Meet the Salem-Keizer educators honored with 2019 Crystal Apple awards

2019 Crystal Apple Award winners pose at the Elsinore Theatre (Courtesy/Salem-Keizer School District)

On Thursday night, 12 Salem-Keizer teachers, office workers, bus drivers and more went home with the coveted Crystal Apple Award from the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation.

The award is given every year to local educators who go above and beyond to make a difference. The winners were selected from 53 school workers nominated by students, parents and co-workers.

Here’s a list of the winners with a brief excerpt from the awards presentation.

Taya Ramirez Woodwall, office specialist, South Salem High School

Her work supporting the teachers she works with does not stop at the end of the school day. On most Saturdays throughout the school year, you can find Taya providing academic and emotional support to students attending Saturday school. It is through this connection with students that she has been able to build relationships with many students and staff, becoming that trusted adult or colleague that they are comfortable confiding in. 

Jason Erickson, music teacher, Clear Lake Elementary School

He works to foster a positive school to community connection through music. Using performances around the community to allow students to share their joy of music, he provides them with a platform for success in and out of the classroom.  

He worked to save the school bell that hung at the old Clear Lake school building when they moved into their current facility. Not only was Mr. Erickson part of the team that petitioned the school district, sketched the plans, fundraised and ultimately hired the contractors to construct that beautiful bell tower that is in front of the school today, he used the opportunity to begin a new tradition with the students…on the first day of each school year the kindergarteners ring the bell on their way into school and the 5th graders ring the bell on their last day of school. This has grown into part of the Clear Lake culture with parents and members of the community coming out to share in the experience.

Shauna de Vos, office manager, Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School

Through Ms. de Vos, JGEMS students are encouraged to participate in the sports programs offered through Oregon School for the Deaf. A result of this interaction is that pretty soon the JGEMS students are starting to learn sign language so they can better communicate with their teammates and they begin seeking each other out at their shared lunchtime. Our honoree is often heard saying, “Watching our kids interact with the Oregon school for the deaf kids is the best part of my day.”

Yuriana Coronado, community school outreach coordinator, Auburn Elementary School

On any given day she can be found talking with parents, comforting a student, or reaching out to community partners to provide much needed and valuable resources for the families of her students.

From something as simple as helping a student get the school supplies they need to working with a local church to build a partnership that allows for a food pantry with the ability to make home deliveries, Yuri is always using her natural way of connecting with kids to help bring calm to their often chaotic lives. 

One of the parents who wrote in support of her nomination stated, “In my worst moments of my life she came to help my family but especially my son…. In her I found trust, peace, friendship, and support. I am more than blessed by her friendship.”  

John Scott, social studies teacher, Parrish Middle School

John is described by his colleagues as a “diamond, and not even so rough.” He understands that life can be difficult for many of his students and works to find different ways to motivate and support them that meets their individual needs.  

Mr. Scott finds ways to give nearly instant feedback to students as they pursue their core learning, showing them the path to success. He empowers students to become knowledgeable and to advocate for themselves in a variety of ways. 

Joana Guevara Cruz, teacher/English language facilitator, Hallman Elementary School

An advocate who is extremely knowledgeable about language development and how the effects that language development has on a student’s ability to learn, Joana is a testament to her commitment to student success.

In all situations, Joana brings a language and cultural lens for her colleagues to consider in all aspects of systems changes and best meeting the needs of students.

Joana uses inspirational quotes and a print rich classroom as visual supports for students as they are navigating a new language, and often times a new country. She provides a safe and nurturing environment where her students come to understand that they can achieve anything they set their mind to. 

Bus driver Terry Woods at the wheel (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Terry Woods, bus driver, Teen Parent Program

Terry has become a role model for many of his students and their children. One student who wrote a letter in support of this nomination paints the picture like no one else can. To paraphrase: one of my biggest challenges to attending school was leaving my child on the bus, it was hard at first, but Terry took the time to build a relationship with my son and that meant a lot to me.

I had a lot of wonderful, supportive teachers, but when I think of people who made a difference in my education journey, Terry comes to the top of the list. He was the first and last person I saw everyday. There were so many times I wanted to drop out, that it seemed impossible for me to continue, but everyday terry encouraged me.

READ: Salem teen parents honor bus driver for inspiring them to graduate

David Fender, coordinator, Office of Behavioral Learning

In less than two years, David helped develop school-community partnerships that resulted in school-based mental health services in more than 20 schools across the district.

Under his leadership this office has established a district-wide framework for social-emotional learning, provided social-emotional learning resources and training, and launched a variety of social-emotional learning indicator surveys.

Parents who wrote in support of this nomination lauded the success of this program in the life of their son. “He still has challenges – but far fewer challenges than he had before. (His) year interrupted the cycle of failure and gave him the space to gain new skills.”

Kelly Greer, counselor, Leslie Middle School

Ms. Greer consistently goes the extra mile to put students and their families first. As a result, she has played a major role in changing the lives for the better of those around her.

In advocating for students, she often works closely with family members. Kelly often works with students who are demonstrating self-harm or suicidal behaviors. She is able to bear witness to their pain while working with the families and community partners to develop a plan to ensure the student’s safety without breaking the student’s trust.

She leads by example, efficiency and caring.

Donna Duval, social studies/English teacher, Career Technical Education Center

Donna Duval is the social studies and English teacher in the career technical education center’s law enforcement program where her superhero talent is “healing the soul of a child who has been through trauma, suffered defeat, and embarked on a desperate search for someone who cares.”

Donna has a unique ability to use English and social studies subjects to engage young people, build their confidence, and instill in them the belief that they matter in the world. 

Her sense of compassion and humanity, coupled with her strength and tenacity has allowed her to infuse a sense of social consciousness into the technical and tactical study of law enforcement and criminal justice. 

Larkin Smith Foley, English teacher/AVID coordinator, McKay High School

She is described by colleagues as magical unicorn, super hero, ally for the marginalized and a voice of reason.

Entering the doors of high school can be an intimidating time. Students are often nervous and a little scared, but as part of the link crew at McKay, Mrs. Foley teaches juniors and seniors how to welcome students in the first weeks of their freshman year.

As the 9th grade avid teacher, she really gets to know her students. She understands that all of these details matter and her students know she really cares about them because she took the time to hear about their love of turtles, the obligations they have at church, their advocacy for the LGBTQ community, the struggles they face at home and the dreams they have for their futures.

She is a teacher beyond the white board, one who aims to help students into their lives after high school. 

Laura Hofer, culinary arts teacher, South Salem High School

Laura uses her connections in the industry to provide opportunities for her students to have as many industry experiences as possible. She works with executive chefs from Spirit Mountain Casino to provide students an opportunity to work alongside an industry leader. She also partners with industry as judges for cooking competitions such as teen chopped challenges at the Salem Saturday market.

Learning that the middle school culinary programs were lacking the funding they needed, she reached out and offered them the opportunity to wash dishes at their catering events to earn money and learn the skill of catering events.

A kind, caring, compassionate creative educator, chef Laura wants everyone of her students to not only succeed in her classroom, but at life. 

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.