2019 CODE Teacher Leaders

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David Douglas School District launched the Cadre of Distinguished Educators (CODE) in 2014. The program offers educators from every building and program the opportunity to engage in leadership in a variety of formats and structures. The CODE group of educators seek to elevate the practice of teaching and learning in our District. Their mission is to celebrate and recognize teacher leaders who make significant contributions to the growth of their students, inspire fellow educators and effectively support the district mission.

For the third year, CODE asked their fellow teachers across the District to nominate Teacher Leaders, the best of the best from their peers. Then a select few were named Teacher Leaders and recognized for their excellence. You can find a list of each Teacher Leader and their colleagues’ words below:

Secondary Teachers

Erinn Carrillo – ELD Teacher at RRMS

What colleagues had to say:

Erinn always goes the extra mile to help her students and her coworkers. I have seen her walking students to class from the office during her prep just because she has a good relationship with them. She is creative in how she teaches students who are learning english as a secondary language. She connects with who they are and their individual lives to create meaningful learning. Erinn also follows each case closely. If a student is in the wrong ELD level or needs a different support, she finds a way to make it happen for that student. As a coworker, she steps in and helps with anything, literally anything, that needs to be done. From decorating for a social, to stopping a fight, covering a class, or simply listening to a coworker who is upset, Erinn is always there.

Erinn is on multiple committees in our school. She is constantly working to improve our school climate and make it a welcoming place for learning. When you see Erinn in class, you see her students engaged, working, and laughing. She connects with them as people and validates their positive choices. Students want to be in her class! They are always sad when the exit out because she makes such a difference in their daily life.

(Erinn) provides culturally responsive, highly effective instruction, delivers student-centered actions, and she contributes positively to our diverse society. Ron Russell would not be the same without her!

Nominated by: Kate Dogra

Meagan Lutu – Health and Wellness Teacher at FLMS

What colleagues had to say:

Meagan is committed to making our school a better place for both staff and students.

In the classroom, Meagan instantly makes connections with all students. Her classroom management is top in our school. She establishes high standards and expectations while developing students socially, emotionally and academically.

Meagan is on Floyd Light’s Mindfulness Committee and the District Wellness Committee. She spends a lot of time outside of the classroom making positive changes for not only the staff and students at our school but our district.   

Meagan cultivates skills necessary for lifelong learning and empowers students to advocate for themselves. She works with our WEB leaders and Leadership students to help get them involved in our school and community.  

(Megean) develops students socially, emotionally and academically, cultivates skills necessary for lifelong learning, and empowers students to advocate for themselves

Nominated by: Andrea Tomey

Heidi Wharton – Social Studies Teacher at FLMS

What colleagues had to say:

Heidi maintains a fresh, positive, student-centered approach. She is really the consummate professional in all ways.She practices with skill, compassion, and dedication every single day.

Heidi’s students find success in her class. This boosts their confidence to try in other classes and ultimately to try to do their best in life.

Heidi provides culturally responsive, highly effective instruction, delivers student-centered actions, and cultivates skills necessary for lifelong learning. She seeks no acclaim but is a working hero every single day!

Heidi establishes high standards and expectations for all students, while at the same time developing relationships and making connections. Heidi engages in continual professional learning and is always willing to help colleagues.  

Heidi contributes positively to our diverse society and empowers students to advocate for themselves.

Heidi establishes high standards and expectations, delivers student-centered actions, and develops students socially, emotionally and academically

Nominated by: Andrea Tomey and a colleague wishing to be anonymous

Kelsey Stiff – Health Teacher / Softball Coach at DDHS

What colleagues had to say:

Kelsey is always building connections with our kids. She is a great teacher, but more importantly she is a good person. Students constantly go to her even when she isn’t their current teacher because she makes herself available. As a health teacher she is a great resource for current information and she as an integral part of aligning our current health assignments to the state standards. Kelsey is deserving of being recognized as a top notch teacher.

Kelsey is constantly changing her lesson plans based on the needs of our students and what is going on in the world. She shares her ideas in her PLT and has been a great leader amongst the health department.

She provides culturally responsive, highly effective instruction, engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, establishes high standards and expectations, and delivers student-centered actions.

Nominated by: Amber Cowgill

Rachel Cermak – Math Teacher – Fir Ridge Campus

What colleagues had to say:

Rachel is relentless. Her energy, passion, and dedication to education with a focus on math education is unparalleled. She teaches with her whole heart and soul. Every single time I walk by her classroom, students are engaged in learning, asking questions, charting, graphing, problem-solving, and building skills that many missed in early childhood due to gaps in education. It inspires me to do more and be better as a counselor. She cares deeply about each and every student that walks through these doors, often staying after school to offer additional support. She plans outstanding, engaging, relevant lessons for some of our district’s most hard to reach students and students who have historically struggled in math. She truly is an inspiration to us all and I feel lucky to work with her.

– In addition to teaching all day, Rachel is almost always here when I leave the building at 4:30pm. On Mondays and Thursdays she runs math club for students who need additional help.

– Rachel’s room is always open at lunch for students who need extra help with math, need a quiet place to be, or are hungry. (Yes, she has snacks and food for everyone.)

– Rachel is working on her special education licensure. She is able to reach ALL students unlike any other education professional that I’ve seen.

– She has an eye to equity and social justice, always asking tough questions. She has a willingness to be vulnerable and push herself personally and professionally in the area of cultural competency.

She engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, establishes high standards and expectations, and develops students socially, emotionally and academically.

Rachel is so positive with every student. She has high expectations for her students about the rigor of math they are working through. These students are expected to learn. She supports this with a deep level of caring and supporting them on their journey. She has also embraced trying to get all students to take part in student discourse — seeing the connections made by the talking relating positively to deeper student learning.

In being in her classroom I have seen firsthand how she has won over a tough group of students. It is obvious that initially students can’t believe how positive she is with them. They also can’t believe how excited she is about teaching math. She is relentless in such a good way. She believes in them and provides so many opportunities for them to be successful.

She engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, establishes high standards and expectations, and develops students socially, emotionally and academically.

Rachel is doing all this as an almost full time teacher, and is also working on her Master’s degree.

Rachel is relentless. Her energy, passion, and dedication to education with a focus on math education is unparalleled. She teaches with her whole heart and soul. Every single time I walk by her classroom, students are engaged in learning, asking questions, charting, graphing, problem-solving, and building skills that many missed in early childhood due to gaps in education. It inspires me to do more and be better as a counselor. She cares deeply about each and every student that walks through these doors, often staying after school to offer additional support. She plans outstanding, engaging, relevant lessons for some of our district’s most hard to reach students and students who have historically struggled in math. She truly is an inspiration to us all and I feel lucky to work with her.

– In addition to teaching all day, Rachel is almost always here when I leave the building at 4:30pm. On Mondays and Thursdays she runs math club for students who need additional help.

– Rachel’s room is always open at lunch for students who need extra help with math, need a quiet place to be, or are hungry. (Yes, she has snacks and food for everyone.)

– Rachel is working on her special education licensure. She is able to reach ALL students unlike any other education professional that I’ve seen.

– She has an eye to equity and social justice, always asking tough questions. She has a willingness to be vulnerable and push herself personally and professionally in the area of cultural competency.

She engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, establishes high standards and expectations, and develops students socially, emotionally and academically.

Nominated by: Katie Amos, Lillie Craw, and a colleague wishing to be anonymous

Karen Reed – Special Education Teacher – DDHS

What colleagues had to say:

Karen Reed is an outstanding teacher whom brings learning to life for her students. Mrs. Reed inspires students to be better versions of themselves daily. She is truly developing her students and getting them ready for the real world. She cares about how her students do in social setting constantly creating social stories to help student understand. She ensures that students are safe at school emotionally, when students expressed feeling bullying she is the first one to create lessons to help make the school a safer place.

Karen noticed that the lunch room creates a ton of stress and anxiety for some students. This created a reaction where students were not eating and then struggling the rest of the day because they were hungry but could not eat during lunch do to stress and anxiety. She suggested and implemented a quiet room for students to eat lunch in a safe quiet space where they feel less anxiety.

She engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, establishes high standards and expectations, and works to develop students socially, emotionally and academically.

Karen Reed is constantly spending extra hours of her weekend to ensure that her students have what they need. This is especially important when you are not getting a prep because you are supporting new teachers or working through behavior problems that happen during the day.

Nominated by: a colleague wishing to remain anonymous

Early Childhood and Elementary Teachers

Tiffani Davis – Classroom Teacher – Mill Park

What colleagues had to say:

Tiffani Davis is a teacher who deserves to be recognized and celebrated as an educator who is making a difference in the lives of students, families, and our school community. She genuinely cares and engages with every student in her classroom. She nurtures each of them and goes above and beyond to show them she has their best interests at heart. No matter what level each student is at, they make academic, emotional, and social growth.

Tiffani not only gets to know her students but their families as well by connecting with them on personal level. Incredibly, even YEARS later, she knows and remembers each and every name – students, siblings, all the parents/adults involved (whether still current or not), and events that impact the family. And she somehow makes this look easy! Oh the stories she can tell, with great enthusiasm!

We work with a tough population where it can be easy to become discouraged. Tiffani keeps a positive attitude through challenges, is optimistic, and, even amidst difficult situations, has a smile or hug to share. Tiffani is a compassionate colleague, collaborative teammate, and a good friend. She deserves this accolade.

Tiffani Davis is a teacher who deserves to be recognized and celebrated as an educator who is making a difference in the lives of students, families, and our school community.

Tiffani genuinely cares and engages with every student in her classroom. She nurtures each of them and goes above and beyond to show them she has their best interests at heart. No matter what level each student is at, they make academic, emotional, and social growth.

Tiffani not only gets to know her students but their families as well by connecting with them on personal level. Incredibly, even YEARS later, she knows and remembers each and every name – students, siblings, all the parents/adults involved (whether still current or not), and events that impact the family. And she somehow makes this look easy! Oh the stories she can tell, with great enthusiasm!

We work with a tough population where it can be easy to become discouraged. Tiffani keeps a positive attitude through challenges, is optimistic, and, even amidst difficult situations, has a smile or hug to share. Tiffani is a compassionate colleague, collaborative teammate, and a good friend. She deserves this accolade.

She develops students socially, emotionally and academically, collaborates with families and community partners, contributes positively to our diverse society

Nominated by: a colleague wishing to remain anonymous

Meredith Villines – Positive Behavior Support Specialist – MECP-Pacific Center

What colleagues had to say:

Meredith is a passionate advocate for all children. I am continually impressed with her ability and compassion to help coworkers, families, and children during often challenging times. In addition, Meredith continues to evaluate herself realistically in order to seek ways to refine her services towards students/families and coworkers. She has initiated many opportunities to discuss how she may better enhance her services by asking coworkers for input on how her support can be most effective. The ability to be a transparent leader has promoted positive synergy between herself and her coworkers which often result in better services for students.

Every year 50,000 preschoolers are suspended from public preschool programs. This does not consider all of the preschool students that are suspended from private programs! Meredith’s job is to help coach coworkers and school staff around best practices for positive behavior interventions and to help students stay in schools. Meredith does a lot of work coaching school staff around giving students skills to work through conflicts (e.g. expressing themselves, managing emotions, etc.) instead of relying on teacher intervention. As a result, she is directly impacting students and giving them more opportunities to stay in school.

provides culturally responsive, highly effective instruction, engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, collaborates with families and community partners

Meredith is a kind, strong, and fierce leader. She has the most amazing laugh and shows incredible passion for her job! We are so lucky to have her.

Meredith supports special education staff, children and families but teaching PBIS and taking on a variety of leadership roles in Early Childhood education. Meredith puts together all staff trainings, does one-on-one consultation with peers and community teachers, she advocates for children, as well as taking on leadership roles in OEA. Meredith has a vast knowledge of ECE and the importance of quality ECE for all.

She provides culturally responsive, highly effective instruction, engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, establishes high standards and expectations, delivers student-centered actions, develops students socially, emotionally and academically, ensures safe learning environments, collaborates with families and community partners, promotes community service as essential to ongoing learning, contributes positively to our diverse society, cultivates skills necessary for lifelong learning, empowers students to advocate for themselves, uses district resources responsibly, Continually advocates and takes on leadership roles after “school hours”.

Nominated by: Nickea Tye and a colleague wishing to remain anonymous

Rachel Pitts – 4th Grade Teacher – Gilbert Park

What colleagues had to say:

Rachel leads by example. She is always ready to try new things that might work with her students. She models high expectations and truly believes that all her students are capable of everything. Rachel takes new professional learning back to her class, then she expands it to other teachers. She leads trainings and provides feedback to peers. She makes everyone feel validated.

Rachel is one of our Math Residents. She has led math training at the site and district level. She has even given her prep time to train other teams on how to integrate technology into their instruction. She inspires others to always improve in formative assessment practices. She allows teachers to observe her and observes others to give meaningful feedback.

(Rachel) provides culturally responsive, highly effective instruction, engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, establishes high standards and expectations

Nominated by: a colleague wishing to remain anonymous

Sody Fearn – Title I Teacher – Gilbert Heights

What colleagues had to say:

Sody is one of the single most inspiring educators I have met. She has completely changed the culture of reading instruction at our school and continues to challenge the status quo in advocacy of our students. She is constantly continuing her own education to ensure that students receive best practice instruction that is also culturally sustaining and rigorous. Her expectations are unwaveringly high for herself, her students, and her colleagues. She is always willing to go the extra mile to ensure that her students receive all that they deserve every day.

Her emphasis on the importance of core instruction as the base of the RTI model has changed how we look at needs in Tier 2 and Tier 3. By partnering with classroom teachers, she is able to ensure that we can focus on delivering scaffolded grade level standards and feel confident that she is working to fill the necessary gaps for students who have them. This has resulted in increased reading achievement schoolwide.

She provides culturally responsive, highly effective instruction, establishes high standards and expectations, delivers student-centered actions

Nominated by: a colleague wishing to remain anonymous

Raluca Dinca Hollingshed – 1st Grade Teacher – Gilbert Heights

What colleagues had to say:

Ms. Dinca has become a driving force in our school. She has worked tirelessly in her classroom to accelerated student learning. Ms. Dinca starts with building a positive classroom community, then punctuates it with high expectations and rigor. What has been inspiring is that she not only incorporates culturally responsive practices seamlessly into her instruction, she also has been sharing these effective techniques with her teammates. This year more than ever, Ms. Dinca has been called to share her engaging strategies with the staff. She has lead professional learning in reading and math. Has been a force to be reckoned with on our Math Leadership team and has been showcased using her engagement strategies when teaching academic vocabulary.

Ms. Dinca is highly respected amongst beginning and veteran teachers. We look She has a great rapport with students and families and embodies all the aspects of a distinguished educator!

Ms. Dinca serves on our math leadership team where she has been learning more engaging strategies to teach math. A principal for the day observed her instruction once and couldn’t believe that she was able to get students to discuss math in complex ways at such a young age. She has led professional development in the area of reading and math to our colleagues. Recently, she was highlighted using engagement strategies while teaching academic vocabulary. Ms. Dinca is continuously growing her craft and is always eager to learn more. What is also admirable is that she advocates for her students so that they receive the very best education that we have to offer in David Douglas.

She provides culturally responsive, highly effective instruction, engages in continual professional learning and reflective practice, establishes high standards and expectations

Nominated by: a colleague wishing to remain anonymous

Dameri Wagner – Early Childhood Special Education Teacher – MECP-Beach

What colleagues had to say:

Dameri is a master of collaboration, specialized instruction, and follow through. She creates a system for intervention with other disciplines and then implements the practice with consistency and determination. She is a joy to work with every day and inspires those around her!

Dameri works with children impacted with challenges disabilities, resulting in behaviors that most teachers would complain and walk away from. But Dameri supports and cares about the student so she will set up and implement a behavior plan and in a matter of three weeks we see a difference in how that individual student interacts with their surrounds, but most importantly, we see how the typically developing peers interact with that student dramatically changes. All the peers in Dameri’s Class see the importance in students with different abilities and all the kids work together to learn and develop their skills.

She establishes high standards and expectations, develops students socially, emotionally and academically, collaborates with families and community partners, empowers students to advocate for themselves

Dameri is always pushing herself to learn more and will offer her own knowledge to theta by presenting at professional conferences.

Nominated by:  Anna Epstein