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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Education Notebook: Valley educators win regional recogintion

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

West Valley School District elementary literacy interventionist Gina Behrens has been named the regional 2023 Teacher of the Year by the Northeast Washington Educational Service District 101.

Behrens, who works at Woodard Elementary, was selected by a committee based on nominations they received. She is now eligible to be considered for the Washington State Teacher of the Year award.

She has been an educator for 29 years and her current work includes coaching staff in best practices in delivery of instruction and differentiated instruction designed to meet the needs of individual students.

“The level of knowledge of expertise that Gina Behrens brings to students, families and staff at Seth Woodard helps fuel a community wide learning culture where quality and distinction are prioritized,” said Principal Mike Lollar. “As a reading interventionist, Gina is able to consistently bring students from measurable low levels in reading and elevate them to grade level or higher relative to their peers.”

West Valley Superintendent Kyle Rydell also praised Behrens. “Gina has come to a point in her career as an educator where her talents can be shared and celebrated beyond the Seth Woodard school building and West Valley School District,” he said. “Her vision, passion, communication skills and work ethic will make her an excellent representative for Washington State.”

ESD 101 also named Anthony “Tony” Collins of the Central Valley School District as the Classified Employee of the Year. Collins, who has worked at Horizon Middle School for 25 years, was once a student at the school as well. He works as a behavior interventionist in general and special education classes.

“Even when students were participating in school virtually, Tony still worked to meet with his students and their parents,” said Principal Joshua Wolcott. “Never with complaint and always with a student-centered approach, Tony continued to reach out to our most at-risk students who were doubly at-risk in a virtual learning environment and continued to have them connected to Horizon and their teachers.”


The Salvation Army is asking parents who would like to pick up free backpacks filled with school supplies during the 13th annual Backpacks for Kids event in August to register in advance online.

Any child in grades K-12 can receive a backpack filled with age-appropriate school supplies. Distribution day is scheduled for Aug. 17 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (or until supplies run out) at 204 E. Indiana Ave. The Salvation Army plans to distribute 4,000 backpacks this year.

The goal of offering registration is to speed up the lines on distribution day. Parents can sign their children up in advance by visiting and clicking on the “Register: Backpacks for Kids” box.

The annual event is offered in collaboration with nomnom convenience stores. There are donation jars in nomnom locations througout Spokane County to raise the money for the backpacks and supplies. Anyone who makes a donation will receive a coupon for a free 20-ounce soda or 20-ounce coffee.

Since the program began, the Salvation Army has distributed 49,000 backpacks to local students and nonnom has raised nearly $500,000.


Northwest Farm Credit Services has awarded $2,500 college scholarships to students across its five-state territory, for a total of $235,000 in scholarships.

Regional winners are: Joshua Christensen, of Spokane, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Cameron Dickey, of Medical Lake, Washington State University; Tate Foster-Nonnenmacher, of Davenport, Washington State University; Austin Kern, of Moses Lake, Washington State University; Dakota Killian, of Ritzville, Bringham Young University; Sydney Kinch, of Washtucna, Spokane Falls Community College; Julia Klein, of Ritzville, Southern Nazarene University; Alianna Koesel, of Elk, Lipscomb University; Allison Lenssen, of Pullman, Montana State University; Hailey Manzo, of Moses Lake, Big Bend Community College; Maggie Meyer, of Colton, Oregon State University; Emily Scrupps, of Ritzville, University of Idaho; Lauren Stubbs, of LaCrosse, Washington State University; Madelynn Wagner, of Odessa, Washington State University.

2022 Roadeo winners

Three East Valley School District drivers are head to nationals after placing first in their categories at the state Roadeo, a school bus safety competition. Drivers and assistants compete against each other using their skills in precision driving and knowledge of laws.

Byron Schneider received first place in general education with a conventional bus and Angie Pinyerd and Terri Putney won first place in the special needs division at the June competition in Kennewick.

Staff writer Skylynne McCaughey contributed to this report.