Heroes come in all different shapes and sizes, especially when it comes to the local public education system. Teachers, parents, school staff and community members all play a vital role in the education of our students. Many go above and beyond what is expected of them – those are the real heroes.
Faculty, staff and volunteers from eight school districts and one state school in the ESD 112 region were recognized this fall for being “Real Heroes” of the local public education system at an event organized by Identity Clark County, a nonprofit business leaders’ group based in Clark County. The recognition event was part of the Learn Here Project, aimed at promoting Clark County as an excellent place to live and learn.
Learn more about these Real Heroes across the ESD 112 region and how they’ve contributed to their local district or school:
Jason Foster, Battle Ground Public Schools
Jason Foster teaches audio and video production classes as part of BGPS’ Career and Technical Education program. He works to secure grants in order to provide students with access to the latest in audio-visual equipment and technology, and helps students develop and refine practical skills that directly translate to careers in media, like sports broadcasting and TV news.
Marcy Sprecher, Battle Ground Public Schools
Marcy Sprecher is the executive director for Rocksolid Community Teen Center, which serves fifth- through twelfth-grade students from Battle Ground and Hockinson School Districts by providing them with a safe place to go after school. She is personally devoted to the program and works to ensure that all kids, no matter their background, have access to the program, and she serves as an inspiring leader for other program staff.
Alison Benjamin, Camas School District
Alison Benjamin is the leading member of the Camas Educational Foundation, which has helped fund equitable learning opportunities for students in CSD for the past 20 years. Benjamin has made it a priority to develop and implement a social/emotional wellness initiative through the foundation, aimed at reaching students and parents who are seeking support during emotionally challenging times.
Valerie Parbon, Camas School District
Through the use of individual high-tech heart rate monitors, Camas High School PE teacher Valerie Parbon emphasizes personal fitness and overall wellness over competitive athletic achievement for all of her students. The results have helped more students feel engaged in PE class because they experience less pressure to perform well and instead are encouraged listen to their own bodies’ cues to guide their physical activity.
Holly Long, Evergreen Public Schools
During the largest measles virus outbreak the U.S. has seen in nearly 30 years, EPS Health Services Manager Holly Long took the lead on coordinating the district’s response strategy to the outbreak. She trained a team of 18 nurses covering seven schools on outbreak protocol and procedures and served as the main point of contact for Evergreen parents and community members on issues related to the outbreak.
Toby Lucich, Evergreen Public Schools
Toby Lucich is a volunteer leader for Evergreen Citizens for Schools, a volunteer group that helped EPS pass the largest school construction bond in Washington State history in 2018. Lucich spent countless hours working for the campaign and was responsible for community engagement and volunteer coordination that ultimately led to the bond passing last year, ensuring critical updates for all schools in Evergreen School District.
Julie Atchley, Hockinson School District
Julie Atchley is the Hockinson High School Booster Club president and is a prominent figure in engaging the community of and coordinating fundraising opportunities for Hockinson HS. Under her leadership, yearly financial revenues for HHS have nearly quadrupled. The money raised by the booster club goes toward funding things like school athletics and other after-school activities.
Eirik Huset, Hockinson School District
Hockinson High School Career and Technical Education teacher Eirik Huset frequently goes above and beyond the call of duty as woodshop teacher and district maintenance team member. Huset’s love for the history and heritage of the Hockinson community is unmatched and he looks for every opportunity to come up with creative, cost-effective solutions for district facility needs.
Rebecca Morris, La Center School District
La Center High School teacher Rebecca Morris is known for her passion and commitment for teaching about environmental issues close to home and empowering her students to become problem solvers in their own communities. Every year, Morris leads her students in meaningful projects designed to get them more involved with taking care of their natural environment, including a student-created garden, contributing to salmon restoration in the Lewis River, and more.
Eric Stenberg, La Center School District
Eric Stenberg is a committed volunteer for the theater department at La Center High School, designing and building sets, scavenging for materials, and troubleshooting for students and staff so that they can have the best theater experience possible. Theater students and staff admire him for his ability to bring just about any idea for a stage prop to life.
Pete Bartel, Ridgefield School District
With roots dating back to the 1870s, the Bartel family has supported Ridgefield School District since its founding days. Retired physical therapist, having owned and operated community practices for more than 40 years, Pete Bartel strives to continue serving his beloved community in any way possible including the sale of the family’s 50-acre plot to allow the district to build a brand-new two-story combination intermediate and middle school campus. Of his family’s homestead, Pete says: “though the ground is no longer a farm, and will no longer grow spuds, it will continue to grow Ridgefield spudders.”
Kelly O’Boyle, Ridgefield School District
Math can be an intimidating subject for some, but Ridgefield sixth-grade teacher Kelly O’Boyle has made it her mission for nearly 30 years to empower all students to become high achievers in math class. O’Boyle’s students look forward to her class because they know that it is a safe space where they have access to individualized help and can learn without judgment.
Alicia Dunn, Vancouver Public Schools
Parent-volunteer Alicia Dunn is a champion for students at Minnehaha Elementary, serving as a positive role model for students through Lunch Buddies. The mentor program connects community members with students for weekly lunches at the school where they can talk, play games and share stories with each other, ultimately creative a safe and supportive environment for all students.
Anatoliy Romanchenko, Vancouver Public Schools
Fort Vancouver High School teacher Anatoliy Romanchenko is an inspiring and genuine individual who obviously cares deeply for all of his students. He is known around campus for creating a welcoming environment for all and for being available as a support for students with special needs or staff needing help with challenging tasks.
Rona Ager, Washougal School District
Rona Ager is a booster club member and a founder of Gause Elementary’s Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Nights for families and community members. Ager is passionate about finding creative ways to expose students to STEAM subjects and start them thinking about problem solving and exploring their curiosities from a young age. STEAM Nights offer an opportunity for students and their families to explore concepts together.
Dani Allen, Washougal School District
Special education and art teacher Dani Allen is a dedicated supporter of Washougal High School’s unified soccer team, which partners with the Special Olympics and took home second place at state this year. According to her students, Allen was critical in encouraging team members, helping them build their self-confidence, and supporting them on hard days—all of which they feel led to their silver victory.
John Bannan, Washington State School for the Blind
John Bannan is a volunteer and avid advocate for students at the Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB). He is a common fixture around campus, engaging students in lighthearted conversations, performing campus building maintenance, and helping to coordinate off-campus group activities for students. These activities can require a significant amount of planning and logistics coordination, but Bannan does it all with a smile to create the best possible experience for the students at WSSB.
Corey Grandstaff, Washington State School for the Blind
Corey Grandstaff is the residential program manager at the WSSB, working around the clock to ensure students are comfortable and enjoying their experience on campus. Grandstaff is a key point of contact for parents and staff, and advocates for equal access for blind and visually impaired individuals at state legislative meetings.
Schools and districts are always in need of more heroes. Contact your local district to find out how you can help.