The Promise Awards Program recognizes the exemplary achievements and contributions of staff and volunteers connected to The Bellingham Promise, our district’s strategic plan. Nominations for volunteer or staff member awards were organized in the following categories: Staff Members of the Year, Team of the Year, Community Partner/Volunteer of the Year and Leader of the Year.

“We thank all of the staff members and volunteers for the valuable work they do every day to support our students. These awards represent the collective commitment and promise to our students,” says Superintendent Greg Baker.

2015 Districtwide Staff Member of the Year: Sam Pryor

We, as a community, make a collective commitment to Bellingham’s children. At Shuksan, Sam’s face is often the first one new students see. No matter the circumstance, Sam makes every effort to welcome the student warmly, find out their interests and help them feel like they belong. She tours the school with new students, and answers questions about teachers and classes. She uses this opportunity to get to know the students, which helps her meet their scheduling needs. Sam provides friendly and caring service for Shuksan students, families and staff, and supports the school through scheduling, enrollment and Shuksan Scholars Assemblies. A core belief of The Bellingham Promise is: We believe that all children should be loved, the whole child is important. Sam exemplifies that belief by helping to make sure students have their basic needs met and are able to focus on learning. Colleagues say Sam is very observant of students and is quick to locate resources, be it a coat or extra supplies.

2015 Districtwide Staff Member of the Year: Brian Gilmore

Through his role as a counselor, Brian Gilmore shows he deeply cares for, respects and loves all of the children at Silver Beach. Brian helps children learn how to set goals, be self-reflective and discover their strengths. He has implemented both Playworks and a Recess Buddies program to encourage students to make positive behavior choices. Colleagues say Brian is a leader and support for staff. A colleague writes: “Brian does his work quietly, without desire for recognition; always calm, thoughtful and reflective.” Brian makes himself available to parents and quickly builds positive rapport and a high level of trust. He does a masterful job of connecting families with outside resources and following up to make sure the family has everything they need. The list goes on and on from daily support, to organizing food drives to updating his community resources board, Brian goes above and beyond what is required of him as a school counselor. A student from Silver Beach says, “Sometimes he gives me missions, like making good choices, saying kind words and I think about what I’m doing and how to accomplish my mission.”

Staff Members of the Year Honorable Mentions:

Kelly Morgan, Birchwood Elementary School: “Kelly is always ready and willing to support the Birchwood community. She gives countless hours of her time to support programs that improve the lives of her students. Kelly’s presence uplifts everyone around her.”

Judy Kirkland, Squalicum High School: “Judy Kirkland has a wealth of knowledge about the ‘ins-and-outs’ of our school. Her model of patience, kindness and consistency add to the culture in the counseling center and embodies The Bellingham Promise in the way she serves students every day.”

2015 Districtwide Team of the Year: Life Skills Team – Richard Bennett, Alyssa Bowhay, Sarah Catudio, Brett Evans, Connor Hegarty, Chelsea Horsburgh, Kacy Keck, Dominique Lantagne, Keri Lester, Elizabeth Madden, Kelly McGinnes-Heath, Megan Milford, Heather Smith, Carrie Swackhammer and Sara Swetish

The Bellingham Promise states that all children should be loved and respected. This rings very true for the Life Skills teachers in Bellingham Public Schools. These 15 teachers work with students who have some of the most complex and challenging stories in our district. Staff come to work every day not knowing what to expect, but are always ready to develop a culture in which our students can be safe, experience focused instructional opportunities, take risks and develop their character and confidence as well as academic, social and adaptive abilities. A principal writes: “In classrooms where unique and diverse needs mean that there may not be a clear solution to an educational problem, I regularly see these teachers support one another in developing goals, monitoring progress, responding to challenging behaviors, and seeking opportunity for students with disabilities to engage with their typically developing peers.” Here’s a reflection from a parent of a Life Skills student: “When we asked our daughter about her class, her reply was that she felt “a part.” She was able to explain that she felt a part of the class, a part of the school. She felt important, involved and included – a part.”

Team Honorable Mention:

AVID Team – Michelle Campbell, Tasha Ericksen, Chad Herman, Aramis Johnson and Chris Stevens: Squalicum High School: “The Squalicum AVID Team’s ability to provide a stable, safe and supportive setting allows students to be both academically and socially successful by providing students with a caring community at school, academic skills, as well as a sense of belonging and security.”

2015 Districtwide Community Partner of the Year: Opportunity Council, Early Learning and Family Services

A key strategy of The Bellingham Promise is Early Childhood Education. We believe in investing in a strong early childhood program because of its powerful long-term return for our students and community. Through partnership with the Opportunity Council, Early Learning and Family Services, we are able to bring this strategy to life. The Opportunity Council serves as the grantee for Head Start, Early Head Start, and Early Childhood Education Assistance Program. They also support programs for birth to three including Early Support for Infants and Toddlers. These programs positively impact families throughout our community. The Opportunity Council is known for providing high quality programming at both the state and national level. It is their dedication to children and families in the Bellingham community and their commitment to excellence that allows them to stand out.

Community Partner/Volunteer Honorable Mention:

Melyssa Barnard, Kulshan Middle School: “Melyssa exemplifies how authentic community partnerships can play an integral role in delivering The Bellingham Promise as she is responsible for identifying the need within a school and filling that need through service.”

2015 Leader of the Year: Micah Smith

Cordata is a dynamic school that houses Life Skills, Title I, Promise K, and an ELL program. Although Cordata has only been open for four years, the school has experienced dramatic changes in staff and students due to boundary adjustments, saying goodbye to some students and welcoming others. Through all of this change, Micah viewed and treated all kids and families as part of Cordata and not separate communities within the school. His leadership helped all students, staff and families feel like they belonged. In Bellingham Public Schools we develop leaders, collaborators and team players. Micah exemplifies this by inviting staff to be part of the decision making process at Cordata through staff led committees. A colleague writes: “I am continually amazed at the fact that, only four years into his administrative career, Micah is able to be so thoughtful, level-headed, genuinely cheerful, and joyous about his work.” A Cordata second grader writes: “Mr. Smith is very nice because he takes care of all the students. He leads kids through the halls. He helps people who have trouble.”

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