Four teachers are walking a little taller these days.
The South Whidbey Schools Foundation tabbed them as exemplary educators with the group’s Extra Mile and Mentorship awards. Fellow teachers nominate a peer for the Extra Mile award, which is then selected by the foundation’s board for extraordinary service provided to South Whidbey students and schools. It comes with a $250 check, too.
Beck Ward and Michelle Zisette received the Extra Mile award as special services teachers at South Whidbey Elementary School.
In the nomination letter, Ward’s peers wrote, “She truly embodies a teacher who puts her heart and mind into educating her students … 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.”
Jeff Cravy, principal at the elementary school, nominated Zisette for the Extra Mile. He received a letter from a parent of a student who used the Learning Resource Center which stated, “I was absolutely amazed at how she just jumped into the vacant position … and got immediately up-to-speed on all her case files.”
Nels Bergquist was honored as the Extra Mile teacher at Langley Middle School where he teaches English and social studies. It was the second time he received the award. His anonymous nominator commended Bergquist for making, “a huge difference in his students’ lives.”
The foundation’s Mentorship award and $500 prize went to South Whidbey High School teacher Jennifer Gandarias. Recent graduates Lennox Bishop and Tyler Helvey nominated Gandarias, who teaches English at the high school.
“Mrs. G. is an exceptional teacher,” Bishop wrote in the nomination letter. “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.”
The Mentorship award was established by Steve Shapiro 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.
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, 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 they want to begin in their classrooms that align with district curriculum but are otherwise unable to be funded with District resources.
South Whidbey Academy director David 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