School Board celebrates 2023 Outstanding Employees
Renton School Board members celebrated this year’s School Board Outstanding Employee Award winners at their March 8, 2023 meeting. The Board has presented the awards for nearly 50 years to recognize staff who demonstrate an outstanding level of job performance, support of students, professionalism, and dedication.
Staff are celebrated in four categories:
Outstanding Elementary Teacher
Outstanding Secondary Teacher
Outstanding School Support Person
Outstanding District Support Person
A selection committee made up of School Board members, last year's recipients, and others evaluated this year's nominees submitted by parents, students, and staff members.
Dr. Carolyn Colley, Science Coach, Sartori Elementary School
Carolyn is the driver, creator, and coach behind all the amazing science content and curriculum at Sartori Elementary. She is also one of the creators of many science teaching units, content, and practices used across the district. She has created computer science modules for every grade level and spends numerous hours providing support for teachers and students to make sure there is deep understanding, connections, and success for all. She is adept at creating partnerships and finding funding opportunities for student engagement, she engages in coaching meetings with other district instructional coaches, and she works with a state content integration cadre where her work spans across the Pacific Northwest. Carolyn is a positive influence throughout the school, the district, and the region. She provides engaging lessons with high rigor and students love experiencing the joy of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Rebecca Swanson, Science Teacher, Renton High School
Rebecca is always the first teacher to identify students who need additional support and connects with parents, teachers, and others to offer supportive solutions. She sets clear expectations for students and works to help them meet their academic and personal goals. Students trust and confide in her, helping to create an atmosphere of shared understanding. She stays connected to building level issues and is always available to listen and support staff. She often goes well beyond her duties to make sure students get the best experience. Rebecca also supports students, staff, and families outside the classroom by attending many school sporting events, plays, concerts, and more.
Rebecca has a big heart for students and staff and is a guiding force to provide counseling, coaching, and other supports.
Creed Tremaine Nelson, Career & Technical Education Teacher, Lindbergh High School
Creed treats every student fairly and equitably. His positive, calm, confident manner helps builds relationships with students in a way that motivates them to achieve past what they believed they are capable of. He works to enrich student learning with real world, industry-based expectations, and rigor. He partners with countless organizations to expose students to the reality of different types of jobs. Creed is also one of the most respected members of Lindbergh High’s staff, which is also true district and region wide. He attends trainings outside of his contract time and during summer months to stay current on industry changes and to build relationships that he leverages in favor of his students and coworkers. He serves as the school’s Department Head, leads multiple committees, and is the district’s facilitator for Industrial Technology.
During a recent visit with Renton Schools Superintendent Dr. Damien Pattenaude, a Lindbergh student shared that Mr. Nelson was more than just his favorite teacher, he is someone students trust when they need an adult to talk to, a mentor that can provide them with skills and knowledge they can easily comprehend, and an educator who is guiding them along a path that leads to a successful future.
Karen Kawamoto, Paraeducator, Sartori Elementary School
Karen knows each kindergartner and helps them to learn important social skills. She works with students in small groups to assist with their individualized learning needs. She is known by all students and staff as a calm, relationship-focused presence who proactively solves problems. Karen is an active participant in the school’s positive discipline learning and is ready with strategies and solutions to improve student learning.
Karen also worked to create the school’s Coordinated Assistance & Resource Education (CARE) Team to help meet the needs of students and families including making weekend food bags to discreetly provide to students. She fosters community partnerships to help provide resources to families such as gift cards for food and clothing. Karen truly works well beyond her role to ensure students and families are cared for and loved so they can focus on attending school each day, ready to learn.
Rhonda is responsible for managing all the routing for the district’s school bus transportation system. Her work ensures that the nearly 10,000 students who ride our school buses arrive safely to school and back home each day. A more difficult task that Rhonda manages is coordinating school bus routes for students in foster care and students facing homelessness. Each of these students has a unique situation and challenge, which often changes daily, for getting to and from school. She knows these students by name and is in close contact with families and other providers to coordinate transportation and ensure they get to school.
Rhonda works with the district’s more than 100 drivers to improve their routes, add new students, and coordinates with the district's ride partners to ensure a wide variety of options to keep students connected to their education.
Rhonda takes pride in representing district staff as she builds trust and provides excellent customer service to thousands of family members who count on the district’s school bus system to safely get their children to school and home again.
Debbie Tracy, Senior Special Education Data & Compliance Specialist
Debbie processes all special education enrollment (over 300 documents a month) including federal reports, all with high attention to detail, quality, and timeliness. She helps families navigate for services and ensures transportation and interpreters are provided as needed for students and families. Debbie's work helps to address compliance issues, and impacts the special education budget, with her work on enrollment reporting. With a recent vacancy on the team, Debbie stepped up to help with interpreter needs, special education clericals, teachers, and ESAs. She identifies problems and develops a solution for improved accuracy, communication, and legal requirements. Recently she created a new report and communication tool to use with school psychologists to respond to their needs and ensure no student goes without their special education services. Debbie also organizes and facilitates all private school communications, annual meetings, and ensures services for students. Each day, her attention to detail and knowledge are the key to support so many of our students, families, and staff.