ESD 112 has named Ilwaco High School’s (IHS) Rachel Lake the 2025 Regional Teacher of the Year. Lake, a dedicated and multi-talented educator, has been recognized for her exceptional leadership and unwavering commitment to her students and the community.

Rachel Lake

Rachel Lake Honored as 2025 Regional Teacher of the Year

“Rachel Lake is a model educator who consistently goes above and beyond to support the learning and growth of her students,” said Sheena Burke, Principal of Ilwaco High School. “Her passion for teaching and dedication to fostering an inclusive and dynamic educational environment is truly inspiring.”

Rachel Lake’s contributions to IHS are extensive. She teaches band, choir, drama, and history and serves in numerous leadership roles, including union president, music association president, ASB adviser, and WMEA small schools representative. Lake’s advocacy for educators and her commitment to providing students with experiences beyond Ilwaco are hallmarks of her career. She regularly arranges for students to attend performances and visit colleges across Washington and beyond, encouraging them to envision their futures.

“Receiving the Regional Teacher of the Year award is an immense honor and a deeply humbling experience,” said Lake. “It reaffirms my dedication to fostering a love for learning in my students and highlights the importance of creating an inclusive and engaging educational environment. This recognition motivates me to continue striving for excellence and to inspire my students to reach their full potential.”

In her 16 years of service, Lake has been instrumental in making Ilwaco one of the NAMM Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education. Her efforts to meet her students’ diverse needs and foster a deep appreciation for music have significantly enriched the school and the community.

“Rachel is an amazing colleague who inspires other small school programs to reach for the stars,” said Burke.

Lake’s impact extends far beyond the classroom. She teaches jazz band, band, choir, mariachi, and history through music, and leads extracurricular activities such as Music Club, Pep Band, and Drama. Her role as an adult advisor for the Sources of Strength program, a mental health initiative, underscores her commitment to student well-being, particularly in the aftermath of a student’s tragic suicide.

Community outreach is another area where Lake excels. She not only organizes performances at local senior centers but has also built a mariachi band to celebrate and share the heritage of Hispanic students, fostering a sense of pride in the community. Her leadership extends to regional and state music education associations, where she serves as the Small Schools Curriculum Officer for WMEA. Lake has been recognized as the Southwest Washington Music Educators Association Teacher of the Year twice and was named the American Legion Teacher of the Year for the region in 2017. Her achievements have been featured in publications such as Teaching Music Magazine, and she has presented at over 15 conferences, spreading her influence far and wide.

Lake continually creates and organizes enriching opportunities for her students, opening doors to experiences they might not otherwise have. Recent trips include the Mariachi Extravaganza in San Antonio, Texas, and an upcoming Jazz Band performance at the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii. Her concert choir has also been selected to perform with Eric Whitacre at Carnegie Hall next year. These experiences broaden students’ horizons and instill a lifelong appreciation for the arts, giving them a glimpse of the endless possibilities that await them.

“Rachel Lake exemplifies the qualities of an exceptional educator,” said Burke. “Her passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment to her students’ growth and well-being set her apart. Her impact on our school and community is immeasurable.”

Katie, Robert, and Mya Cunningham, a family deeply impacted by Lake’s work, echoed these sentiments in their letter of support. “Mrs. Lake has taught our daughter music and life for the past five years,” they wrote. “She is consistent with her expectations and boundaries and fosters self-esteem by encouraging students to step out of their comfort zones. She has created a sense of family in her band, providing support for students from various backgrounds.”

The Cunningham family also highlighted Lake’s tireless efforts in organizing fundraisers, music festivals, and community performances. They recalled the moving tribute Lake led for a student who had died by suicide, underscoring her role as a pillar of strength for her students during difficult times.

Rachel Lake’s recognition as the 2025 Regional Teacher of the Year is a testament to her exceptional educational contributions. Her influence continues to inspire students, colleagues, and the broader community.

As Regional Teacher of the Year, Lake will have access to unique professional development opportunities from OSPI and opportunities to speak to local and statewide education leaders about issues important to her and her students. She will be presented with a plaque commemorating her award at an upcoming ESD 112 board meeting.

The Washington State Teacher of the Year will be selected during the annual award ceremony later this year. Visit OSPI’s website for more information.

For additional details or to request an interview, please get in touch with Mika Yoshida at