Klamath Falls, Oregon – “Today we are honoring people who know why they get out of bed in the morning, people driven to make children’s lives better by their compassion and dedication,” said KFCS Superintendent Dr. Paul Hillyer at the district’s fifth annual Everyday Heroes awards event Feb. 12 in the Mills Elementary School auditorium.
Hillyer thanked and presented awards to 18 peer-nominated individuals and ten teams who have done exceptional work on behalf of the city schools over the past year.
He also thanked all in attendance. “Every one of you could be coming across the stage today,” he said. “We are all part of the purpose-driven work of helping young people find success and develop themselves to their fullest extent. ”
Named Community Partner of the Year was Klamath Basin Behavior Health, which has 30 staff providing day treatment and school-based services in the city schools. Receiving the award for the KBBH team was Chief Executive Officer Stan Gilbert, who praised the district as a role model that others in the state seek to replicate.
“It is rare for a district to open its doors and integrate mental health services to the extent this district does,” said Gilbert. “With this district’s commitment to mental health and the well-being of students, we’ll continue to do good things together.”
New this year was the Community Person of the Year award. It went to longtime school board member Bill Jennings, who accepted the honor with a tearful thank you and standing ovation.
“Education is hard work,” said Jennings. “But I am preaching to the choir. It is so much easier to do that work as a team, and it is an honor to be shoulder to shoulder with everyone here working to advocate for kids and advocate for education.”
Six teams that improved district programs or initiated new ones were recognized as Key Innovators. They were:
- The Therapeutic Learning Classroom staff at Ponderosa Middle School, whose new classroom helps students struggling with behavior learn skills to be successful in mainstream classrooms.
- The Ninth Grade On-Track Team at Klamath Union High School, whose new program identifies struggling freshman and works to get them on track with first-year credits.
- The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Tutor Program staff, who provide peer tutoring services at Klamath Union High School and, new this year, certified teacher tutoring at Ponderosa Middle School.
- The Childcare and Preschool Program staff, who care for young children at Pelican Babies daycare and preschoolers at the new Klamath Early Childhood Education Center. (See accompanying story.)
- The Summer Internships Program team, who introduced paid summer internships for special education students who need skills to transition to working life.
- The Centennial Team at Mills Elementary School, who arranged celebration events for this year’s 100-year anniversary.
Everyday Hero awards went to Kyle Baird, custodian at Klamath Union High School; Caroline Nichols, paraprofessional at Klamath Union High School; Rhiannon Kerr, family and consumer sciences teacher at Klamath Union High School; Kassido Rubio, secretary at Klamath Learning Center; Matthew Hill, English language arts teacher at Klamath Union High School; Naomi McCleve, paraprofessional at Klamath Union High School; Erin Dodson, elementary day treatment teacher at Klamath Basin Behavioral Health; Bonnie Mancebo, paraprofessional at Mills Elementary School; Lucia Alfaro, paraprofessional in Early Childhood Intervention;
Katherine Hatcher, paraprofessional in Early Childhood Intervention; Debbie Hill, former secretary at Klamath Union High School (now providing substitute support in the district); Sara Lautenschlager, special education teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School; Rebecca Morehouse, fourth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School; Trudy Willhite, director of Pelican Babies daycare, Rebecca Pierce, counselor at Klamath Union High School; Kyle Malone, head custodian at Mills Elementary School; Sara Robertson, administrative assistant in Human Resources; Pelican Babies Daycare Team; Conger Elementary School Bridges Room Team and Transportation Department Mechanics Team.
“It is just so rewarding working with kids who need a different learning experience,” said Lautenschlager of her 16-year-career providing special education instruction and the Response to Intervention program at Roosevelt Elementary School. “And I love data!”
Her nominator, fourth-grade teacher Rebecca Morehouse, praised Lautenschlager for her organizational skills and confident approach with teachers.
“She is supportive of teachers but will stand up for what she knows and for the kids,” said Morehouse, who also received an Everyday Hero award.
Hillyer closed the event by thanking all staff for making children’s lives better by their work in the Klamath Falls City Schools.
“I wake up in the morning and thank God for all the great people working for this district.”