Having one of its teachers or staff members win the Washington Award for Excellence in Education
is nothing new to the White Salmon Valley School District.
But having three teachers from the district win the award in the same year is -- especially considerÿ
ing that only five teacher awards are given out each year per each of Washington's nine congressional districts.
Winners in Congressional Disÿtrict 4 this year include JoAnn Hamilton and Larry McCutcheon of Columbia High School, and Sally Wells of Wayne. M. Henkle Middle School.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson anÿnounced the 2001 award recipients May 2 in Olympia.
The Legislature enacted the award program in 1986. Every year since then, public school teachers, principals and administrators, superintendents, school boards and classified personnel from around the state have been recognized for their leadership, commitment and contributions to education.
"It's exciting to have such dediÿcated and enthusiastic supporters of education at work in our schools," Bergeson said upon announcing this year's award winners.
She added: "I know each honorÿee is dedicated to helping every child learn and achieve the stanÿdards set by the state. They're also great leaders within the education community who take the time to share what they've learned with others in their field. It's this kind of leadership we celebrate through these awards."
The Washington Award for Exÿcellence in Education is named in honor and memory of Sharon Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher and private citizen selected to parÿticipate in the U.S. space program.
McAuliffe, from Concord, N.H., and six other astronauts died on Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 secÿonds after liftoff. She would have been America's first civilian astroÿnaut under NASA's Teacher in Space program.
But though her only mission ended in tragedy, McAuliffe has become an icon for the teaching profession. Even as her legacy has grown in the years since her death,
she is perhaps best remembered for her motto: "I touch the future -- I teach."
It's a message that reflects what White Salmon's trio of award-winning educators have been doing for much of their lives.
"The most special thing about the award is it's named the Christa McAuliffe award. It captures the spirit of what she meant and brought to education and our proÿfession," said Wells, who joined the Henkle staff in 1989 and currently teaches a blended class of fifth- and sixth-graders.
She added: "It's an honor to have been nominated and it's humbling to have won it."
Hamilton, a teacher of life skills at CHS since 1985, said the award holds greater meaning for her beÿcause of her admiration for McAuÿliffe.
"She was a good role model for the teaching profession," noted Hamilton, who's devoted her career to secondary education since graduÿating from Eastern Washington University in 1971.
"We're being highlighted but there are so many educators out there putting in endless hours, tryÿing to make a difference, who are just as deserving," she said, adding, "In a way, we represent all of them."
For McCutcheon, CHS' physical conditioning instructor and head football and baseball coach, the recognition represents a confirmaÿtion of what 32 years of hard work
in education (20 in White Salmon) can yield.
"As I understand it, it's not an award based on what you've done recently. It's an award for excelÿlence over a long period of time," he remarked. "[Winning] it tells me I've been doing something sort of
right for the last 30 years. I'm pretty excited about it."
Wells, Hamilton and McCutcheÿon all will take part in the official awards ceremony, set for Thursday, May 24, in the House Chambers of the Legislative Building in Olympia.