Renton School Board recognizes ‘outstanding’ district staff members

Several teachers and support staff were awarded during the March 8 School Board meeting.

Renton School Board members celebrated this year’s School Board Outstanding Employee Award winners at the March 8 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, and Outstanding District Support Person.

Awarded under the Outstanding Elementary Teacher category is Dr. Carolyn Colley, science coach at Satori Elementary School. According to the district, Dr. Colley is the driver, creator, and coach behind all the amazing science content and curriculum at Sartori Elementary.

The district also says she is 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.

“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,” the district wrote in a statement regarding Dr. Colley’s efforts and contributions.

Awarded under the Outstanding Secondary Teacher category are Rebecca Swanson, science teacher at Renton High School and Creed Tremaine Nelson, career and technical education teacher at Lindbergh High School.

According to the district, Swanson 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.

“Rebecca has a big heart for students and staff and is a guiding force to provide counseling, coaching, and other supports,” the district said in a statement.

The district says Nelson treats every student fairly and equitably. His positive, calm, confident manner helps build 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.

According to a district statement, during a recent visit with Renton Schools Superintendent Dr. Damien Pattenaude, a Lindbergh student shared that 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.

Awarded under the Outstanding School Support Person category is a paraeducator at Sartori Elementary School, Karen Kawamoto. The district says Kawamoto 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.

The district also says she worked to create the school’s Coordinated Assistance & Resource Education 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,” the district stated on its website.

Awarded under the Outstanding District Support Person category are Transportation Router Rhonda Celmer and Senior Special Education Data and Compliance Specialist Debbie Tracy.

Celmer is responsible for managing all the routing for the district’s school bus transportation system. According to the district, her work ensures that the nearly 10,000 students who ride our school buses arrive safely to school and back home each day. Celmer 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,” the district statement said of her commitment.

Tracy processes all special education enrollment, over 300 documents a month, including federal reports, all with high attention to detail, quality, and timeliness for the district. She helps families navigate for services and ensures transportation and interpreters are provided as needed for students and families.

According to the district, Tracy’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, the district says she 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.

“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,” the district stated of Tracy’s work.

According to the school district, 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.