Kelso School District’s Nancy Baldwin has been named Washington’s 2021 Classified Employee of the Year by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Baldwin, who serves as the McKinney Vento Homeless Liaison and Family Resource Specialist for the district, will now compete for the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) award, administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
“I humbly and gratefully accept this award for my program, my district and my region,” said Baldwin in her acceptance speech. “My program, under the leadership of Don Iverson (Director of Student Services at Kelso School District), has become a living, breathing entity… We have now created an FCRC (Family and Community Resource Center), and we do say that it’s okay to fall down seven times if you can stand up eight. We are stronger together. Together, we can do anything.”
In her role as McKinney-Vento Liaison, Baldwin helps students who are experiencing homelessness to move forward in their education. In addition to monitoring grades, missing assignments and absences, she reminds students that they are important, worthy and valued.
“For students and families experiencing homelessness, Nancy may serve as their liaison, but she also serves as their counselor, confidant, graduation specialist, and community service provider… as well as their inspiration,” said Iverson in a press release. “Nancy exemplifies our district’s commitment in doing whatever it takes to graduate 100 percent of our students. Nancy delivers services and supports to our students and families with professionalism and compassion. We are so proud of her!”
A lifelong Kelso resident who has worked with the district for 18 years, Baldwin’s strong connection to her community is what led her to develop a support system for hungry, homeless and struggling students.
“Mrs. Baldwin took me back to her office and told me we weren’t leaving for the day until she had a place for me to stay,” wrote one of Baldwin’s students in her recommendation letter. “When I say Mrs. Baldwin saved my life, I really mean it. For the rest of my life, I know I have her. I am so grateful to have met her. I know without her I would not be graduating; I would be homeless and even worse.”
Baldwin was one of nine regional finalists, one from each ESD, competing for the 2021 Classified Teacher of the Year Award. OSPI announced the award, as well as the 2022 Teacher of the Year Award, during a livestreamed ceremony on Monday, September 13.
“Mrs. Baldwin is a prime example of the power of a great educator changing the course of a student’s life forever,” said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal. “It’s clear that through her tireless efforts, she is making a difference for students and families experiencing homelessness in Kelso and throughout the region.”