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Highline Public Schools
15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW Burien,WA 98166

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Monday-Friday: 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Highline's Rockstar Teachers

In a place where so many teachers are rockstars, it's hard to pick out just a few. We want you to meet some of our teachers who earned extra star status this year from someone who especially admires their commitment to know every student by name, strength and need. 

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we are shining a spotlight on teachers who were nominated for a Gold Star award through the Highline Schools Foundation. See our rockstar teachers in action and read about how they are making a difference for students and schools. 

Jeb Binns, Highline High School

HHS teacher Jeb Binns works with a small group of students.

“Mr. Binns keeps the Highline promise by giving students a chance to grow, even if they are behind or failing. He doesn't shun or ignore those who are failing but rather he gives them multiple chances and tries to help them succeed in class as well.” - Alan Nguyen, Student

Catherine Cassidy, Pacific Middle School

Pacific teacher Catherine Cassidy works with a small group of students.

“Kate simply has a heart of gold. She is a humble leader who is warm, kind, reflective, and strong. She works tirelessly for our students and the good of our school. She is a mentor to new and veteran teachers, and many of her colleagues consistently seek out her support and advice around teaching practices, student support, and other important decision-making.” - Maria Martin, Teacher

Zanovia Clark, Mount View Elementary School

Mount View teacher Zanovia Clark reads a book to her students.

“Zanovia is deeply dedicated to the Highline Promise and she enacts that every day through her commitment to lift up all students’ strengths, communicate with them and their families with respect, and advocate for changes that will make each student feel valued by their teachers and school. Her positive, calm and warm personality makes everyone who interacts with her feel seen, heard and included.” - Delila Leber, Teacher

Wendy Colmus, Seahurst Elementary School

Wendy Colmus works one-on-one with a student.

“Wendy is an exceptional math instructional coach. She is exceptional first and foremost because she knows math content, and if there is something she does not know, she learns it. She ensures the Highline Promise is kept by supporting teachers and holding them accountable for doing what is best for children based on research-based best practices.” - Emily Gunn, Teacher

Nora Duarte, Hilltop Elementary School

Hilltop teacher Nora Duarte works with a small group of students.

“Nora is the teacher we all strive to be. She works tirelessly and is always focused on the kids. Students' well-being and welfare are always the top of her concerns, as well as their academic progress. Nora is also the rock that anchors our team together.” - Mary Jo Popich, Teacher

Amanda Eastgard, Cascade Middle School

“Amanda believes every student can succeed and is determined to give them the supports to do so.%22

“Amanda believes every student can succeed and is determined to give them the supports to do so. Her interest in students receiving a high-quality education is evident in her strong planning practices. She is always prepared. This allows her to maximize every minute of instructional time with students.” - Karen Boucher, Interventionist

Meagan Fleming, Parkside Elementary School

Parkside teacher Meagan Fleming works one-on-one with a student.

“Meagan goes above and beyond to inspire, drive and nurture all of the students in her class. Her commitment to her craft, her tireless pursuit of providing her students the most meaningful access to exciting and engaging content, and her genuine connections with families is a real gift.” - Julianne McCullough, Paraeducator & Parent

Denise Gardner Young, Marvista Elementary School

Marvista teacher Denise Gardner Young works with a small group of students.

“Denise is an exceptional teacher who provides high-quality instruction to her students consistently every day. One of the things that makes Denise so exceptional is her ability to support students who are struggling academically or behaviorally. She is a gift to our students and community.” - Melissa Pointer, Principal

Emily Gunn, Seahurst Elementary School

Seahurst teacher Emily Gunn works with a student one-on-one.

“Emily truly exemplifies what an excellent teacher should be. She is all about working hard and being the very best she can be for her students. She is constantly reflecting on her practice and what she can improve upon to best meet the needs of her students. Not only does Emily go above and beyond for her first-graders, but she also opens up her classroom so other teachers can learn from her.” - Wendy Colmus, Teacher  

Kacie Harada, Parkside Elementary School

Parkside teacher Kacie Harada with her students.

“Kacie goes above and beyond as a teacher. She stays late, comes in early and is a true team player. She can tell you anything and everything about the students in her class. If students are not meeting benchmark, she finds a way to make sure they are receiving an intervention. Kacie calls home, builds relationships and partners with families.” - Alecia Mabalay, Teacher

Erin Hocevar Ortiz, Evergreen High School

Evergreen Erin Hocevar Ortiz works with a couple of students.

“Erin came into a dance program that students were not excited about, nor were they displaying confidence in their performances. Within one semester, Ms. Erin revolutionized the dance program. Students were dancing to music that was inspiring to them and culturally responsive. They showed confidence and investment in the class and in their dance technique through diligent student-led rehearsals and accurate performances. This has only continued and strengthened under Erin's leadership.” - Jacqueline Downey, Principal

Cooper Johnson, Marvista Elementary School

Marvista teacher Cooper Johnson works with a student one-on-one.

“Cooper is masterful at connecting with students who are typically disengaged and discouraged learners. He has created an environment in his classroom where students can feel safe and makes clear from the outset that any unkind behavior (even in the form of sarcasm) will not be tolerated. This is reinforced through Cooper’s behavior toward others, the instruction he provides in Social Emotional Learning, the way he responds to student misbehavior and the way he celebrates students' successes.” - Melissa Pointer, Principal

Ken Kulk, Pacific Middle School

%22Ken is a student advocate who ensures each student is given the opportunity to learn, grow, be respected and how to respect

"Ken is a student advocate who ensures each student is given the opportunity to learn, grow, be respected and learn how to respect others. He represents everything good about what we do every day in special education and he has a passion for helping others.” - Jason Gardner, Teacher  

Jonathan McKernan, Hilltop Elementary School

Hilltop teacher Jonathan McKernan works with a small group of students.

“Jonathan is thoughtful, considerate and kind and leverages these qualities to be an outstanding teacher who holds high expectations for students. He is undoubtedly a teacher leader at our school, and I believe he is much of the heart of our school. Jonathan thinks beyond the boundaries of our school and considers how to make students successful human beings who practice self-love and offer love to others by having a deep understanding of who they are and by offering empathy to others.” - Corbin Busby, Assistant Principal

Melissa Neely, Cascade Middle School

Cascade teacher Melissa Neely works with a student one-on-one.

“Ms. Neely is always advocating for her students. She genuinely cares for each student and shows personal interest in each one of them. She calls and emails parents with concerns and praise." - Taunya Thoeny, Parent

Jesse Perez, Hazel Valley Elementary

Hazel Valley teacher Jesse Perez works with a student one-on-one.

“Jesse puts all his passion into his work. He knows each of his students by name, strength and need and everything he does is aimed at these goals. Not only is he good at helping each individual student be their best self and prepare for their future life skills needed but he also helps all the paras in his classroom learn why certain strategies are important and is an awesome trainer.” - Barb Bennett, Paraeducator

Jeannie Rakamnuaykit, White Center Heights Elementary

White Center Heights teacher Jeannie Rakamnuaykit works with a group of students.

“Ms. Jeannie goes above and beyond to connect with each student on a one-on-one basis. She has a natural way of fostering independence and growth, all while supporting and guiding the student. Ms. Jeannie has a genuine interest in each student's success. I appreciate her positivity and dedication to her students.” - Leah Pham, Parent

Jordan Reni, White Center Heights

White Center Heights teacher Jordan Reni works with a student one-on-one.

“She's a great teacher! She's nice to us, she doesn't yell at us. She's funny.” - Maia Scott, Student

Schell Ross, Pacific Middle School

Pacific teacher Schell Ross works with a small group of students.

“Mrs. Ross connects well with students and makes an effort to build strong relationships with her students. She goes over and beyond by staying after school almost every single day to make herself available for her students. Whether it is to allow students to finish up assignments or study/finish a test, Mrs. Ross is willing to keep her door open to ensure students have equal chances to be successful.” - Freda Crichton, Paraeducator

Leticia Yellam, Hilltop Elementary School

North Hill teacher Leticia Yellam works with a small group of students.

“Leticia is truly a transformational individual. Leticia is deeply committed to innovative education, and she is a proponent of disrupting traditional power structures of language by providing students access to instruction in Spanish. I believe that this is transformative work that will change the lives of students.” - Corbin Busby, Assistant Principal