The following employees were selected for the January 2020 Excellence Award recognition. They were honored at the Jan. 14 school board meeting. Pictured from left:

  • Carrie Mason, nurse, McLoughlin Middle School and Skyview High School
  • Valerie Seeley, principal, Hudson’s Bay High School
  • Charles Swarts, theater manager, Vancouver School of Arts and Academics
  • Shanna Baird, family-community resource coordinator, Hazel Dell Elementary
  • Alicia Flanigan, teacher, Ogden Elementary

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.

Shanna says that her job is her joy, and that feeling radiates outward to everyone she meets. It’s evident in the partnerships she’s formed with local businesses and faith groups to support Hazel Dell families. It’s on display during Welcome Wednesdays, the event she created for staff members to greet students in the morning with smiles and pompoms as they enter the building. And it’s always clear by the way that she cares for others. Shanna has enormous heart.

Teaching in a structured communication classroom means working with a variety of abilities. Alicia does it with great love, patience and skill. She bolsters her students while also understanding their individual strengths and challenges. Alicia also knows the value of good communication with parents. Said one, “I appreciated that she wants to partner with me to get the best out of my son! I appreciate that she wants to see the best in all her students and use it.”

Today’s school nurses are tasked with responding to complex health needs, and Carrie Mason is among the best. She teaches students how to manage their health so that they can focus on learning. She’s accompanied injured students to the hospital and helped families navigate the health care system. Carrie also prioritizes small gestures that boost social and emotional wellness. She greets students to let them know they are welcome at school. She is dedicated and compassionate.

Knowing every student by name, strength and need is one of Val’s many talents. This knowledge allows her and her staff to offer academic support and resources that are tailored to each student. In turn, students feel comfortable seeking her help, and they feel empowered after meeting with her. Val also makes an extra effort to know and support her team. She celebrates every staff member’s contributions. They say that working with her is a uniquely awesome experience.

Behind the scenes is where Charles’ talents take center stage. The Durst Theatre remains a leading local venue for the performing arts in large part because of Charles’ professionalism in sound, lights and set design. Charles also advises a school club, teaching students technical theater skills while also building their confidence. Said one of his nominators, “There is no doubt that Royal Durst would be honored to know that his commitment to children and the arts is elevated by Charles Swarts.”

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