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

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

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Teacher Appreciation 2021: We See You & Thank You!

Like Never Before

National Teacher Appreciation Week is May 3-7 this year. After more than a year of pandemic teaching and learning, our families and staff appreciate teachers like never before.  

A theme of deep thankfulness emerged from a record number of nominations this spring to the Highline Schools Foundation for the Outstanding Teacher and Rookie Teacher awards. 

Read the stories our community tells about Highline teachers who tackled the challenges of teaching from home, in-person or hybrid, to reach our students in their homes or from behind their masks. To our teachers who needed to take leave at some point this year, we see you and thank you, too. Along the way teachers had to address many new technical difficulties and attend to their own family and mental health needs. Our Highline leaders, families, staff and community say to each of you, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”


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Alejandra Silva-Avendano, Pacific Middle School

“Silva remains dedicated to educational equity and demonstrates this through her tireless commitment to reach every student at his or her need, while simultaneously serving students who show exceptional strength. She displays this dedication in her lesson planning, delivery and reflection. One specific example includes her commitment to translate every direction and rubric into Spanish for ELL students.” 
—Michelle Thomas, Teacher

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Brianna Warner, Mount Rainier High School

“Ms. Warner is one of the hardest-working, student-centered, engaging teachers that I have worked with in over 25 years in education.  She has worked tirelessly to engage her students in, historically, a very difficult curriculum area, math. Her commitment to relevant teaching that is based in support and relationships shows her students how much she cares about them as individuals and their success in math.”
—Kyle Linman, Principal 

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Jessica Canul Diaz, Madrona Elementary School

“Jessica is in her third year of teaching a third-grade, stand-alone dual language classroom. When Jessica began teaching in the Dual Language program, she was one of only a handful of stand-alone teachers in the district. Now, Jessica is the lead Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) teacher in our school, which means she not only uses language acquisition strategies with her own students, she also teaches the rest of the staff how to use these tools.”
—Michael Hecklinger, Librarian 

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Lan Nguyen, Cascade Middle School

“Ms. Nguyen has a bond with students. Students in her class feel comfortable with her. When a student has a problem, they do not hesitate to let her know. She starts with checking up on them then comes up with solutions that work best for the student.”
—Bao Chau So, Student 

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Marlene Samayoa, Shorewood Elementary School

“Magic happens in Marlene’s classroom. Within days, the students feel like they are a family. The classroom is quiet, and the students are excited to start the day. There is no competition. Her students celebrate each other. Asking for help is always acceptable. When someone answers a question incorrectly, there is no censure. They are encouraged to try again. Depending on the outcome, you may hear the chorus from students, "Good job," or "Nice try!" Marlene makes learning fun. Her students love her, and when they move on to another grade, they take with them the confidence, love of learning, and good attitude she instilled in them!”
—Sheri Joyce, Volunteer

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Maura Fenelon, Valley View Early Learning

“Maura is so helpful and innovative with technology to other teachers and paraeducators. Since this year has been all about technology, she is a true super star. She would take the class on little virtual field trips and show the students parks and other activities they could do at home. She takes the classroom outside of the normal classroom setting to make it more interesting for her students. She makes all students feel welcome and important in her class.”
—Erica Wright, Special Education Paraeducator 

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Michael Dobranski, Beverly Park Elementary School

“Mr. Dobranski is a strong, committed educator who cares deeply about students' learning. As a primary Intensive Academic Center (IAC) teacher, Mr. Dobranski serves students with unique needs in grades kindergarten through second grade. He differentiates his teaching and works consistently to design lessons with his students' interests, strengths, and cultures in mind. Each week, he and his students co-create a family newsletter that highlights their learning and progress. In addition, as part of Beverly Park's project-based learning this year, he and students created a cookbook to highlight students' cultures and family histories.”
—Steve Colmus, Assistant Principal    

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Mirabella Escobar, Evergreen High School

“Since Mirabella was hired last year, she has shown a high level of commitment to our students and families. She was raised in the Burien area, and her belief in students and families is deeply rooted in the Highline community. College & Career Choices is a new course in our Dual Language program. She is grounded in the mindset that what is best for students is what is best for her, even if that means a shift in instruction or receiving a new strategy or lesson that maximizes impact on student outcomes. Despite being a new teacher, she has navigated the pandemic life while raising a family. We are proud of the work she has done so far during a pandemic, and look forward to her accomplishments to come!”
—Simon Iniguez, Assistant Principal 

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Naomi True, Evergreen High School

“In her first year of teaching, Ms. True has taken on leadership roles as well as the challenges of this unique year with tenacity, consistency, grit and love for her students. She consistently challenges her students to learn and grow, and she is as passionate about teaching as she is about her student's social-emotional and physical well-being. Naomi uses standards-based grading practices and works closely with her teaching partner to create lesson plans that align with the anti-racist work Evergreen has been working on to improve student learning and understanding of social issues. The biggest challenge has been getting students to engage in dialogue online. Naomi has created multiple platforms to encourage student discourse, [including] her interactive jam boards, engaging questions, adopting a "non opt-out" policy within her classroom and encouraging all students to use their voice.”
—Tiffany Spencer, Success Dean 

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William Henderson, Sylvester Middle School

“When your first year of teaching is interrupted by a pandemic you can figure it out. But when your second year of teaching is completely upside down due to said pandemic, I think a lot of people would feel disheartened. Mr. Henderson remains focused and supportive throughout it all. I truly believe the kids LIKE him and RESPECT him. That's a huge accomplishment. My daughter was the last class of 6th graders in elementary schools so her first middle school year was as a 7th grader. Mr. Henderson was her history teacher then. He worked hard to engage her without overpowering her or making her feel bad. He was kind and patient. This year she has him again for history. Again, he is there to guide and support with true compassion. Mr. Henderson really ‘sees’ all the kids. Our schools would be unstoppable if there were more people like him.”—Jennifer Manchester, Parent and PTSA Officer 

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Zachariah Beasley, Glacier Middle School

“Mr. Beasley is a rookie teacher and an outstanding educator in the way he is able to recognize students who need help. He was able to connect with my son by recognizing where he was lacking understanding. He gave him lots of one-on-one help and was able to explain in a way my son could understand. This teacher was available after school hours for an hour to help all students on most days. My son really cares about this teacher and appreciated his help. He will always hold the bar high for teachers due to the role Mr. Beasley played in his life this year.” 
—Eleticia Orozco, Parent


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Allie Rios, Pacific Middle School

“Ms. Rios is constantly working to achieve student objectives and generates lesson plans aligned with the standards in a manner that is easily accessible to both advanced and special needs learners. On a daily basis, my colleague Allie is persistently troubleshooting areas where a student may be able to achieve growth and mastery of the subject matter better by engaging in small groups and reviewing the work when questions arise. She accomplishes this by using all the tools in her arsenal, including pairing the students with paraeducators for additional support.”
—Mark Allen, Paraeducator 

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Amanda Skey, North Hill Elementary School

“In Mrs. Skey's kindergarten, students are mathematicians, writers, readers, scientists, and artists. Mrs. Skey has worked tirelessly since the beginning of this pandemic to ensure all children in kindergarten at North Hill are able to have a positive experience regardless of their circumstances. She leads the team of amazing North Hill Kindergarten teachers to connect not only with her students, but with those in other classes as well. She challenges her students to be problem-solvers and solution-finders, so misplaced materials are opportunities to be creative and inventive rather than events that exacerbate educational inequalities. Mrs. Skey has handled every student's circumstance with poise and grace. Sometimes students attend Zoom meetings while at daycare, in a car or from their closet. Mrs. Skey has nothing but encouraging words and praise for participation no matter the circumstances.”
—Kristen Price-Joof, Parent 

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Anh Nguyen, Chinook Middle School

“Ms. Nguyen is a powerful advocate within our school community. Ms. Nguyen was my child's advisor last year for 7th grade. My child has struggled very much with distance learning, and Ms. Nguyen has stayed in touch and been very encouraging even though she is no longer Emma's teacher. Ms. Nguyen brought new ideas and fostered my child's creativity. Without hesitation, Ms. Nguyen offered to drop off art and other supplies, and always listened to our issues with kindness and understanding. Distance learning has been incredibly difficult for my family but would be considerably more difficult if not for Ms. Nguyen's cheerful support of my kids. We are all very fortunate that there are educators like her who take a genuine interest in the well-being as well as the education of our children.”
—Allen W., Parent 

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Annie Nguyen, McMicken Heights Elementary School

“Annie Nguyen demonstrates commitment, grit, and determination. She has made a positive impact on the educational lives of all who she has worked with, including me. She has been a leader/mentor of student teachers and a district lab teacher where she opens her classroom to model different types of teaching. She openly shares her skills and knowledge with others. She is an antiracist who works with her students regularly on social-emotional learning standards and social studies. She highlights students' backgrounds and makes them feel like a strong part of the community. Annie spent the summer designing and implementing different techniques to collect data and instruct based on the data. She was able to use several strategies this year and was highlighted for using them in a Seattle Times [Education Lab program].”
—Jennifer Walsh, Teacher 

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Beverly Pecoraro, Big Picture Schools

“Bev truly lives and breathes the Big Picture motto One Student at a Time. When a student who was struggling expressed interest in playing violin, she scoured OfferUp and bought the student a violin! He discovered a new interest that has helped him engage with school. Her warm, creative and consistent classroom practices make her advisory one of the most welcoming places to be for students and fellow staff alike. She has applied for and secured numerous grants to put books by diverse authors in the hands of students. Bev initiated and leads an anti-racist book club for Big Picture staff and helps lead important conversations about race and social justice. There is never a dull moment in Bev's engaging, multimodal online classroom!"
—Mia Mlekarov, Teacher 

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Edissa Jaramillo, Glacier Middle School

“Edissa has created lessons and a classroom structure that is definitively anti-racist. She is an advocate for BIPOC voices who is always learning and sharing what she learns with us who are a little behind on our antiracism journey. She does not shy away from teaching real-life issues and centering BIPOC voices while teaching her kids with love and the right level of difficulty to encourage true growth. When materials didn't exist at the time she needed them, she went out and found excellent sources to make what her students needed. She freely shares what she creates with her colleagues and teaches us with patience, energy and joy. Edissa is so kind and humble she would never expect to be nominated for a Gold Star Award, but she is an inspiration to many.”
—Christina Konze, Teacher 

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Erin Zamora, Seahurst Elementary School

“Thanks to this outstanding teacher, our daughter wants to become a teacher and inspire future generations! Mrs. Zamora welcomed our daughter to the class after we relocated to the U.S. this year, helping her to make new friendships. She listens to every student and helps them to feel part of the community. She adapts the curriculum for virtual learning and the needs and pace of all the students. Mrs. Zamora starts every morning by asking students about their feelings and how they are navigating the new normal. She helps students and parents to familiarize themselves with distance learning tools and proposed small breakout rooms to let students share more about themselves and build new friendships.”
—Rachid El Mourabit, Parent 

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Garrett Wade, Mount Rainier High School

“Mr. Wade is dedicated to uplifting all students to see their potential and rise to the occasion. He is a partner for success and has provided students with skills that will last them a lifetime and will help them reach further than they would without his guidance.”
— Jackie Fay, Parent 

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Ginnie Brossard, Marvista Elementary School

“Mrs. Ginnie is someone who has been incredibly reliable for my son’s education. When he was struggling with remote learning, she took the time to listen to him, she paid more attention, and she even took time and effort to write and send him postcards to say how proud she is of him, letting him know that she saw his effort. To me, Mrs. Ginnie not only is an outstanding teacher but a great human being. She goes beyond her responsibilities and makes a big impact in the kids' learning.”
— Nanci De La Cruz, Parent 

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Jessica Burtt, Des Moines Elementary School

“There is not enough space to say all the great things about this magnificent teacher! Mrs. Burtt has had my child accomplish so much and overcome so many obstacles that I didn't think were possible. Mrs. Burtt works as a family advocate, understanding her students and their needs whether it's what they need at home or in school. She takes her role seriously as a teacher and provides family support, doing anything that will ensure her students' success.”
— Leatha Black, Parent

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Joe Bourgeois, Sylvester Middle School

“Mr. B. looks at each kid individually and tries to figure out who they are, what they need and how he can provide that. He constantly reminds the kids that they are all worthy and all capable. Doesn't matter what or where you come from, [he teaches that what matters are] the choices you make and the commitments you stick to.”
— Jennifer Manchester, Parent 

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Joe Boyer, Evergreen High School

“Joe is truly one of a kind! He is the person that knows and accepts everyone for who they truly are. Joe knows more about each student and staff member who he works with than anyone else does. He promotes equal opportunities within his classroom by teaching both students and staff to take ownership in their learning and to be proud of their individuality.”
— Sarah Badinger, Teacher 

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Jolly Meloottu, Mount Rainier High School

“Jolly tirelessly works to create rigorous and engaging lessons for all of her students. She is personable, compassionate and demanding! Her students rise to her high expectations and have fun in the process. She is always looking for ways to improve and has pushed herself to innovate and learn how to tailor her subject matter to a distance learning format.”
— Paul Records, Assistant Principal

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Joseph Thomas, Raisbeck Aviation High School

“Mr. Thomas is an outstanding teacher because he listens to his students and adjusts the day's lesson to what the students need. Beyond that, he makes it a point to build a strong connection with his students. He takes the time to listen to his students and is constantly going out of his way to connect to the diverse community whether it be by practicing other languages or learning about his students' cultures. He is also updating students on events that they have shown interest in.”
— Melissa Bernal, Student

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Joshua Hollingsworth, Shorewood Elementary School

“Mr. Hollingsworth goes above and beyond trying to teach band to a bunch of 5th graders who have never played in a band or played an instrument. He is accessible to any student who needs extra help and offers to meet individually with students to make sure they are grasping the fundamentals of their instrument. He thinks out of the box to teach students during their first band experience.”
— Mark Schmidt, Parent 

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Lindsay Bogovich, Community Based Services

“Lindsay makes each individual student and their family her utmost priority. Any time I see her interact with a student or family, she makes them feel like they are the most important person in the room, and that she has all the time in the world to answer questions, discuss the plan or brainstorm new ideas. She puts the student and the family at the center, and works hard to establish long-lasting relationships.”
— Maggie Hammond, Speech-Language Pathologist

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Lorena Engle, Midway Elementary School

“Lorena is an outstanding collaborator with a positive and flexible attitude. She listens and works to build lessons and activities and also offers up incredibly creative and thoughtful ideas. Her dedication to all of her students and empathy for the unique situation they are all experiencing right now is a shining example of what a teacher should be.”
— Chloe Swain, Teacher 

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Lukas Grove, Mount Rainier High School

“Lukas supports our students in need of credit recovery and works with them to create manageable plans to ensure that they get what they need. Lukas is always willing to help out and is well-respected by the entire school community. He is responsive, enthusiastic, and takes his work very seriously. Everybody knows that he is one of the most reliable people on our staff.”
— Paul Records, Assistant Principal 

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Mika Praven, Des Moines Elementary School

“Mika Praven has gone above and beyond to give her students the best education possible with remote learning. She has designed captivating activities and utilized various websites and tools to keep the students passionate about learning and discovering! She encourages them to reach for their goals and to take pride in the efforts and progress along the way.”
— Heather Ford, Parent

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Mikayla (Crawford-Harris) Smith, CHOICE Academy

“Mikayla is innovative and creative in her teaching style, which helps students to stay engaged and excited about what they are learning. One of the most noticeable traits I have observed as a parent is that Mikayla manages to challenge students and push them to do their best in her class without adding unnecessary stress or pressure on the students. She believes in her students' potential and is skilled at drawing that potential forward so that students discover their own gifts and strengths.”
— Haley Ballast, Parent

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Mohamad Shibly, Evergreen High School

“Mohamad exemplifies what we would want all of our teachers to strive to be. Regardless of whether online or in person, Mohamad has created a welcoming environment and continues to push for academic excellence. Mohamad uses his talents to connect to those around him, whether by making a music video about math or fostering a welcoming environment by being student- and relationship-centered. During the pandemic, he has been able to showcase his adaptability in learning new tools and using them in instruction.”
— Simon Iniguez, Assistant Principal 

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Nancy Shi, McMicken Heights Elementary School

“Nancy is in a league of her own. Her attention to detail, her thoroughness in her work and teaching, and her continual dedication to learning and growing her craft have made her a valuable and vital member of McMicken. Nancy is truly a teacher for all students. She makes efforts to get to know students she knows will come to her in the future, continues to maintain relationships with past students, embodying the ‘it takes a village’ mindset.”
— Annie Nguyen, Teacher

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Olivia Evans, Bow Lake Elementary School

“Olivia's classroom is a place where any and all are welcome. She works hard to ensure all students are supported in the classroom. She has shown a deep commitment to integrating culturally responsive texts in her curriculum. She understands the importance of thoughtful and meaningful social-emotional instruction for 5th-grade students. She quickly adapted to virtual learning and has found ways for students to work in collaborative groups in math and literacy. She is deeply reflective and seeks ways to grow in her practice.”
— Alicia Gaynor, Principal

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Phoebe Thompson, Seahurst Elementary School

“Ms. Thompson is a wonderful teacher. She is kind and patient with each kid and family. She was very thoughtful in explaining the January riots at the Capitol and engaged kids so that they understood what happened and were able to explain it to each other. She is a delightful teacher!”
—Tamara Hergert, Parent

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Robert (Bob) Wright, North Hill Elementary School

“One of Bob’s strengths is his interpersonal skills with adults and children. He actively works to provide opportunities for students to have fun and be successful. He has the knowledge and passion for physical fitness and has made it his mission to instill this passion into the lives of the North Hill students. He is organized, creative, motivated, patient, flexible, safety-oriented and fun. He is self-reflective in his practice about how a teacher's attitude can impact student behavior.”
— Nancy Melius, Retired Principal

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Robin Elliott, Shorewood Elementary School

“Robin Elliott exemplifies a deep commitment to outstanding individual education for all her students. Every single day she brings a passion for engaging students in challenging learning activities that positively affirm their abilities. She is kind, committed, and shows a deep interest in the personal happiness of each of her students. She writes and distributes a very informative and engaging newsletter on a regular basis to families. My wife and I always feel highly aware of exactly what educational goals and learning endeavors are happening in Mrs. Elliott‘s classroom. Simply put, Mrs. Elliott is undoubtedly committed to educational growth, excellence and happiness for all of her students.”
—John Dortero, Parent 

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Schell Ross, Pacific Middle School

“Schell goes above and beyond in supporting her students and their families. Her organization, communication and follow-up are excellence embodied. Schell has made our daughter's transition from elementary to middle school during a pandemic so much easier. She ensures that she communicates with families on a regular basis, makes sure that families understand expectations so that they can support their students and strives to engage students and make learning history fun and exciting.”
— Rebecca Alexander, Parent

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Stephanie Kuborssy, Glacier Middle School

“Ms. Kuborssy shows commitment to educational equity by giving us each our own time to practice [music] so that she can help everyone out at their own pace. A challenge that she faced was what everyone's facing right now—this pandemic—and still she managed to make school, and just being in her classroom, fun and exciting. Whenever I saw her [on Zoom], for me the whole room lit up. Even on bad days, if she was there I felt as if nothing else mattered. She made sure that we had that extra time that we needed to get work done, she made sure to check up on us even when we weren't in class, and she also helped us whenever our instruments weren't working.”
— Malila Brown, Student

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Stephanie Lindblom, Gregory Heights Elementary School

“Ms. Lindblom is a great teacher. She has great enthusiasm, consistency, and compassion. She is able to engage her students in lots of fun activities and curriculum. She spends extra 1:1 time with students. She consistently reaches out to parents to see how she can get her students more engaged and in attendance.”
— Gillian Grimsrud, Highline Occupational Therapist 

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Stephanie Savino, Mount Rainier High School

“Stephanie loves what she does and that is evident in how she approaches her work. She has gone above and beyond to create meaningful and engaging lessons for her students and has adapted her practice to be as effective as possible during distance learning. Stephanie has a wonderfully positive and upbeat attitude at all times. She always sees the sunny side of things, and her energy and enthusiasm are contagious. She is another tremendous asset to our staff, and we are fortunate to have her.”
— Paul Records, Assistant Principal

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Terri Costinett, Shorewood Elementary School

“Terri has been teaching for over 20 years. She is not only a great teacher, she's generous and a supportive co worker. Because of her years of experience, she is a storehouse of information and knowledge! Her willingness to share all that with new teachers is very helpful, and much appreciated! She's always willing to go the extra mile to help students who need extra attention.”
— Sheri Joyce, Community Member

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Zanovia Clark, Mount View Elementary School

“Zanovia Clark has been an incredible teacher and example for our kids and all of the kids she teaches. She is kind, has good, solid expectations, makes the time for kids when they need guidance, and is incredibly positive. Her teaching is phenomenal. Zanovia incorporates content into her teaching that encourages students to think about their actions and impact in the world. She honors the legacies of communities of color and values all differences of all kinds.”
— Liz Goodwin, Parent