April 2024 Employee Excellence Awards

The following employees were selected to receive the April Employee Excellence Awards and recognition at the April 2024 school board meeting.

Kate Burns, Teacher at Truman Elementary School
Jodie Deeney, Learning Assistance Program (LAP) Teacher at Sacajawea Elementary School
John Jarrett, Building Operator and Pool Operator at JPCC, Bates and Propstra
Merri Gonsalves Johnson, Special Education Teacher at Hudson’s Bay High School
Tim Smith, Teacher at Columbia River High School

Five employees are recognized between October and June of each school year. Nominations are open to staff, students, parents and community members. Nominees are selected for recognition by a committee of their peers.

In addition to awardees chosen by the peer nomination and Excellence Awards committee voting process, the Board of Directors may recognize recipients who have been nominated by the Superintendent’s Cabinet for demonstrating exceptional leadership and dedication to VPS students and their families.

Kate Burns, Teacher

Truman Elementary School

Kate Burns is an incredible teacher at Truman Elementary. What truly sets her apart is her unwavering belief in every student’s potential. As one nominator shares, “She doesn’t simply teach; she invests her heart and soul into fostering a positive environment for learning and growth.” Her persistence and determination, even when faced with significant challenges, are a shining example of the difference a passionate educator can make in a child’s life. Thank you, Kate.


Jodie Deeney, LAP Teacher

Sacajawea Elementary School

Jodie Deeney is a compassionate and dedicated LAP Teacher at Sacajawea Elementary. One nominator shares, “Whatever needs to be done, you can count on Jodie.” She works tirelessly to meet each one of the students’ needs – academically and emotionally — with her intervention planning.  Besides supporting her students, she is also there for her colleagues, selflessly offering her time, resources and support. She is a true asset to the Sacajawea community. Thank you, Jodie.

John Jarrett, Building Operator and Pool Operator

JPCC, Bates and Propstra

John Jarrett, the Building Operator at our district office and Propstra Pool is extremely committed to his work and helping VPS shine. He always goes above and beyond to support his team and his standards are focused on delivering the highest quality work. John handles challenging situations by jumping into action and his contributions are valued by everyone. Thank you, John.


Merri Gonsalves Johnson, Special Education Teacher

Hudson’s Bay High School

Merri Gonsalves Johnson, an amazing special education teacher at Hudson’s Bay High School is a genuine mentor, advocate, and lifelong learner. She leads by example with her collaborative spirit that nurtures community, upholds dignity, and fosters mutual respect in every relationship. Merri empowers others to evolve and grow in an inclusive environment where each student feels a genuine sense of belonging. Thank you, Merri.

Tim Smith, Teacher

Columbia River High School

Tim Smith, a dedicated teacher at Columbia River High School continually goes above and beyond for our students. Besides being a “smart and witty” member of the River community, according to one nominator, staff know they can count on him to support struggling students through his work with them in the Success Academy Program. He is also a solutions-oriented staff member and a strong student advocate. Thank you, Tim.