The following employees were selected for the February 2021 Employee Excellence Award recognition and honoring at the Feb. 9 virtual school board meeting. Learn more about each recipient below:

  • Dean Dickinson, teacher, Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies
  • Jesse Howard, help desk specialist, information and technology services
  • Keri Knight, teacher, Minnehaha Elementary
  • Jeannie Lane, senior application specialist, information and technology services
  • Leigh Thomas, math specialist, Discovery Middle School

The Excellence Award is given to five employees and/or small teams from October to May each school year. Nominations are open to staff, students, parents and community members. Nominees are selected for recognition by a committee of their peers.

Dean Dickinson, teacher, Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies

With an extensive media background, Dean Dickinson has offered his students exciting opportunities to apply their skills in and beyond their school. Last year, his photography students collaborated with the art, video and welding classes at Fort. Student photos were displayed at last year’s One Moto Show at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. The Vans Custom Culture high school shoe design contest, to which his students were accepted, gave opportunities to brainstorm, collaborate, design, create and photograph their final projects. In addition, Dickinson helped facilitate a role for a Fort alum in a OneRepublic music video.

From the nomination:
“Dean has been able to connect with students through his technical expertise and exposure to his industry connections.”

Jesse Howard, help desk specialist, information and technology services

Taking the lead on tough projects is one of Jesse Howard’s fortes. His colleagues praise his clever solutions to complex problems. He plays a pivotal role district-wide in hardware replacement and annual updates on tens of thousands of computers. A former technology support specialist at an elementary school, he also pays his knowledge forward by training others and sharing his knowledge so that they can be successful in their roles. Those who work closely with him say that he maintains a friendly attitude and can always be counted on as a resource. Said one, “Jesse is a wonderful guy to have around.”

From the nomination:
“I felt remarkably comfortable as a new employee as a result of Jesse’s welcoming demeanor.”

Keri Knight, teacher, Minnehaha Elementary

Since joining Minnehaha two years ago, Keri Knight has made deep connections with staff and colleagues, and her students and families, said one of her nominators. On a daily basis, she shows levels of dedication and passion that are rare to sustain, yet she persists, nurturing relationships built on support and trust. Last fall, Knight noticed on Zoom that a student was struggling with a math lesson. After school, she dropped by the student’s house and sat, masked, on the family’s front porch, explaining the lesson in different ways. This act helped the student feel much more calm and supported.

From the nomination:
“Mrs. Knight has been unbelievably patient and accommodating and helpful.”

Jeannie Lane, senior application specialist, information and technology services

Jeannie Lane brings a wealth of strengths to her role, including an extensive understanding of complex systems, deep institutional knowledge and a collaborative attitude. In her former role on the student information support team and in her current role, Lane is a go-to person for effective solutions. She has an impressive command of the district’s student information system and works hard to protect the integrity of the data housed within, always keeping security protocols in mind. Lane also is a resource to school-based staff and is quick to provide assistance or complete tasks to enable others to work effectively.

From the nomination:
“Jeannie has the ability to be buried in work up to her eyeballs, yet when you call to ask a question for what I’m sure is at least the fifth time, she acts as though you are the only one and she has been waiting for your call.”

Leigh Thomas, instructional coach and math teacher, Discovery Middle School

Student learning is a top priority for Leigh Thomas. Nominated in her former role as a teacher on special assignment in the curriculum and instruction department, Thomas supported math teachers all over the district, thinking deeply and critically about how best to enhance learning and meet students’ needs. Her colleagues said that this National Board-certified teacher helped them elevate their own thinking so that they can design engaging learning experiences that work well in the classroom. She is quick to celebrate the successes. Thomas also has provided training to fellow staff members on digital tools that help them work more efficiently. She is an asset to learners everywhere!

From the nomination:
“Leigh is one of the most dedicated and hardworking teachers I know. … She provides support across our whole system and is an invaluable resource.”

Congratulations to these staff members! They join the hundreds of VPS employees who have received Excellence Awards since 2007.