Jerad Koepp named 2022 Teacher of the Year, Nancy Baldwin named 2021 Classified School Employee of the Year

The state educators of the year were named by Superintendent Chris Reykdal in a ceremony livestreamed from the Museum of Popular Culture (MoPOP).

From left to right — Back row: Brenda Hitchins, Janis Campbell-Aikens, Tina Nicpan-Brown, Adriana Vanbianchi. Second row from back: Boo Balkan Foster, Andres Gonzalez, Sarah Manus, Becky Adderson. Middle row: Tammy Oommen, Linda Johnson, Nancy Baldwin. Front row: Nadine Owen, Jerad Koepp, Randi Krieg.

OLYMPIA — September 13, 2021 — North Thurston Public Schools Native Student Program Specialist Jerad Koepp has been named 2022 Washington State Teacher of the Year, and Kelso School District McKinney-Vento Liaison Nancy Baldwin has been named 2021 Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year.

Both Mr. Koepp and Mrs. Baldwin will move forward to the national competition for their awards. Koepp will compete for the National Teacher of the Year award, to be announced in Spring 2021. Baldwin will compete for the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) award, administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Jerad Koepp, 2022 Washington State Teacher of the Year

Jerad Koepp, 2022 Washington State Teacher of the Year

2022 Washington State Teacher of the Year Jerad Koepp has been a teacher for the last 16 years, the last eight of which as Native Student Program Specialist at North Thurston Public Schools in Lacey, WA.

Mr. Koepp’s role in North Thurston extends beyond a single classroom. Mr. Koepp teaches and supports Native students across the district, guest teaches on Native issues across grades, and co-teaches in the district’s Native studies program.

“My classroom is indoors, outdoors, in a commons or cafeteria, sometimes a library,” says Mr. Koepp. “My ‘classroom’ is wherever learning is happening.”

In his role, Mr. Koepp provides cultural and academic support for approximately 230 Native American students from over 50 tribes, nations, bands, and villages in the 22-school district.

“Growing up with his support throughout elementary school allowed me to have a place to feel comfortable in, laugh and be free,” writes Ella, a high school senior that Mr. Koepp began teaching and mentoring when she was new to Evergreen Forest Elementary School. “He helped me with school supplies, and to connect me to what being Native American meant. His mentorship and friendship has been something that I will always cherish in my heart, and I know that many many years from now I will still be in contact with him.”

“Mr. Koepp is an educator who helps Native students learn not only their classwork, but about themselves as well,” said Superintendent Chris Reykdal. “Educators who go beyond the curriculum to help students show up authentically as themselves, and broaden their understanding of their culture and heritage, are so vital in our schools.”

Mr. Koepp’s commitment to Native studies reaches outward to his colleagues and community as well. In his role, Jerad provides professional development to educators across North Thurston in the areas of Native education, culture, policy, and advocacy, in addition to serving as tribal liaison to local tribes, fostering and developing relationships with tribal partners.

“With Mr. Koepp’s leadership, our collaboration with the Nisqually Tribe has grown into a significant partnership,” writes Kate Frazier, Director of Equity and Languages at North Thurston Public Schools. “Within two years, our district adopted a Land Acknowledgement, flies the Nisqually flag at every district site and coordinates government to government consultation meetings between the Nisqually Tribal Council and our School Board. He is by far one of the most transformative leaders and teachers I have ever had the privilege to work with.”

Nancy Baldwin, 2021 Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year

Nancy Baldwin, 2021 Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year

2021 Washington Classified School Employee of the year Nancy Baldwin has worked with students experiencing homelessness for more than 20 years, 18 of which have been spent with Kelso School District.

In her role as McKinney-Vento Liaison, Nancy works with students experiencing homelessness to move forward in their education, knowing that they are important, worthy, and valued. Mrs. Baldwin helps students to monitor their grades, missing assignments, absences, and immediate needs.

“For students and families experiencing homelessness, Nancy may serve as their liaison, but she also serves as their counselor, confidant, graduation specialist, and community service provider… as well as their inspiration,” writes Don Iverson, Director of Student Services at Kelso School District. “Nancy exemplifies our district’s commitment in doing whatever it takes to graduate 100% of our students. Nancy delivers services and supports to our students and families with professionalism and compassion. We are so proud of her!”

Baldwin goes above and beyond for her students. Bryanna, a student of Baldwin’s, wrote about a time when she learned she’d aged out of her living situation, and didn’t have a place to go.

“Mrs. Baldwin took me back to her office and told me we weren’t leaving for the day until she had a place for me to stay,” Bryanna wrote in her recommendation letter. “When I say Mrs. Baldwin saved my life, I really mean it. For the rest of my life, I know I have her. I am so grateful to have met her. I know without her I would not be graduating; I would be homeless and even worse.”

“Mrs. Baldwin is a prime example of the power of a great educator changing the course of a student’s life forever,” said Reykdal. “It’s clear that through her tireless efforts, she is making a difference for students and families experiencing homelessness in Kelso and throughout the region.”

2022 Regional Teachers of the Year

Becky Adderson
Special Education Teacher, Lincoln Middle School, Pullman School District, ESD 101

Boo Balkan Foster
Seqacib Teacher, Chief Sealth International High School & Denny International Middle School, Seattle Public Schools, Puget Sound ESD 121

Brenda Hitchins
Baking & Culinary Teacher, Washougal High School, Washougal School District, ESD 112

Linda Johnson
ECEAP Teacher, The Early Learning Center, Richland School District, ESD 123

Randi Krieg
Agriscience Teacher, Goldendale Middle School, Goldendale School District, ESD 105

Mary Krzysiak
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Grade Multiage Teacher, Dry Creek Elementary, Port Angeles School District, Olympic ESD 114

Sarah Manus
Pre-AP English Teacher, Everett High School, Everett School District, NWESD 189

Tina Nicpan-Brown
STEM Virtual Educator, Wenatchee Internet Academy, Wenatchee School District, North Central ESD 171

2021 Regional Classified School Employees of the Year

Janis Campbell-Aikens
Executive Director, Child Nutrition Services, Auburn School District, Puget Sound ESD 121

Keven Gebeke
Lead Custodian, Shiloh Hills Elementary, Mead School District, ESD 101

Andres Gonzalez
Technology Director, Yakima School District, ESD 105

Holly Hernandez
Kitchen Manager, Chief Joseph Middle School, Richland School District, ESD 123

Tammy Oommen
Paraeducator in School Intervention, Laventure Middle School, Mount Vernon School District, NWESD 189

Nadine Owen
Restorative Room Supervisor, Thurgood Marshall Middle School, Olympia School District, Capitol Region ESD 113

Sheri Schmidt
Special Education Paraeducator, Poulsbo Elementary, North Kitsap School District, Olympic ESD 114

Adriana Vanbianchi
School District Nurse, Methow Valley School District, North Central ESD 171

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