Excellence in Education Awards logo

Excellence in Education Awards

  • The Yakima School District and the Crystal Apple Committee are proud to join together with the Yakima Schools Foundation and community partners to bring the inaugural EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION awards gala and foundation fundraiser.


    WHEN: April 29, 2022; doors open at 5:30 pm

    WHERE: Eisenhower High School Auditorium

    COST:  $20 adults, $10 students, $10 children 10 and under

    Nomination packets are due April 8, 2022, at 4:00 pm (Email ysd-communityrelations@ysd7.org to request an extension).


    Yakima School District employees serving in an instructional or certificated role, as well as employees serving in a support or classified role, can be nominated for an award. Employees need to have served two years as of April 8, 2022, in a full-time role.


    Crystal Apple Award = Five certificated, non-administrative candidates will be awarded (YEA, Coaches)

    Crystal Apple Award = One certificated administrator candidate will be awarded (YPA)

    Classified STAR Award = Up to five classified, non-administrative candidates will be awarded (Teamsters 760, YABS, YAP, YEOP, PSE, YMA, YPTA, Exempt, OSG)

    Classified STAR Award = One district administrator candidate will be awarded (YDA; certificated and classified YDA members)*

    *Members of the current year's superintendent's cabinet are not eligible

      Crystal Apple Nominees

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        Mirian Barragan, Kindergarten Teacher at Whitney Elementary School

        She is nominated by her colleague Nicole Keely Roberts and supported by student Jordan Blair and parent & colleague Sarah Buck. Jordan had this to say about Mrs. Barragan— “I love and appreciate her because keeps us safe. When we had a lockdown, she told us instructions for what we had to do and kept us safe.  I felt scared, but she told us to take deep breaths and all of that.  It helped me feel better.”




        Brian Beck, Band and Percussion Teacher at Davis High School

        He is nominated by his colleague Scott Goranson and supported by Assistant Principal/Athletic Director at Davis High School Bob Stanley, and parent Jennifer Elwood. Jennifer Elwood had this to say about Mr. Beck – “He maintains high standards for student behavior in and out of the class and demands excellence not only from students musically but in their conduct, whether they’re in the band room or traveling for competition. For students that have a difficult time raising band fees due to family circumstances, he’s implemented a scholarship program.”




        Anita DeMonbrun, Third Grade Teacher at Gilbert Elementary School

        She is nominated by colleague Jeff Chapman, and supported by Principal Stephanie Rosbach and colleague, parent, and community member Crystal Morrill. Stephanie Rosbach had this to say about Mrs. DeMonbrun— “On the first day of school she wore a giant bee costume all day with her students.  During remote learning, Mrs. D wore different silly glasses and headbands every day to help make learning fun, even online Mrs. D begins each day with a dance party so students can get their wiggles out and shake off any bad vibes before learning begins.”




        Collette Heffner, Grade 6-12 Math Specialist at Central Office

        She is nominated by YSD Secondary Science TOSA Colleague Lisa Cyr, and supported by TOSA Colleague Mr. Chad Quesnell, and STEAM Director Dr. Andie Webb. Chad Quesnell had this to say about Mrs. Heffner— “She is so skilled in working with all new and veteran staff and supporting students at all skill and comfort levels with math. She truly is an advocate and can take what feels like a roadblock and turn it into the tiniest of speed bumps. She lives the phrase: if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”




        Carole Huls, Art Specialist at Davis High School

        She is nominated by colleague Jewel Brumley and supported by colleague Donald Mason, and student Morgan Greene. Donald Mason had this to say about Carole— “Her approach is very student-focused. She meets the students where they are and then builds from there.  I have had students tell me, “I don’t like art or I can’t draw”, but after a stint in Mrs. Hulls’ class, they return with a new and developing enthusiasm for art and their untapped potential.  I was in her room last week and students were working on watercolor, while others were drawing.  The projects and depictions were as individualized as the student’s collaboration and intellectual growth.”




        Sydney John, Assistant Principal at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School

        He is nominated by colleague Anne Chapman and supported by Principal Maria Lucero and colleague Kayla Robins. Maria Lucero had this to say about Mr. John— “The positive culture that one can sense upon stepping into our school is in large part due to Mr. John’s ongoing efforts to improve our schoolwide systems and cultivating a school environment that is welcoming to all. John takes a proactive approach to ensure student safety by making it a point to step into each staff members shoes.  He does this to gain perspective on what each staff member experiences and identifies potential issues and plans accordingly to prevent our staff members from encountering pitfalls in their work with students.”




        Amber Kinley, MTSS (Behavioral Support) at McKinley Elementary School

        She is nominated by colleague and parent Sara Scheidegger and supported by colleague Amanda Voorhees and colleague Sara Coyner. Sara had this to say about Amber – “Every Friday during the lunch hour Mrs. Kinley can be found in the lunchroom with students rewarding positive behavior with prizes and incentives. She often comments that it is one of the most satisfying accomplishments of her position.  She loves to see the kids light up when they are being honored for their positive choices and behaviors.”




        Caitlin Lindborg, Instructional Facilitator at Nob Hill Elementary School

        She is nominated by colleague Phillip Roberts and supported by Principal Erin Thomas and colleague Lora Dykes. Philip had this to say about Caitlin— “During remote learning, we had yet to make contact with some very elusive students and their families. Caitlin took the initiative to contact a friend of the family who knew a cousin who had a connection with a grandmother who knew of the student’s situation, all the while employing her Spanish skills to make the appropriate contacts.  Days later we delivered materials to that student and had her back in attendance as we transitioned to hybrid learning.”




        Maria Lucero, Principal at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School

        She is nominated by colleague Blanca Garza and supported by colleague Raymond Smith and colleague Kayla Robins. Raymond had this to say about Maria— “Maria has put systems into place that ensure every child is given the best chance to succeed. She is very data-driven and asks her grade-level teams and Instructional Leadership Team to study results to help make informed decisions about instruction.  She empowers people to make decisions that are in the best interest of children.  Teachers that feel valued and listened to make great decisions.”




        Sheila Modine, Second Grade Teacher at Garfield Elementary School

        She is nominated by colleagues Carrie Nelson and supported by colleagues Marci Murray and Sarahi Maldonado. Carrie had this to say about Sheila— “during remote learning she would play music the students would hear as they entered each meet. She would dress up as Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus and incorporate their learning as an adventure.  She had some of the best attendance in any classroom during remote learning.  Sheila routinely surprises students with creative themes in her classroom to increase engagement, and her students respond very well to her creative and nurturing approach…..during the height of the pandemic, Sheila became involved in the Garfield teacher car parades and drove around the neighborhood to wave at students and families.  The best part was the inflatable shark sticking out of her sunroof!”




        Analisa Montemayor, Counselor at Franklin Middle School

        She is nominated by colleague Joe Rodriguez and supported by a community member and former student, Jazmin Vargas, and colleague Sherry Anderson. Jazmin had this to say about Analisa— “She made a plan specifically for me to follow every trimester. She would consistently check up on my grades and schedule tutoring for me in the library.  I was in disbelief that someone cared so much about my education and receiving the support I desperately needed at the time when I felt alone and had no support”.




        Kayla Robins, MTSS (Behavioral Support) at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School

        She is nominated by colleague Blanca Garza and supported by administrator John Sydney and colleague Ashlee Mandrell. Ashlee had this to say about Kayla— “We had a teacher who was out for a whole week and had multiple days of no consistent sub. In an effort to provide students with consistency, strong instruction, and to alleviate the need for teachers to give up their planning time to cover, Kayla volunteered to teach all day for the last two days of the week.  This is just one of the examples that demonstrates her commitment to students and staff.”




        Elissa Russell, Social and Emotional Specialist at Adams Elementary School

        She is nominated by instructional facilitator Jessica Karstetter and supported by Administrator Doug Kaplicky and colleague Vicki Davis. Jessica had this to say about Elissa— “Elissa has a strong connection with many community members and groups in the Yakima Valley. She is in charge of coordinating activities that involve outside resources to serve our students.  Here are some examples: Project 500—this is a community-involved and sponsored Christmas shopping event that matches school staff as well as people in our community with individual students to shop for winter clothes and necessities they may not otherwise receive if not for this program.”




        Carl Scott, Math Teacher at Davis High School

        He is nominated by colleague Lynne Greene and supported by colleagues Shawn Borup and Juan Monroy. Rob Tyrell a colleague of Carl had this to say— “As far as being creative, Carl led the charge into new territory by advocating the ‘team taught’ concept where students with special needs learn alongside of regular education peers, a half-and-half model if you will.” Rob pointed out “…after trailing one class, the successful program quickly morphed into a full-time program, benefitting Special Needs kids who were then (and now) able to fully access Algebra and Geometry classes.”




        Jennifer Springer-Mundell, 8th Grade History Teacher at Wilson Middle School

        She is nominated by colleague John Stevan Freeborn and supported by student Eleanor Suhm. Steve had this to say about Jenny— “Absolutely a leader in distance learning tutorials during COVID remote, distance learning, she helped the entire staff grow in their knowledge of the latest programs to support students. Such as KAMI to write, revise, edit and annotate.  The program Near pod designed to present visuals, implement Collaboration boards and questions, and most importantly it tracks student engagement while in an online class.




        Erin Thomas, Principal at Nob Hill Elementary School

        She is nominated by colleague Lora Dykes and supported by colleagues Colleen Kaluzny and Maira Viveros. Lora had this to say about Erin— “Mrs. Thomas develops strong relationships with all of us. She genuinely cares about us and our wellbeing.  She supports us, motivates us, and inspires us to always want to do more and to always be the best we can be.  The positive climate she has created in our building brings out the best in us, and therefore we can bring out the best in our students.  When teachers are at their best, they can really motivate kids to succeed.  It all starts at the top.  Because of the respect we have for Mrs. Thomas, we feel that we aren’t working under her, but with her.”




        Kyleen Welch, Math Interventionist at Roosevelt Elementary School

        She is nominated by colleague Jennifer Roscher and supported by Principal Nancy Smith and parent Ashley Jaramillo. Jennifer had this to say about Kyleen— “to kick off the school year, Mrs. Welch takes the time to meet individually with each student to discover what is important to them—what grabs their attention—and then she incorporates these connections into her daily lessons. In one particular lesson, Mrs. Welch re-writes math word problems with a student’s name and an interest.  This immediately grabs the class’s attention and instantly shows students that she listens and cares.”

      Shining Star Nominees

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        Morgan Aparicio, Data Specialist at Adams Elementary School

        Morgan has been a true asset in her tenure at YSD.  Overseeing 5 different high-stakes tests for the largest elementary school in the District, Morgan approaches her day with a personality and disposition that is to be admired and contributed to Adams Elementary being ranked in the top 1% for its school climate growth numbers.  Her administration recognizes her as the “humble, unsung hero for Adams students, who has the full respect of staff, students and [the] administrative team.”  Thank you, Morgan!




        Olivia Brasker, Paraeducator at Eisenhower High School

        An exemplary example of a passionate and driven Paraeduator, Olivia currently serves as a moderate self-contained classroom paraeducator at Eisenhower High School.  Olivia’s colleagues are incredibly grateful for her “positive attitude and calm demeanor,” and admire her ability to provide amazing support to students, all while continuing to grow herself through furthering her education.  Thank you,Olivia!




        Sabrina Bromley, Library Secretary at Franklin Middle School

        Without a doubt, everyone’s day-to-day life was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic coming to light.  Staff across the district had to adapt and find new ways of doing things.  “Sabrina went well above and beyond to foster our students’ love for learning and reading.”  This included starting a weekly book club where she would meet remotely with students to read a book aloud and they would discuss it.  Sabrina’s tireless efforts to continue to provide book circulation even during remote learning impacted a multitude of students and have not gone unnoticed. Thank you, Sabrina!




        Sandy Collins, Office Manager at Davis High School

        You would be hard pressed to find someone as dedicated and committed to supporting student learning as Sandy.  As the office manager at Davis, Sandy’s peers recognize her as going above and beyond in ensuring operations run smoothly, including coordinating sometimes up to 60 periods of classroom coverage.  Even with her busy job, Sandy still finds time to connect and support staff in unique ways.  Thank you, Sandy!




        Yesenia Diaz, Safety and Security Secretary at Central Office

        “Yesenia embodies the creed, “Service to others above self.”  Yesenia serves as the office manager for our safety and security office.  She has been observed fielding hundreds of 911 calls in a calm and efficient manner in times of extreme pressure.  Yesenia models the concept that “learning never ends” and consistently is a resource to our staff, students, community, and other agencies.  Everyone can rest assured that in an emergency, Yesenia will effectively coordinate and maintain lines of communication to help ensure that situations are resolved promptly.  Thank you, Yesenia!




        Martha Garcia, Library Secretary at Davis High School

        Her peers recognize her ability and willingness to do whatever is necessary to support the students, including mentoring several students, and helping with tech issues with state testing.  A significant contribution Martha makes above and beyond the call of duty has been taking on the role of advisor to the GEMS club at Davis.  This year she leveraged this role to plan, run and host the GEMS fashion show, encouraging participation and providing students a chance to engage with each other in meaningful ways.  Thank you, Martha!




        Ellie Garza, Registrar at Yakima Online

        Ellie has been nominated and recognized for her positive attitude even in the midst of an extreme increase in workload.  In her role as Registrar for Yakima Online, Ellie and her team experienced an increase from an average of 120 students to more than 450 students in the program.  Ellie took on this new challenge with grace and an astounding level of patience, even volunteering to work additional hours to make sure student learning wasn’t impacted during their transition to the online program.  Thank you, Ellie!




        Danielle McFadden, Special Education Paraeducator at Ridgeview Elementary School

        Generous, kind, and caring are just a few of the many adjectives that describe Danielle.  Danielle’s peers recognize her as being an individual who puts the needs of others before herself, always.  Whether a student needs a motivational conversation, or maybe even some gloves in the winter, Danielle, without hesitation, makes it happen without any expectation of reciprocity.  One student recommending Danielle for this award stated “She really cares and wants to make sure I am doing well…She is the best.”  Thank you, Danielle!




        Shelly McWain, Paraeducator at Hoover Elementary School

        Shelley prioritizes students above all else.  You will see her out offering high fives and a pleasant smile to students and staff, ensuring that they have a great start to their day.  Recently, Shelly served as a champion for student voice with officials from across the district and representatives from the Gates Foundation.  She also consistently volunteers her time in other activities, such as helping coordinate a Family Literacy Night and other activities.  Thank you, Shelly!




        Maribel Mendoza, Student Advocate at Garfield Elementary School

        With a heart of gold, Maribel consistently goes above and beyond in her role as a migrant and bilingual advocate.  Maribel’s peers recognize her as placing a priority on the well-being of students and families.  One example was Maribel networking with various individuals in order to provide clothes for a family in need.  Maribel has become a sought-after individual by families who need assistance due to her ability to solve, respect, care, and how she values who students are and helps them shine.  Thank you, Maribel!




        Melissa Ogunmokun, Sign Language Interpreter at Eisenhower High School

        One challenge arising from the pandemic was the impact that mask mandates had on Deaf and Hard of Hearing students.  Melissa was observed to be a proactive advocate and her foresight in this need.  She advocated for and helped secure transparent masks so that this student group would not lose the information gained from lip-reading.  Mellissa also played a major role in securing access to mental health assistance by helping jumpstart a contract between the school district and Seattle Children’s hospital.  Without a doubt, students and staff benefit from the dedication Melissa brings every day.  Thank you, Melissa!




        Nicole Rivera, Office Manager at Washington Middle School

        As a “go-to” for so many adults, students, and families at Washington Middle School, Nicole provides a level of customer service that leaves everyone with the feeling that they have someone to rely on.  Nicole is described by her peers as selfless, positive, a mentor, student-focused and so much more.  Nicole embodies school spirit, participating in events, volunteering, and even volunteering to run a student support club where she and students test out Tik Tok hacks.  Staff, students, and the community all greatly benefit from Nicole’s hard work.  Thank you, Nicole!




        Laney Tillotson, Migrant/ELL Student Advocate at Wilson Middle School

        Laney is a true asset to Yakima School District’s students, staff, and community.  Her peers recognize her as someone who “always goes above and beyond,” and is “right there to help” if someone has a question.  She has a level of energy, kindness, and care that she provides every day with everything she does.    Laney serves in several capacities, including coaching multiple sports and helping with testing.  Thank you, Laney!




        LeAnn Vetsch, Kitchen Manager at Adams Elementary School

        Described as having customer service skills that are truly unmatched, and someone who is nonstop, with energy to spare. LeAnn understands the value of an adequate nutrition plan brings to student learning while balancing making students feel welcome and working closely with staff on a coupon system at Adams to recognize students.  She even works with the Salvation Army, where students are able to shop for necessities.  LeAnn has also taken on leadership roles to better advocate for staff and students in both the PSE Association and trainings/conferences to continue to make sure Yakima School District stays up to date and in compliance with changes. Thank you, Leann!