Crystal Apple awards honors best of Klamath County School District
The voices nominating the 2018 Crystal Apple Awardees included students, parents, fellow staff and administrators.
People from all around the Klamath County School District sent words of praise, appreciation and thanks for the five teachers and three classified staff who personify the highest examples of what it is to be an educator.
“She has made our son feel safe, valued, respected and loved at school, which is a gift we could never repay,” said, Christy VanRooyen, the mother of one of Deb Cornelison’s students at Keno Elementary.
“She is always selfless and doesn’t accept failure. She wants every student to succeed in all aspects of life, even if they’re not in her class,” Macy Hullman, Henley High student, said of science teacher Carly Fullerton.
“For the past years, Jen Johnson has been a very helpful and inspiring woman to all the students at Lost River High School,” said Karina Cobian, Lost River Class of 2017. “She continuously tries to provide help with anything the students need assistance with. I love her joyful personality, and all the positive vibes that she shares with all of us.”
Originally the Crystal Apple Awardees were only nominated by school administrators. In 2017 the district opened the nomination process to staff and students and continued that tradition this year.
The Klamath County School District is honoring its best with the sixth annual Crystal Apple Awards. The eight awardees for 2018 are:
- Deb Cornelison — Special Education Teacher — Keno Elementary School
- Carly Fullerton — Science Teacher — Henley High School
- Cathy Nevala — Art Teacher — Mazama High School
- Aleasha Tacchini – Special Education Teacher – Henley Middle School
- Stacy Wright — Third Grade Teacher — Shasta Elementary School
- Tess Gonzales — Special Education Paraprofessional – Ferguson Elementary School
- Jen Johnson — Paraprofessional/Librarian — Lost River Jr./Sr. High School
- Terri Robinette — Secretary — Merrill Elementary School
The Klamath County School District is proud to showcase the amazing work these teachers, staff and all-around educators do for children in this community.
The Crystal Apple Awards Gala will begin at 7 p.m. on April 17 at the Ross Ragland Theater. Staff, their families and special guests are welcome to come celebrate the good work of the entire district. The Klamath County School District Honor Choir will be performing at this event as well.
Below are profiles of the 2018 Klamath County School District Crystal Apple awardees.
Special Education Teacher Deb Cornelison was nominated for the Crystal Apple Award by her principal, Sarah Shively, but more importantly, a student nominated her as well.
“She is like a friend to her students. She’s patient. She’s kind and she listens,” said Andrew, one of Cornelison’s students. “My time with Mrs. Cornelison is my favorite part of school.”
Cornelison, 58, is in her seventh year teaching special education at Keno Elementary. Before that she was a paraprofessional with the Klamath Falls City Schools, and a teacher with that district. At Keno she teaches a variety of students with a variety of needs, including social skills, sensory issues, reading and math. Students come in and out of her class getting the help they need. Cornelison is also the interventionist for Keno, and works with PBIS.
Shively said Cornelison is at all school events, just there to help. She commends Cornelison on her ability to build students up and celebrate their accomplishments. Cornelison said she loves celebrating her students, every day.
“All the little small things we get to celebrate with the kids every day makes my day really exciting,” Cornelison said. “We can go through a whole day and it’s just, 10 times. They may be doing something they’ve never done before. Whenever I can complement them, I do. It makes them excited about learning.”
Henley High School science teacher Carly Fullerton received five nominations for this year’s Crystal Apple Award.
“Although Carly teaches science, the most important lessons that Carly teaches her students are: they have a voice, they are important, they have someone in their corner and they can make a difference,” said Bobbi Sue Britton, Henley leadership teacher and 2016 Crystal Apple awardee. “To her, nothing is impossible for each of them.”
Fullerton, 35, teaches anatomy (a dual-credit with Oregon Tech), biology, integrated science and scientific investigations. In scientific investigations, students pursue their own STEM projects. One of those projects led to Hunger Not Impossible, a program where hungry students can sign up to get meals during the summer. It also grew into the Henley Food Pantry. In addition to helping with those projects, Fullerton assists with Key Club and student council.
“I enjoy working with kids, I truly do,” Fullerton said. “I really enjoy working with kids and getting to see when they figure something out. Building trust, learning to understand, and learning with them.”
Fullerton has spent 12 years in education, first as a child development specialist and then as a science teacher. She has been at Henley High for seven years.
Cathy Nevala has spent 18 years teaching art at Mazama High School. This is her 26th year of teaching, having previously taught in Helena, Montana. Over the years Nevala has taken pride in watching her students grow.
“I love watching the students problem-solve and think creatively, and become more divergent thinkers,” she said. “Watching them grow up from their freshmen year to their senior year I think is just fun watching them grow into adulthood. And art is a great means for it.”
Nevala, 51, teaches sculpture and two-dimensional art. In the past she has also taught photography and desktop publishing. Outside the classroom she teaches summer art camps at Mazama and leads her advanced art students to teach elementary students. She and her students also host Viking Art Night, where they teach the community.
“She has gone above and beyond with inclusion in her classes,” said Mazama Principal Steve Morosin, “not just creating a positive and accepting environment for the students with disabilities, but also using her own time to travel and take classes about how art can be therapeutic for students and incorporating those techniques into her classes.”
Nevala also participates in art shows, and is a member of the Klamath Art Association and a former member of the Oregon Art Association.
Aleasha Tacchini keeps focused on her students’ future during the crucial years of middle school.
“I want them to have the best possible future they can. To try and see the value in education, the opportunities it can open for them,” the special education teacher said. “And the importance of trying their best so that their future, the next step they move on to high school, they have the best chance to gain the most opportunities. Try to convince them they need it more than they want to believe.”
Tacchini, 43, is in her fourth year teaching at Henley Middle School and this is her 11th year teaching. She previously taught at Peterson Elementary, Klamath Basin Behavioral Health and worked in the Klamath Falls City Schools. Special education has always been her focus.
“Aleasha has the unique ability to transform the school experience for many students, especially the students who face enormous difficulties,” said Henley Middle School Principal Kristy Creed. “She has a deep awareness of students’ challenges and needs while going the extra mile to care, encourage and motivate them. … Our students will leave Henley Middle School knowing that Mrs. Tacchini genuinely valued them as human beings, saw their enormous potential and cheered them on along the way.”
At Henley Middle School students attend Tacchini’s class like other periods in the day, attending the classes they need. She teaches seventh and eighth grade math, two English classes and study skills. She also trains staff in crisis prevention and is an English language arts coach for special education in the district.
When training new teachers, the KCSD often sends them to watch Stacy Wright in her third grade class at Shasta Elementary.
“Ensuring high expectations for success is apparent in all she does. Mrs. Wright uses strong instructional strategies that bring learning to life for all kids,” said Shasta Principal David Wehr. “She exhibits all the qualities of an outstanding teacher: knowledgeable, dedicated, enthusiastic and professional.”
Wright, 45, has taught at Shasta for nine years. She has been a teacher for 19 years, starting her first year at Ferguson Elementary, then going to a small K-12 school in her home town in Nevada, before returning to Klamath Falls to teach at Shasta.
She said she enjoys teaching many different students over the years, and working with a team at Shasta.
“The No. 1 thing is being exposed to the different students that you get. The personality,” she said. “And the people that I work with. It definitely takes a team effort to be an effective teacher. We all learn so much from each other. That’s very rewarding. And it’s fun.”
In addition to teaching her students and running her classroom, Wright is on the English language arts team and creates exit tickets for instruction. She also helps newer teachers in the reading program. Outside the classroom she helps with the Mazama High School booster clubs, where her children participate in sports.
After 21 years in the classroom, Tess Gonzales is enjoying helping the second generation of students in her career at Ferguson Elementary School.
“Parents we saw as children are now bringing their children back to us,” she said. “There’s never a dull moment. Never are two days the same.”
Gonzales serves her students in a number of ways. She works with small groups of students in the special education classroom, focusing on reading and math. She also helps with recess duty and works in the cafeteria. And she completes secretarial work to help teachers stay caught up.
“Tess is a worthy recipient of the Crystal Apple Award because of her dedication to the profession, her love of the students, and her strong leadership skills,” said Ferguson Vice Principal Margaret Baker-McCadden. “The relationship she has built with students and their families over the years is one to be proud of. She has the trust and respect of all who know her.”
Jen Johnson’s library at Lost River Jr./Sr. High School is filled with inspirational words and posters, comfortable furniture and a welcoming atmosphere inviting students to get work done, or just come to read.
“I love that our students are comfortable in the library,” she said. “My goal has always been to have an open, inviting library, and I believe I have succeeded.”
Johnson, 48, has spent her entire 23 years in education at Lost River, where she impacts students in a number of ways. In addition to her job as librarian, she runs the ASPIRE program, and is advisor leadership, Leo’s Club and Prom. She assists with the South County Superstars and Tri School Carnival events.
In 2017, as part of her ASPIRE work, Johnson planned the first ever Signing Day at Lost River. The school and community celebrated 34 students as they signed onto their futures, whether it be for a two-year college, university or military service.
“It is always about the kids,” Johnson said. “Being their cheerleader, being their helper, being their assistant, being their second mom. That’s my whole reason for being where I’m at.”
“Jen can often be heard saying, ‘I’m here for the students,’” said social studies teacher Kjerstin Spark-Stahl, who nominated Johnson along with Principal Jamie Ongman. “When she says that, it is absolutely guaranteed that she means students of all backgrounds. Jen has been, is, and always will be here for the students.”
Students appreciate all that Johnson does for them. In all, 29 students gave testimonials praising Johnson on the nomination form Spark-Stahl submitted.
Outside the school, Johnson is a member of the Rural Tourism Basin Revitalization group, which promotes tourism in Merrill, Malin, Tulelake and Dorris. She is also an active member of the Malin Baptist Church, where she is seasonal decorator.
When students first arrive at Merrill Elementary, and when parents or community members come to visit, the person greeting them is secretary Terry Robinette.
“Terri is the happiest, most helpful secretary I have ever worked with,” said Principal Larita Ongman. “She is usually the first person parents meet and she treats the students like they are her own children.”
Robinette, 54, said her No. 1 role is communicator. She communicates between teachers and principals, students and principals, the school and home. In running Merrill’s front office, she wears many hats, including nurse, bookkeeper, security guard, friend, and second mom.
Over her 19 years as secretary, she has helped with the Merrill PPA and helped with athletics at Lost River when her children were in high school. She said she loves being a part of the Merrill Elementary community.
“It takes a village to raise a child, that is100 percent Merrill Elementary,” she said. “That’s what I get to be a part of.”