Julie Ward begins each day with the goal of helping Title 1 students overcome the challenges they face. She arrives early at Woodburn Elementary School in Camas four days a week to greet students who elect to give up morning recess to work with her on math skills. This is just one of the many reasons Ward is honored with the Regional Classified Employee of the Year award. One of nine Regional Classified Employees of the Year, Ward is now in the running for Washington State Classified Employee of the Year. That honor will be awarded at a special reception at OSPI in Olympia in May.

Focusing on discovering each student’s individual needs and learning style is job one for Ward, who has taken the time to understand all the math strategies so when one of them doesn’t work for a student, she tries another. And then another, until one works. Ward has also done extra work to help students improve their reading skills. She’s learned how to code and analyze how a student reads to see which of the three strategies (meaning, structure or visual) she should focus on with them to see improvement.

Ward’s methods are producing big results. Principal Brian Graham credits her with bumping 4th grade math SBA scores from 67% to 75%, 5th grade scores from 50% to 72%, and with reducing the number of students needing Title 1 math intervention from 20 to seven students.

“What really makes a difference is the way she helps children grow in skill and in their belief that they are smart and capable,” said Mrs. Wang, 5th grade teacher at Woodburn. In addition to making great academic strides, Ward helps the children at Woodburn make emotional ones, too.

“I build relationships with my students,” Ward said. “They know that they can count on me. They know I am listening. They know I care about them. They know I am a person of my word. And, they know I am in their corner to help them succeed.” Intervention teacher Seta Timbreza agrees, “From the first day students interact with Julie Ward, they know they are accepted and valued.”

Accolades from colleagues are one thing. Ward also gets them from parents and students. Student Adelle said, “Mrs. Ward helps me with the number lines. If I get something wrong she will tell me, but in a really nice way. She tells me it’s ok and that I can try again.” And Lucas’ mother said, “I am amazed at the difference I have seen in Lucas after working with Mrs. Ward. It is apparent in her work and outcomes that she truly cares about her students and takes the time to individually address their learning styles.”

Ward will be presented with the Regional Classified Employee of the Year Award at a meeting in Camas. However, she is the first to tell you the success of her students is honor enough. “It is rewarding to see the kids I work with grow and master new skills, to overcome challenges and to know that I have helped make that happen.”