Seattle Public Schools

SPS Celebrates Most Spirited Educators 

Summary: SPS teachers, assistant principals, librarians, instructional assistants and more received Most Spirited Teacher nominations.

Honor Roll: SPS Educators are Recognized During Teacher Appreciation Week

We asked. You answered. Nominations for Seattle Public Schools’ Most Spirited Teacher poured in. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we invited you to tell us about someone in your school community who is the most school spirited, who comes to work so excited that it makes others around them excited too. You sent us beautiful notes singing the praises about teachers, assistant principals, librarians, instructional assistants and more. 

It was no surprise to get Most Spirited Teacher nominations for educators like Diane Trudnowski, a retiring second-grade teacher who has spent her 38-year career at Maple Elementary. Or Scott Griggs, a Franklin High School physical education teacher and track coach who still cheers on his Quakers even when he’s coaching for other schools. Then there’s Traci Nelson, a second-grade teacher at West Woodland Elementary who’s been wearing striped shirts every Tuesday for 20 years to teach her students about shapes and patterns.  

Activities Coordinator has worn Chief Sealth colors for 11 years 

These are just a few of the 55 nominations across 27 schools who all received glowing comments about their ability to make learning fun. But there’s no winner in this process. The true winners are the students who get to learn from these awesome educators every day. 

For Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10), we want to recognize and honor all Seattle Public Schools educators who go above and beyond for students – both in and out of the classroom. Thank you for all you do! 

See what students, parents and colleagues said about the educators who bring excitement to their schools. 

Michael Ayer, Aki Kurose Middle School – Music  

Teacher smiles at camera.

He is really into his job and has a lot of school spirit. On all the special school days he is always doing it. He is a super nice teacher and in advisory he rants about really important stuff. – Leif Higbee, student 

He is really into his job, and makes his class really fun to be in. – Liam, student 

Mr. Ayer is always participating in spirit days and is always on a 1-to-1 level with his students (such as myself). – Asher, student 

They do every spirit day with insane spirit! For example, on NEON Day they wore a full-body, rainbow unicorn suit. Also, on PJ Day, they wore a dragon/unicorn suit with a Brazilian poncho. – Henry Jacob Hister, student 

A very chill and helpful teacher. – Huynh Nguyen, student 

He is so cheerful and makes the class so fun and interesting to learn in. He is loving and lets us have time to be kids and not ‘preparing to be adults in high school.’ – Suraya Jeffreys, student 

HE IS THE BEST! He is like a hippie, but cooler, with tons of amazing advice, fun outfits and stories. –Caitlin, student 

He is a really good teacher that uses fun activities to teach us about rhythm and our songs. – Ada Siem, student 

He gets all the trends and jokes. – Matthew Tumbaga, student 

Sarah Gerhardt, Arbor Heights Elementary – 4th Grade 

Teacher smiles at camera.

Ms. G is new to Arbor Heights this year but is a pro-teacher who brings excitement to her classroom daily. My daughter comes home each week sharing pure joy and wonder at the things they have learned and experienced in Ms. G’s class. Whether it’s because the kids met behavior goals and earned a glow party or it’s because they got to try out new STEM technology like VR headsets or SAM labs coding to elevate their classroom learning, Ms. G captivates and engages her students every day. She truly shows the most spirit of any teacher my kids have had by bringing her A game consistently day in and day out. You can tell she absolutely loves teaching, and it shows because her students love her class. My daughter hates to miss school because there’s something exciting happening in Ms. G’s classroom every day. – Elaine Moy, parent 

Ms. Gerhardt is an amazing example of positivity for her students. She puts her heart and soul into teaching and goes the extra mile to make learning fun for all. Sarah Weagraff, colleague 

Jael Imani, Bailey Gatzert Elementary – Special Education Instructional Assistant 

Teacher Imani is invariably positive, joyful, and professional. Teacher Imani is an outstanding educator. Teacher Imani shows incredible consideration for scholars with special needs and collegiality towards staff. Teacher Imani also goes above and beyond assigned responsibilities. It is not in Teacher Imani’s role to help monitor after-school buses for scholars not in Imani’s classroom, but Teacher Imani does this without being asked. For example, the day before, Teacher Imani was out sick but still emailed colleagues to let the bus driver for Bus 46 know Imani would be unable to help him set expectations on his afternoon bus route. – Colleen McGinley, colleague

Aaron Chamberlin, Ballard High School – Science 

Aaron Chamberlin

He always has funny chemistry memes up on the board every day, is serious about our education, and makes sure all students understand the content we are learning, even if it requires answering a ton of questions- which I think exemplifies the Ballard High School spirit. – Ru Trice-Loggers, student

William Depusoy, Dunlap Elementary School – 4th Grade 

Teacher smiles at camera.

He helps with homework and does a lot of field trips. – Alex Ha, student 

Liz Harris-Scruggs, Franklin High School – Music  

Teacher smiles at camera.

Ms. Liz Harris-Scruggs has been a music teacher at Franklin High School since the 2020-21 academic year. She has worked fearlessly and tirelessly to rebuild the music program there. She has creatively utilized all the resources available to help her overcome obstacles and forge ahead and engage students and parents to build the FHS music program. In April 2022, her students performed a school musical in the FHS auditorium orchestra pit that had not been used for over 6 years. It was a delightful evening and frankly an amazing feat. Ms. Harris-Scruggs brings tremendous spirit and grace to foster growth and the love of music to our young adults in the Seattle schools. She makes us proud. –  Jannie Spain 

Scott Griggs, Franklin High School – Physical Education 

Teacher smiles at camera.

He’s been at our school for a really long time, he loves all his students and is the track coach. I always see him in some type of Franklin gear and even when he was Cleveland’s track coach, he was still rooting for us to win before I even had him as a teacher. – Cherish, student 

David Corliss, Garfield High School – ELA & Special Education 

David brightens up any room. He is silly with his students, creates relationships that encourage them to conquer hard material they previously thought they couldn’t do. AND he has a vast collection of garfield shirts and sweatshirts that he wears proudly all the time! He is an ELA and a special education teacher that goes the extra mile for his students. – Makena Gadient, colleague 

Tiffany Bigham, Garfield High School – Athletic Director  

Teacher smiles at camera.

Tiffany lives and breathes Garfield spirit.  She goes way above and beyond to organize spirit weeks, to recognize athletes and teams, hold pep rallies, and support the ASB in the execution of all these events.  Garfield would be a less spirited, less enjoyable place for students without the staggering number of hours she puts in to make sure that kids have a memorable high school experience. – Erik Burnett, colleague 

Leah Van More, Jane Addams Middle School – 8th Grade Science 

Teacher smiles at camera.

She goes to every length to challenge, encourage, and support students learning. Not only is she active in learning during work hours, but also supports many students in their attendance at the Washington state science and engineering fair, going above and beyond to allow students, and push students, to be the best that they can be. – Alexa Soge, student 

Gabriela Ausland, John Stanford International School – Bilingual Instructional Assistant 

Senora Gabriela is a Bilingual Assistant Spanish, who helps the kids get excited about learning in Spanish. Before school starts in the morning, we often see her dancing with the kids to music while we wait for the first bell to ring. She always greets the parents and past students in a pleasant way that makes you feel welcome in the community. – Jennifer Bolton 

Hiromi Pingry, John Stanford International School – Kindergarten 

She is the most passionate teacher I have met. Her enthusiasm for teaching dual language always inspires me to do better. – Maria Matamala, colleague 

Danielle Vermaak, Lincoln High School – Science 

Teacher smiles at camera.

Every day, Danielle, a favorite Science teacher, is excited to see both staff and students. She greets, enthuses and keeps us all motivated. Today, she ran to me, as I was entering the school, to update me about our exciting Exhibitions showcase in June…and ascertain if I was still excited, as she is, to work with students on making it excellent. Danielle’s joy is infectious! – Wyn Pottinger-Levy, colleague 

Dr. Vermaak is all things school spirit, from her commitment to spirit days, spirit assemblies and our house system, she always stands out. She even developed her own mascot for our house system “Trevor the Triangle!” She leads students in spirit chants, dresses up and performs to get high school students excited about spirit days, but she also promotes excitement for learning. She is enthusiastic and authentic with her students. She promotes project-based learning to staff knowing that her enthusiasm is contagious and promotes excitement for teaching! – Lisa Baker, colleague 

Somayeh Hashemi Rudmajani, Lincoln High School – Math 

Teacher smiles at camera.

She’s very skilled at calculus but also really works to try to challenge us. Even though the class is really hard she helps make things make sense but also pushes us to figure out things for ourselves and not just give us the answer. She treats us with lots of respect and always jokes around with us and asks us to correct her work. She’s made me and many people in my class very passionate about calculus. – Arik Herzog, student 

Andrew Brown, Lowell Elementary – Instructional Assistant 

Mr. Brown takes the lead on our monthly schoolwide Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (PBIS) assemblies, leading with dedication and school spirit. He organizes monthly “In It to Win It” Challenges with staff and students which consistently brings laughter and joy and builds community. These assemblies also include student leadership skits led by 5th graders, class awards such as “Golden Sneaker” for best hallway lines, and individual student of the month awards that recognize scholars across grades and programs for showing our Dragon CREST – Caring, Responsible, Engaged, Safe – and that’s Terrific. Assemblies end with a whole school dance and sing along to the Lowell song. It is truly a highlight for many of us each month and Mr. Brown takes on much of this on his own, with support from the PBIS team. – Chelsea Dziedzic, principal 

Andrew Kreiter, Loyal Heights Elementary – 5th Grade 

Teachers smiles at camera.

Andrew spreads joy wherever he goes! He is always putting a smile on student’s and staff’s faces and is a great teacher. – Juliana Williams, colleague 

Stacia Bell, Madison Middle School – Teacher Librarian 

Teacher smiles at camera.

Ms. Bell makes the library a place for everyone. She hosts lots of different activities during lunch periods for all different interests: trivia games, maker space, book clubs, crafts, Just Dance competitions, etc.  She does the Bulldog Reads booklist every year to inspire kids to read lots of different books and gets authors to come visit our school. She even visits all the 5th graders who are coming to Madison next year and gets them excited about Madison. She leads fun school-wide competitions like 2 sentence horror stories at Halloween and the battle of the books.  She definitely has the most school spirit of any teacher! – Colton Fukano, student 

Diane Trudnowski, Maple Elementary School – 2nd Grade 

Teacher smiles at camera.

Diane has been a teacher at Maple for over 35 years. There’s a rumor that she even was a student here for a short time. She loves teaching and it shows in many of her spirted acts throughout the year. She always participates in spirit week, recognizes all holidays with fun outfits and lessons that incorporate the event/person/time into their daily routine. On election day she dressed like Hilary Clinton, Barbie has made an appearance this year, and she is a lifelong Mariners fan, so baseball season is always exciting. She has even taught the Mariner Moose! She loves Maple so much and has been here so long, she has captured so many special moments here. She sends out bi-monthly emails sharing past Maple events, just another way she shows her love of Maple school, the community, students, families and fellow educators. – Mily Goff, colleague 

Ben Lawton, Martin Luther King Jr Elementary – 5th Grade 

Mr. Lawton always comes to work with a big smile on his face. He is always ready to help other teachers like me with technology, and he has a wealth of information concerning school/work at its operations. – Jamall White, colleague 

Molly Goodell, McClure – Science  

Got our ASB up and running last year and year before – 25 kids ran for office! Dressed as a student – nailed it!  Spirit Week Gladiator – her advisory tends to win door decorating on the regular. Also, made advisory kickball tournament an amazing experience for our kids last Spring! – Shannon Conner, principal 

Stephen Miranda, Middle College High School – Language Arts 

Stephen Miranda

He has so much energy. He is kind, funny, smart, and I love being in his class. He is an effective teacher while showing his care for his students. Whenever I talk to him, my day improves. And while I have lots of fun in his class, trust me when I say I’m ALWAYS learning something new from him. – London Ferry, student 

Heather Coutts, North Beach Elementary – Kindergarten 

Teacher smiles at camera.

When I told veteran parents that my son was placed in Ms. Coutts class for kindergarten at North Beach Elementary, the response was always “she is special” and “best teacher in the whole school.” Ms. Coutts’ energy and passion is contagious. Students past and present are always swarming around her in the hallways hugging her. She spearheads most evening enrichment nights for the school (Culture Night, Literacy Night, and attends all the PTA meetings). She spearheads special assemblies like bringing in Thistle Theater and farm animals to the playground for the kids to pet. She always dresses up for festivities celebrated at school (a full body butterfly suit for Harvest Carnival complete with face paint and hearts on a headband and beaded necklaces for Friendship/Valentines Day). Her lessons include celebrating Groundhogs Day, 100th day of school, constant pajamas/stuffy day, “Read-in Day” complete with sleeping bags and s’mores the list goes on and on. She is beloved by parents, children and staff and is worthy of this title of Most Spirited Teacher. – KC Ficken & the entire North Beach PTA 

Rachel M Roosma, Olympic View Elementary 

Teacher smiles at camera.

Rachel is actually our assistant principal. However, she teaches all of us; teachers, staff, students and parents, every single day. December is a month to celebrate all of the winter holidays. She wears a different sweater and earrings every day. Her eye shadow gets more and more intense as we get closer to winter break. Students and staff get inspired to follow in her footsteps. She sings to students at all three lunches every day. She records fun educational Monday morning messages each week for the school to watch. Our monthly spirit days are always fun but inclusive of every child. She never fails to go over the top with her outfits. Literally dressing head to toe. She radiates joy throughout the school … daily. – Sabrina O’Brien, colleague 

She is a ball of sunshine. She knows every kid by name and makes everyone’s days brighter. Also, her spirit wear game is on point. Wigs! Rainbows! Glitter! – Anna Burkett  

Rachel is the epitome of spirit at Olympic View. She exudes positive energy every single day and provides such a consistent welcoming warmth to our students. – Kristel Gonzales 

Ms. Roosma is THE BEST and most spirited. She dresses up for each holiday, spirit day, and has so much pride in Olympic View. She even put together an item for our PTA auction that was a collection of spirit wear to join her on each spirit day! She is well known in our community as someone who brings joy, inspires confidence, and loves our school. – Chelsea Whittle 

Rachel is our assistant principal and does so much for our kids. She records weekly talks about how to be a better person, how to cope with emotions and difficult situations, current events and other topics. She also is super positive all the time and supports our kids in so many ways.  She defines our school culture in the best way possible. – Chad Cabigting 

She’s 1,000% there for the kids and uplifts the entire student body with her bright smile, energy, and positive messaging. She initiates school spirit days and always has the best, brightest, rainbow-colored outfits (and sometimes hair to match!), to showcase school spirit in the most fun way. – Rebecca Greiter 

Annie Dugas, Rainier Beach High School – Activity Coordinator 

Dugas is a teacher who works tirelessly to build school spirit at Beach by building leadership skills, coordinates contests and multicultural flag and dance ceremonies with our multilingual students, helps coordinate hallway art and door decorating contests. She’s always cheerful, upbeat, and available for students! She also helps coordinate field trips and college visits and encourages our students to reach for the stars! – Koshtra Tolle, colleague 

Megan Lowe, Robert Eagle Staff Middle School 

Teacher smiles at camera, holds up peace sign on both hands.

Megan Lowe is the backbone of our middle school community. She somehow balances bringing joy to staff, students, and families with her ability to host one of the most warm and welcoming 8th grade ELA classrooms we have ever seen in SPS. In addition to regularly communicating the small and large victories of her students with individually crafted communications to families, she intentionally organizing monthly culture building experiences events that have a direct impact on our student and staff and are reflected in our climate survey numbers. Through Megan’s hard work and dedication and the spaces she creates, our Raven community gets to enjoy the benefits of a building where student leadership, student voice, student engagement, and student data are all up. Recently she spearheaded and facilitated a student organized multicultural week of celebration. She met with students, families, and community partners to discover and craft creative ways to celebrate our diverse school community. She also regularly organizes mystery staff spirit days that students love puzzling out and participating in. RESMS is lucky to have Megan Lowe on the team and every school needs to get themselves one (pictures of her impact available upon request). – Devin Murphy, assistant principal and Zac Stowell, principal 

Michelle Carter, Business/Marketing & Bryan Marenstein, Science/Math, Roosevelt High School 

[These two] teachers at Roosevelt High School represent our students and our community with unfailing energy, excellence and passion for their subject. We would say they exhibit Rider PRIDE in every way! At Roosevelt, we say P=Perseverance, R=Respect, I=Integrity, D=Determination and E=Excellence.  These teachers are true embodiments of these traits. POSITIVE and SUPPORTIVE is who they are. We are grateful for their Spirited commitment to excellent teaching!  No student leaves their classrooms without full HEARTS and MINDS – Principal Tami Brewer 

Lisa Calvert, Thornton Creek Elementary – 4th and 5th Grade Split 

Teacher smiles at camera.

Lisa comes up with very engaging assignments for the 4/5th graders. My son is often excited about projects going on at school. For example, he looked forward to and enjoyed calculating the area of his foot and the volume of a puddle outside. Lisa had students make a United States map out of salt dough. The students get to use all of their senses to learn with these projects. He often tells funny stories that Lisa tells her students. She also gives constructive feedback in a kind and loving way. – Simina Popa, parent 

Matthew Walker, TOPS K-8 – 5th Grade 

This 5th grade teacher created a positive learning environment of listening and caring for each other. He’s committed to teaching critical thinking and informed decision making. We think he’s fantastic! – Neda Dokic 

Akim Finch, West Seattle Elementary – Instructional Assistant 

Teacher smiling, wearing a crown and sunglasses.

From proudly wearing school colors (purple and gold) almost every day to being there every morning to greet students to joyfully leading assemblies, Mr. Akim also teaches drums and encourages Husky Scholars to do their best every day! – Elle L.

He is the most positive, uplifting adult I’ve ever met!  He makes it a point to positively engage every student, even the shiest and most reserved of them. He is a constant positive presence in the front of the school in the morning greeting all the families with a smile and bright hello.  He is the king of recess, promoting respect and kindness while also making sure every student is able to participate in games, no matter their ability. He teaches drumming to boys and girls as well as teaches African songs. He will make standing in line the highlight of the day for students with his interactive songs that all the students are learning. He is a blessing to the West Seattle Elementary community. – Lisa Harper 

Sarah Beilke, West Seattle Elementary – Art  

Teacher smiles at camera.

She had a beautiful connection to the students in the school (she teaches them all as an art teacher), knows each and every name (many of which are foreign in the U.S.), and radiates positivity. I see her waiving kids goodbye daily, and she shows interest and attention to the individual kids she meets and sees off; it is impressive and heartwarming. My child is super excited to attend her class every time. –Doerte Ahlgrimm  

Lucas Gaffey, West Seattle High School – Math  

I’ve been lucky enough to have Mr. Gaffey two years now, and math has never been more fun. He teaches with wit and quirk, throwing jokes when you’d least expect them, and his lighthearted demeanor is something I and everyone I know looks forward to when entering his class. Mr. Gaffey is an incredibly genuine, spirited person, and I believe in full that few teachers could rival the quirky and unexpected sense of humor he brings to our class. – Adam Gosztola, student 

Rachel Myers, West Seattle High School – Special Education and Unified Sports Liaison  

Teacher smiling at camera.

Rachel brought Unified sports back to West Seattle High School. She has not only kept up supporting and recruiting she supported student led Unified club, brought leaders to Washington DC and finds the time to support student academics during Saturday school, lunches and after school to help them access general education curriculum. – Deede Jolley, colleague 

Monique Philp, West Seattle High School – Science 

Teacher smiling at camera.

I have never not seen Monique in a good mood, she is full of energy and always ready to teach science. Her energy is what makes kids want to take a super hard AP science class just so that they are in her class. She will show up to school activities/sports to support her students. Whenever I see her, I am always treated with a giant smile and a big hug! When kids are talking about their other classes, I overhear often how her class can be hard, but she is so great it does not make a difference. Monique has a style that many would envy, and that means she also has school gear and spirit to go with it. There is never a dull moment at WSHS with Monique Philp around! – Price Jimerson, colleague 

Ms. Philp brings an ultra-positive and enthusiastic attitude to school every day. – Lars Masonsmith, student 

Traci Nelson, West Woodland Elementary – 2nd Grade 

Teacher smiles at camera.

Traci is my cohort vat 2nd grade. I look at her as a cheerleader and dear friend. She always sees the positive. Her students absolutely adore her. I’ve never seen her without a smile on her face, spewing words of encouragement, an overall positive, encouraging individual. – Paula King, colleague 

Katie Barrett, West Woodland Elementary – Physical Education 

Ms. Barrett is a dedicated educator with equity and inclusion front and center.  She is our PE teacher, a mentor to students and faculty, and an advocate for all kids to cooperatively play and work together. Ms. Barrett takes time in her PE classes to teach problem-solving skills and model taking the “high road” to students. These skills promote leadership, autonomy, and a positive culture in the whole school. Ms. Barrett shows school spirit through creating a culture of responsibility, respect and kindness for all, not to mention the fitness and cooperative games that are loved by students and staff alike. She is the absolute best! – Traci Nelson, colleague