well as helping to coordinate solutions to other student needs that contribute their success. "She leads with her heart in everything the she does ... She is a beacon of hope for all those who have the pleasure of knowing her."


Tracy Hama is a longtime teacher of Sunset View Elementary behind whose quiet demeanor is a passionate educator who advocates for her students' needs and constantly gives of herself. "She is all around the teacher that you want your student to have; whether your student is succeeding or has challenges, she's going to make sure she gives your child what they need and that's why she's such a highly regarded team member."


Deanna Moore is an 8th grade science teacher and WEB leader at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School who develops creative learning activities that encourage students to explore, investigate and discover the world of science. She also leads an 8th grade leadership program where students connect with and mentor 6th graders during their first year of middle school. "The impact that she has made in connecting students with leaders in the school positively changed the culture of the school and has continued to inspire and empower all students."


Geoff Simm is a history and leadership teacher at Southridge High School who is part of the heart and soul of his school, readily bringing humor, positivity and a willingness to help to all situations. Administrators say leadership students engaged more and inquired deeper with administrative staff than at any other school they've taught at. “He is truly student centered, and his greatest skill, besides being a good person, is his ability to teach students how to champion their ideas and handle the results good or bad.”


Erin Patterson is a 6th grade history teacher at Desert Hills Middle School who is an exemplar of creativity and passion in the classroom, taking curriculum and adapting it to be dynamic, immersive and of the kind that solidifies lessons for students, establishing lifelong memories and lasting knowledge. She transforms both her room and sometimes herself into a new character to engage students. Students are encouraged to take an active interest in their learning journey through multidimensional opportunities and options for exploration.


Amy Edwards is a paraeducator with a heart of gold in the Amistad Elementary life skills classroom. According to the life skills teacher she works alongside, "Amy has a huge, kind, empathetic heart and deep, deep love for students with disabilities." They added, "She can be the perfect balance of silly and loving, but holding firm boundaries and high expectations for learning ... She is devoted to solving the unique puzzles of each student's needs and actively searches for solutions on her own time."


Lisa Garrison is an administrative assistant in Nutrition Services for KSD. She coordinates all of the food orders across all of Kennewick's schools, amounting to 3 million meals served last year. She is who makes sure breakfast and lunch still happen when a freezer or refrigerator goes down overnight or something goes wrong with an order. She remains cool, calm and collected through the most challenging situations, ensuring every student has food to eat.


Carl Johnson is a custodian at Sage Crest Elementary beloved by everyone at his school big and small. He takes incredible pride in his work that keeps Sage Crest not only clean, but safe and looking its very best. He never complains about the messes he's tasked with cleaning up, instead seeing his role as an opportunity to help kids and fellow staff any way he can. As one staff member summed it up, "He's a custodian, but his job title should be a fireman. He puts out fires all day ... We couldn't do what we do without his support, kindness and care."