Educators lauded

— TONASKET — Several teachers and non-teaching staff — and one superintendent — were honored May 9 during the 28th annual Okanogan County Excellence Banquet.

Each year, school districts honor certified and classified staff members for their contributions to education and their respective districts.


Dr. Richard Johnson

Since its start in 1985, the program has honored nearly 900 people, North Central Educational Service District Superintendent Rich McBride said.

The ceremony started with a new award, given by the service district, to honor Okanogan Superintendent Richard Johnson for stepping in and assisting the Omak district after the Feb. 7 death of Superintendent Art Himmler.

McBride said when he heard about Himmler’s death in a vehicle crash while going to a meeting in Wenatchee, he wanted to get from Wenatchee to Omak as quick as possible. But he wanted someone who could be there immediately and thought of Johnson.

“I called him, but he was already there,” McBride said.

He offered thanks to the Okanogan district for allowing Johnson to fill in and the Omak School Board for welcoming Johnson during a difficult time.

The award was “to recognize your leadership. You do whatever is necessary,” McBride said.

Johnson said Omak is “a special district” and that many people came forward to help. “It’s truly amazing how we all band together for kids. I saw it first hand.”

Master of ceremonies Mark Wenzel, superintendent of the Methow Valley district, asked those present to take a moment to remember Himmler.

“Art was a good soul,” Wenzel said. “If he were here, he would be smiling and telling jokes at his table.”

One by one, each district then recognized its honorees. Most of the award winners were introduced by principals, with many saying the winners go the extra mile for their students.

Educational Service District board members Harlan Warner and Simion Bautista assisted in presenting the awards.

Honorees, by district, were:

Brewster — Alicia Pulsifer, music teacher; Rosa Orozco, secretary.

Bridgeport — Hanna Coffman, science teacher; Matt Hull, para-professional.

Methow Valley — Tiffany Surface, special education teacher; Debbie Bair, secretary.

Nespelem — Betsy Rainsford, nurse; Jerry Novotney, maintenance and transportation supervisor.

Okanogan — Jennifer Day, counselor; Glennis Welton, in-school detention.

Omak — Cameron Painter, math teacher; Wendy Mahlendorf, library para-professional.

Oroville — Kelly King, fourth-grade teacher; Marlene Barker, secretary and HOSTS coordinator.

Pateros — Melanie Williams, science and math teacher; Jennifer Carlson, Spanish teacher; Paul Harris, maintenance supervisor.

Tonasket — Todd Mathews, first-grade teacher; Becky Maage, payroll and personnel clerk.

The Pateros Jazz Band, led by Jonathan McBride, performed during dinner.


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