The following employees were selected for the December Excellence Award recognition. They were honored at the Dec. 12 school board meeting. Pictured from left to right are:

  • Joan Hagist, paraeducator, Lincoln Elementary School
  • Viktoriya Krasovskaya, Russian interpreter, and Elisa Iraheta, Spanish interpreter, Walnut Grove Elementary, multiple schools and special services department
  • Christine Ingalls, teacher, Thomas Jefferson Middle School
  • Neil Cummings, teacher and coach, Alki Middle School
  • April Whipple, principal, Ogden Elementary 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.

At a basketball game in early November, Neil’s enthusiasm and talent for both coaching and teaching became apparent. Not only was his team well-prepared, but Neil’s all-inclusive, encouraging coaching style allowed each player to be an integral part of the experience. At the end of the game, both teams acknowledged his skills, and they left eager to play again in the future. Observed his nominator, “Coach Cummings has a big heart; his positive spirit and attitude have spread throughout the district.”
Sometimes being treated the same way as everyone else makes a big impression on someone who feels that they are different. Christine taught her classes, including a special education class, dances that all the students performed together at an assembly. It was a feat that only a talented educator could pull off with finesse. According to one parent, the show was truly amazing. And the smiles on the students’ faces? They were spectacular! Kudos to Christine for giving opportunities to all students.
Walnut Grove is a large, diverse school, in which Viktoriya and Elisa are lifelines for families who speak a language other than English at home. These two interpreters develop strong relationships with the families they serve. Whether engaging in numerous parent-teacher conferences, translating materials, advocating for students, connecting families to resources or personally calling parents to invite them to school events, Elisa and Viktoriya establish meaningful connections that transcend language barriers. They are fundamental to Walnut Grove’s welcoming, inclusive culture.

Joan Joan, as she’s nicknamed, is known for having an unparalleled sense of humor and being an impeccable listener. She cares deeply about the small details that have a big impact on others’ lives. Both adults and children appreciate her soft skills. For one nonverbal student, spending time with Joan is so special that it serves as a daily incentive. For nearly 30 years she’s proved her positive impact in the district. Congratulations, Joan Joan, on reaching this latest milestone.

You can see it in April’s innovative thinking as part of the district’s Future Ready Admin training, which empowers principals to deepen their use of digital tools to improve teaching and learning. You can see it in her pivotal role in planning the redesign of Ogden Elementary, which will be completely rebuilt in the coming years. You can see it in her one-on-one interactions with staff members and kids. It is clear: April is a strong leader with a clear vision.

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