Jennifer Atkins, Teacher of the Year

A group of Kalama School District staff members were recognized for their outstanding achievements on Wednesday (6/14) afternoon at the district’s inaugural Stars of Education Awards. 

The awards are meant to honor employees who consistently demonstrate outstanding work performance, exemplary leadership, collaboration, and dedication to student growth and positive outcomes.

The award recipients and categories were as follows:

Jennifer Atkins, Educator of the Year Award

The Educator of the Year Award recognizes an educator who has displayed extraordinary commitment, expertise, and innovation in their capacity as a teacher or education professional, making a profound difference in the lives of their students and/or the school community.

Atkins’ nominator wrote, “Jennifer not only excels in the classroom, but goes above and beyond as a colleague and friend. She has a passion for teaching, and is committed to the growth and success of all students. She is knowledgeable, innovative, and constantly looking for ways to engage students creatively. Her colleagues look to her for ideas on instructional practices, strategies to support students, and for creating an inclusive environment. She is also reflective and serves as a leader.”

Honorable mention: Kayln Dolan & Rian Orr

Amanda Nisbet, Paraeducator of the Year Award

The Paraeducator of the Year Award honors an outstanding paraeducator who has demonstrated exceptional dedication, skill, and commitment in their role. This award aims to celebrate the vital contributions and invaluable support provided by paraeducators in fostering a positive learning environment for students.

Nisbet’s nominator wrote that she “worked alongside her teacher to help develop classroom programming from the ground up. At the start of the year, she made a commitment to get to know her students and to anticipate their needs. She developed her own set of student activities to improve the recess experience, and this enthusiasm carried over into the classroom, where she was able to create more activities as needed. She deserves this award for her ability to not only see the value in early learning, but for recognizing it as a foundation for student success throughout the K-12 experience.”

Linda Edwards, Dan Lane, Ken White, Melissa Wilson (KMS/KHS Social Studies), PLC Team Spotlight Award

The PLC Team Spotlight Award celebrates a PLC (Professional Learning Community) team’s collective efforts to enhance student learning, improve instructional practices, and foster a culture of continuous professional growth. The team has demonstrated a strong commitment to collaboration and the exchange of ideas through their PLC work.

Linda Edwards, PLC Leadership Award* 

The PLC Leadership Award celebrates an educator who has not only embraced the collaborative spirit of a PLC, but has also taken on a leadership role to drive positive change and foster professional growth among their colleagues. This award honors their outstanding contributions in cultivating a culture of collaboration, promoting effective teaching practices, and advancing student achievement through the power of collective learning.

Allison Anderson (KES), Brandon Walker (KMS), Nicole Becker (KHS), Culture of Achievement Award 

The Culture of Achievement Award honors staff members at Kalama Elementary School, Kalama Middle School, and Kalama High School for consistently aligning their instructional practices, interactions with students, and contributions to the school environment with the district's five foundational pillars: “Welcoming,” “Choice Words,” “Do No Harm,” “Never Too Late to Learn,” and “Best School in the Universe.” Each recipient demonstrates a deep understanding of the district's mission and vision, and their work reflects a genuine dedication to fostering a culture of care and achievement.

Chris Winn and Eric Nerison

Chris WInn, Kalama Legacy Award

The Kalama Legacy Award is a distinguished recognition given to honor the outstanding contributions and accomplishments of a staff member upon their retirement. It is presented with heartfelt appreciation, warm wishes for a fulfilling retirement, and sincere gratitude for their dedication to the betterment of Kalama School District and the Kalama Community. 

Tiffany Fechter (KES), Terra Pfeiffer (KMS/KHS), Restorative Justice Award

The Restorative Justice Award honors an individual who has demonstrated exceptional dedication and commitment to promoting restorative justice principles and practices within the district. This award honors a staff member’s significant contributions in fostering a culture of empathy, accountability, and healing among students and staff.

Kortney Burpee, Outstanding Dedication Award*

The Outstanding Dedication Award is given to someone who willingly takes on additional responsibilities, actively seeks opportunities for professional growth, and proactively contributes to the overall success of Kalama schools. They are known for their willingness to assist colleagues, mentor new staff, and collaborate with others to enhance the student experience.

Cory Torppa, Community Engagement Award

The Community Engagement Award honors a staff member’s proactive approach in bridging the gap between Kalama School District and the community. The recipient actively seeks opportunities to involve community members, organizations, and resources to enrich the educational experiences of Kalama students and enhance the overall well-being of the community.

Sara Cameron (KES), Lori Byrnes (KMS), Sheila Stuhlsatz (KHS), School Spirit Award*

The School Spirit Award honors staff members at Kalama Elementary School, Kalama Middle School, and Kalama High School for their vibrant spirit, positive attitude, and ability to inspire and uplift both students and colleagues. The award inspires other staff members to embrace a similar spirit, fostering an environment where learning becomes a joyful journey filled with excitement, positivity, and limitless possibilities.

Kelsey Best, Unsung Hero Award*

The recipient of the Unsung Hero Award is someone who consistently demonstrates exceptional dedication, commitment, and a genuine passion for their work. They may be an administrative staff member, a custodian, a bus driver, a cafeteria worker, or any other staff member who plays a vital role in the functioning of the school, yet often remains unseen or underappreciated. The award serves as a reminder to everyone that every contribution, no matter how small or unnoticed, is valued and appreciated.

John Bates (KHS Soccer), Coach of the Year Award

The Coach of the Year Award is given to a Kalama School District coach who goes above and beyond to inspire, motivate, and mentor student-athletes, fostering a culture of sportsmanship, teamwork, and personal growth. 

Kalama PTO, Supporter of the Year Award

The Supporter of the Year Award is presented to an individual or organization that has demonstrated exceptional dedication, commitment, and support to the success and advancement of Kalama School District. The award celebrates their significant contributions, partnership, and unwavering advocacy for the district's mission, goals, and the overall well-being of its students and staff.

Jim Byrnes, Volunteer of the Year Award

The Volunteer of the Year Award is given to an individual who has demonstrated exceptional dedication, selflessness, and commitment to serving Kalama School District and its students through volunteer efforts. This award celebrates their significant contributions, positive impact, and invaluable support to the community.

Congratulations to all of the Stars of Education award recipients and thank you to all of our staff members for a great school year!

*Award recipient determined by peer vote. Other awards were determined by a panel of district administrators.