For the first time in its 18-year history, the South Whidbey Schools Foundation awarded three teachers its “Extra Mile” award at the June 18 end-of-school-year Elementary and Middle School Assemblies. The award, along with a $250 check, was presented to Becky Ward and Michelle Zisette, both South Whidbey Elementary Special Services teachers, and to Nels Bergquist, a Langley Middle School English and Social Studies teacher (who was previously awarded the Foundation’s Mentorship award for 2010/11).
The “Extra Mile” award goes to a South Whidbey educator nominated by his or her peers and selected by the Foundation Board for extraordinary service provided to South Whidbey students and schools.
Elementary School Special Services teacher Becky Ward shows surprise at learning she was one of three recipients of this year’s Extra Mile award which was presented by SWSF Board Secretary Jean Shaw. The other recipients were Michelle Zisette of SWES and Nels Bergquist of Langley Middle School.
Becky Ward was nominated by several teachers because, as stated in her nomination letter, “She truly embodies a teacher who puts her heart and mind into educating her students… She goes above and beyond to help not only the children but their families as well. She fosters partnerships and supportive relationships… She keeps parents informed, listens to every situation, and finds a way to make it happen for all sides. We are so lucky to have such a patient, understanding, and dedicated teacher at our school.”
SWES Special Services teacher Michelle Zisette is presented
with the South Whidbey Schools Foundation’s Extra Mile award
and a $250 check from SWSF Board Secretary Jean Shaw.
Michelle Zisette was nominated by the school principal who received a letter from the parent of a student in the Learning Resource Center with the following commendation: “I was absolutely amazed at how she just jumped into the vacant position … and got immediately up-to-speed on all her case files. She was and has been absolutely amazing in the way she is handling both IEPs and LRC with professionalism. She is a great listener, extremely organized in her classroom, manages her IEP cases on-time and professionally, and is a great educational partner with me… She definitely deserves this award.”
Nels Berquist, who was nominated by a colleague wishing to remain anonymous, was commended for making, “… a huge difference in his students’ lives and in (the life of) one student in particular. This young man has had a rough year. Between transitions and personal issues he was having a rough time at school. He hated getting up, he wouldn’t do his work, and he wanted nothing to do with school. Each day he would begrudgingly get up, go through the routines, and ‘survive’ being at school. Since being in Mr. Bergquist’s room he has made a huge turnaround. His grades are up, he looks forward to going to school, and works hard to meet Mr. Bergquist’s expectations. When asked why he likes Mr. Bergquist so much he replied, ‘because he cares about me, is interested in me as a person, and expects me to do my best.’ I have heard numerous stories about Mr. Bergquist, each one is about what an amazing teacher he is, how he has this unique ability to set high expectations and motivate students to want to meet those expectations.”
SWHS English Lit teacher Jennifer Gandarias is awarded the 2013 Mentorship Award from South Whidbey Schools Foundation Board Secretary Jean Shaw while the students who nominated her, Lennox Bishop and Tyler Hervey, applaud.
On June 13 at South Whidbey High School’s Senior Class Farewell Assembly, English Literature teacher Jennifer Gandarias, received the Foundation’s Mentorship Award along with a $500 check. This annual award was established by Steve Shapiro, MD and his wife, Debora Valis, for the purpose of allowing students to acknowledge and honor the leadership, mentorship and inspiration of specific teachers who have contributed the most to their success throughout their education at South Whidbey schools. Seniors Lennox Bishop and Tyler Helvey, who nominated Ms. Gandarias for the award, joined retired educator and South Whidbey Schools Foundation Secretary Jean Shaw in presenting the award.
Lennox Bishop wrote in her nomination that, “Mrs. G. is an exceptional teacher. She goes above and beyond by not only challenging her students, but by truly investing in each one personally. She has a passion for teaching and it is evident. She has supported me through some of my greatest struggles. She inspires me every day.”
Gandarias was also a recipient of the Foundation’s Extra Mile Award for the 2009/10 school year.
The South Whidbey Schools Foundation provided more than $26,000 in teacher-requested classroom grants this past school year and more than $100,000 since it began making grants in 1996.
Funds are raised from individual donors and local businesses and by its annual gala dinner held each May at Useless Bay Golf and Country Club.
$14,000 was raised at this year’s May 18 event – all of it to be used toward the coming school year’s classroom grants. Grants are based on teacher applications for innovative projects teachers want to undertake in their classrooms that align with district curriculum but are otherwise unable to be funded with District resources.
“The Foundation’s grants allow me to provide that extra exciting project that will captivate students and encourage them to enjoy learning,” said South Whidbey Academy Principal David Pfeiffer. “It is a wonderful resource and we are so thankful to the community for supporting the Foundation.”
Pfeiffer received a $5,000 grant this year for a collaborative garden project undertaken by students of the South Whidbey Academy and South Whidbey Elementary School. After the June 18 assembly at the Elementary School, the South Whidbey Schools Foundation was honored at a party in the garden for their role in makingthe project possible.
Superintendent Jo Moccia pointed out that community involvement is key to a strong and vibrant school system. “The South Whidbey Schools Foundation is a tremendous resource to the District and helps keep the creative juices flowing for both teachers and students by providing the ability to realize special projects above and beyond what the District can fund with its limited resources” she said.