The following employees were selected to receive March 2021 Employee Excellence Awards and recognition at the March 9 school board meeting. Learn more about each recipient below:

  • Rachel Merritt, nurse, Hough/Lake Shore/special services
  • Debra Lobdell and Kim Peters, special education teachers, Felida Elementary
  • Jeanna Hager, teacher, Discovery Middle School
  • Nicole Wright, teacher, Fir Grove/Vista
  • Gina Lindsley, teacher, Gaiser 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.

Rachel Merritt, nurse, Hough/Lake Shore/special services

Rachel MerrittRachel has been instrumental to ongoing efforts to vaccinate VPS staff members. When vaccinations first became available, she quickly developed a plan, scheduling appointments and working hard to ensure that staff were properly vaccinated, including receiving second doses. She is known for being calm in stressful situations and making complex medical information accessible to others. Her nominators also say that Rachel brings kindness and compassion to all her interactions with students, families and her colleagues.

From the nomination:
“Rachel took on a leadership role with impressive communication and efficiency.”

Debra Lobdell and Kim Peters, special education teachers, Felida Elementary

Debra Lobdell

Debra Lobdell

Kim Peters

Kim Peters

Debra has been described as a smart, compassionate, empathic teacher. Her ability to accept people for who they are helps parents and guardians raise happy, healthy, strong families. With a strong understanding of autism and a knack for connecting with kids, Kim is a natural advocate for students. She partners with parents and professionals to develop plans of action that promote learning and engagement for all students. Debra and Kim are gifts to the Felida community.

From the nomination:
“Deb is an advocate for kiddos with special needs, and you can feel her passion for her work and students when you meet her.”

“Kim brings commitment and enthusiasm to her work with our kids. We are lucky to know her, work with her and be inspired by her.”

Jeanna Hager, teacher, Discovery Middle School

Jeanna HagerJeanna has an unwavering dedication to her students and their families that is matched only by her optimism for working with them. Jeanna often will take a moment in meetings to commend a parent for advocating for their child or give up her lunch to help support a student who is struggling. She earns students’ trust through her empathetic approach. Her colleagues also are grateful for all the ways that she supports and encourages them.

From the nomination:
“No matter how much time she spends with you, whether it be a brief interaction, or if she spends the whole year as your teacher, you leave it feeling safe and supported.”

Nicole Wright, teacher, Fir Grove/Vista

Nicole WrightWhen a new student enters Nicole’s class, she quickly works to establish a safe, caring and respectful environment for them, recognizing that this feeling is essential to the student’s learning. She also applies her considerable creativity to the learning experience. Nicole has been known to plan special activities including educational games, challenges and cooking projects. Her colleagues know her to be a collaborative educator who shares her ideas and models attributes of an outstanding teacher.

From the nomination:
“She makes learning fun for her students in a way that encourages their curiosity, creativity and imagination.”

Gina Lindsley, teacher, Gaiser Middle School

Teacher Gina LindsleyParents praise Gina’s communication skills. Gina proactively asks about and addresses the individual needs of her students. She is responsive to different learning styles and has a talent for motivating her students to learn and love the subjects that she teaches. This connection to her students also means that they feel comfortable approaching her with questions, knowing that she maintains a strong belief in their abilities and will always help them do their best.

From the nomination:
“She has spectacular classroom management, in part because she has a deep and real connection with parents.”

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