School District Awards Golden Apples Awards, Lockdown Meant it Took a Few Months

The school year ended early, which among other things interrupted the awarding of the 509J School District’s Golden Apple Awards. The District issued the awards anyway, granting a gold-colored apple-shaped bell, their names added to a plaque in the District board room, and a cash prize to the District’s outstanding teachers and support staff. The Golden Apple Awards have been the Corvallis School District’s most prestigious educator award since they were established in 1996 with a gift by Mario Pastega.  

Julie Catala, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent and Board of Directors, was honored at a central office staff meeting in February, with the Golden Apple and a Stellar Service Award. 

Irma Banuelos, a Kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, received her Golden Apple at a morning assembly on 6 March. She was recognized as a valued mentor in the Dual Language Immersion program, helping and supporting teachers as they build their professional skills. “Ms. Banuelos holds students to high standards, and because of the love and consistency that she showers them with, they want to rise,” said fellow teacher Kara Olsen. “Being a kindergarten teacher is her calling in life.”  

Wilfredo Echeverria received the third award later that same day at Linus Pauling Middle School. In addition to teaching math in both Spanish and English, Mr. Echeverria leads the school’s LGBTQ+ club and is a member of the District Equity Leadership Team Advisory group. “Mr. Echeverria actively seeks out opportunities for learning,” said Nikki McFarland, Secondary Teaching and Learning Coordinator for the Corvallis School District. 

Because of school closures in mid-March, the last two awards were presented on 10 April by Superintendent Noss at a virtual staff meeting. The high school teaching award went to Ms. Gloria Kussalanant, Corvallis High School Spanish teacher. “Ms Kussalanant has an infectious spirit that infuses in her students a love of the Spanish language and motivation to immerse themselves in Spanish the minute they step in her classroom,” stated Paul Navarra, Corvallis High School assistant principal.  She is a leader in efforts to recruit and retain students of color and students navigating poverty in Advanced Placement classes. 

Another award went to Corvallis High School Learning Resource Center Educational Assistant Judy Storie. “Ms. Storie has a knack for connecting with students,” said CHS teacher Eric Dazey. She was also celebrated for her role as swimming coach.  “CHS swimmers always know they are part of something bigger than themselves, that there is room in the pool for everyone, and that there is no ceiling on what can be accomplished together.” 

Storie Colleague Makes Wryly Humorous Video in her Honor
Sean Gettings is an educational assistant at Corvallis High School, and he is also an actor and comedian. During the lockdown Gettings headed to Osborn Aquatic Center to prepare for the Corvallis High School Swim Team, he knew it would be closed, of course. He dedicates the resulting video to all his friends, students and the staff at CHS.  

By John M. Burt