Kent School District employees of the year. Top row, from left to right: Karin Powell, Brian Smith, Mendi Holland, Charity Jensen, Todd Wehmeyer and Barbara Parke. Bottom row, from left to right: Annie Ott, Brian Lockhart, Samantha Maffei, Danielle DeJong, Tino Acevedo and Heather Contreras. COURTESY IMAGE, Kent School District

Kent School District employees of the year. Top row, from left to right: Karin Powell, Brian Smith, Mendi Holland, Charity Jensen, Todd Wehmeyer and Barbara Parke. Bottom row, from left to right: Annie Ott, Brian Lockhart, Samantha Maffei, Danielle DeJong, Tino Acevedo and Heather Contreras. COURTESY IMAGE, Kent School District

Kent School District honors 12 employees of the year

Top teacher, principal, bus driver, coach, paraeducator and more

The Kent School District recently announced its 12 employees of the year that exemplify the district’s mission of successfully preparing all students for their futures.

The dozen were chosen by their peers for 2022-2023, according to the school district, which has 43 schools, 25,530 students and 3,861 staff members, including 1,621 teachers. Following is a brief summary provided by the district of the 12 employees who will be honored at the June 14 Kent School Board meeting:

Heather Contreras

• Teacher

Contreras, a Kentlake High School math teacher, coaching philosophy is, “make the minutes count, don’t count the minutes.” Over the years she has extended that same philosophy to her classroom throughout her 26 years of teaching. She joined the district in August 2008 as a math teacher and C-team basketball coach at Kentlake, where she is currently the head of the math department. Although she is very passionate about the subject, “reaching a student and breaking through to release their abilities” ultimately drives her.

Danielle DeJong

• Principal

DeJong, principal at Crestwood Elementary School, is one of the most calm, caring and collaborative administrators within the district. She builds trusting relationships with her staff and students, which makes everyone better able to succeed at school. She takes the time to speak to her employees instead of waiting for them to reach out to her.

Mendi Holland

• Bus driver

“Any route, any time. Whatever is needed,” is Holland’s motto, and she lives it. With the shortage of bus drivers over the past several years, she has volunteered to take multiple routes while still completing her own. Transportation Services appreciates her willingness and cheerful demeanor that she brings daily to staff and students.

Todd Wehmeyer

• Non-classroom certificated

Wehmeyer has expanded the interventions offered by student and family support services while completing his job’s primary function. He currently supports students and staff in multiple school buildings and models the importance of relationships in each of them. He has also led a lot of restorative work this year by delivering training in multiple schools, along with training both paraeducators and bus drivers.

Charity Jensen

• Central Office administrator

Jensen, director of assessment, makes carefully thought-out decisions based on her extensive experience, data, and care for supporting students. This shows up in all her conversations across teams. Though assessment is usually considered the end of the instructional cycle, she encourages using assessment data to inform other instructional decisions.

Barbara Parke

• Nutrition Services

Parke, cook manager at Glenridge Elementary School, does more than prepare food for students each day. She ensures students have access to meals of nutritional value, quickly learns about special needs among students, and works to serve them in the best way possible. She keeps the lunch line moving quickly while tracking important information and details, so students have more time to enjoy their meals.

Brian Lockhart

• Coach

Lockhart is a highly successful boys’ basketball coach at Mattson Middle School measured by various standards. He has an incredible background of basketball knowledge from both player and coaching perspectives. Although his team went undefeated this year and won the league title, that is something other than what he would use as a measure of success. His focus is on who his players will become as young men.

Karin Powell

• Office Professionals

Powell, office manager at Pine Tree Elementary School, greets every child and family with the biggest smile and open heart. She participates in check-in and check-out with a student who struggles significantly with behavior, allows students to eat lunch in her office if they need extra love and attention, and even sews their clothes when they rip. She knows all students by name.

Tino Acevedo

• Transportation Services

Acevedo, a shop service person, is always willing to help fellow employees whenever and wherever needed. He keeps the school bus fleet clean and free of seat damage, keeps the bus lot organized, and even picks up trash around the bus garage lot. He is always trying to find ways to make the bus drivers’ jobs easier so they can concentrate on the students and driving.

Annie Ott

• Paraeducators

Ott, a paraeducator at Fairwood Elementary School, puts people first. She always has a smile and a minute for everyone who enters the library and helps make it a safe place for all types of students and the staff and families we serve. She uses her time meaningfully, works seamlessly as a team with her librarian, and brings her heart into her work.

Samantha Maffei

• Central Office non-administrative

Maffei, an executive assistant for the Teaching and Learning team, has an over 10-year history of working at the district. She has been the go-to person for the Teaching and Learning team, and her experience and knowledge have filtered down to ensure the entire team exemplifies equity and excellence in the way their department function. She is exceptionally bright, thoughtful, fun, and incredibly supportive of her team.

Brian Smith

• Information Technology

Smith has created valuable tools for everyone in the district, including but not limited to Computer Help, Technical Support Services (TSS) Toolbox used by the TSS team, and the Ajay chatbot in Teams. These apps help increase the efficiency of technical support services. He is knowledgeable and skilled in technology, patient and empathetic when working with students and teachers.

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