The Gateway To
Extraordinary Possibilities
2017 Employees of the Year
Please join us in congratulating the 2017 Washington Unified School District (WUSD) Employees of the Year. These six outstanding individuals have gone above and beyond in their roles for the district and are being recognized for their exceptional efforts that contribute hugely to school operations and the success of all students.

Each of the honorees underwent a district-wide review process. Nomination forms were made available to and accepted from colleagues, supervisors and the community at-large. WUSD staff reviewed nomination paperwork and semi-finalists were selected. Semi-finalists were involved in an interview process and the finalists were chosen. The following criteria were considered at each step of the process: work performance as described on the nomination form, school/community involvement, leadership and commitment, and service above and beyond.

The honorees will be formally recognized at the WUSD Employee Recognition Awards Dinner on May 16, 2017 at River City High School hosted by the Human Resources Department and event sponsors Lozano Smith. Honorees will also be recognized at the WUSD Employee Appreciation Night at Raley Field on May 19, 2017.

Check out our photo album for a closer look as we surprised the recipients.  The following biographical sketches were excerpted from their nomination forms.
Elementary Teacher of the Year
Heather Best— Ms. Best is an amazing, positive, and competent educator at Stonegate Elementary. She has been with the WUSD for 18 years. During those years she has built lasting relationships with students and staff; so much so that former students often visit her classroom to start their day off well.

The culture and climate in Ms. Best’s classroom is one of support and teamwork. Students who previously had behavior challenges and strong academic needs, are now thriving and working at high levels along with their peers. Ms. Best is also an innovative teacher that uses technology to engage students in focused learning. Rarely does she have to redirect students during work time.

Ms. Best is modest in sharing her accomplishments, but the work she does at Stonegate with students and families is remarkable. Her passion as a child was to become a teacher and that is evident in her teaching.
Secondary Teacher of the Year
Stephanie KuglerMs. Kugler has taught at Bridgeway Island Elementary for five years. She is a dedicated, caring, insightful, and highly effective teacher that spends many hours in preparation for her classes focusing on developing critical thinking skills in her students.

Ms. Kugler is adept at the use of technology in supporting student learning. In her first year she was awarded the Innovative Educator Grant. She has extensively incorporated technology in the classroom and also leads trainings for other teachers on best practices with EdTech.

She is the staff advisor for the National Junior Honor Society helping grow the group from nine members to 60. Her students participate in field trips to college campuses such as Stanford and UC Berkeley, because she believes in connecting student learning with real world experiences. For her 8th grade students she coordinated, fundraised and planned a visit to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and the Legion of Fine Art Museum in San Francisco. 

There is no limit to Ms. Kugler’s potential as an educator based on her commitment to making learning relevant for her students. 
Support Staff of the Year
Alex Yang—Mr. Yang has been with the District for 18 years.  The past nine years he has served as the Outreach Specialist at Bridgeway Island. In those years he has demonstrated outstanding service and commitment to the families in the West Sacramento community.  

Mr. Yang meets with students and families regularly to help connect them to academic and personal resources to meet their needs. His approachable demeanor makes it easy to build trust and develop relationships with the students and their families.

Mr. Yang is very active and dedicated to the students of Washington Unified, so much so that he voluntarily developed a sports program for elementary students after school. He was also very instrumental in the behind the scenes development of the now very successful 6-8 grade sports program. Since the program’s inception, Mr. Yang has coached flag football and basketball for Westmore Oaks, Stonegate and Bridgeway Island.  

Mr. Yang has a great rapport and everlasting bond with students that go beyond the scope of his job. He is dedicated, punctual, dependable, and a true advocate for the community for which he serves.  
Classified Employee of the Year
Gloria Dunham—Ms. Dunham is one of a kind. She has been part of the WUSD family for the past eleven years currently serving as the Cook Manager at Southport Elementary School. Her love and dedication for every single student and passion for cooking goes without parallel.

Ms. Dunham tries to impact the school culture by creating a loving environment where all students feel welcomed. Making the students feel valued and boosting their confidence is something she has incorporated in her job duties. She truly makes a connection with the students, and they are always appreciative.

Feeding the students is only part of what makes Ms. Dunham special. She goes above and beyond in helping the school with food and snacks for special events, parent meetings, promotional ceremonies, and after school programs. She works tirelessly to ensure healthy and delicious meals are provided and she is always eager to help where needed.
Classified Employee of the Year
Armando VelezMr. Velez is a Groundkeeper II employed by the District for thirty-seven years. He takes immense pride in what he does and was previously recognized by Sacramento Bee with the Above and Beyond Award. Mr. Velez enjoys his job, greeting parents and community members but most of all interacting with the students. He feels it is important for children to see him happy and enjoying what he does.

Mr. Velez has worn many hats during his employment serving as a custodian site utility worker and a coach. He also wears his famous “Cheese Head” hat when the Green Bay Packers win because it cheers up the students and makes them laugh. Mr. Velez strives to have a positive impact and interaction with all students. On Fridays, he visits study hall to check in on student athletes encouraging them to stay ahead of the game in academics.

As a conscientious worker, Mr. Velez frequently adjusts his work tasks as to not interrupt classroom instruction with noise from the equipment he uses. He understands the impact that he has on the campus from beautification to instruction to relationships. He focuses on his job and doing it well.  When asked what advice he would give a new co-worker, he stated, “You work for the community and the kids.”
Volunteer of the Year
Laura Federico—Ms. Federico has been past President of the Southport Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and has served in a variety of roles as a PTO member and currently functions as the fundraising chairperson. Her contributions have made a significant impact on the Southport Elementary community helping to create many after school programs including Spanish 1, 2 and mini-Spanish, a cooking class sponsored by the University of California Davis (UCD), YOGA, Google Programming, Chess Club, and many more. 

She has aided in the research and implementation of an Art Docent Program for grades TK-4 and has successfully recruited over 25 parent and grandparent volunteers to teach art each week. Laura has also written a grant to purchase curriculum for the Art Docent Program and Spanish curriculum and worked tirelessly to establish a strong partnership with the Crocker Art Museum offering enriching opportunities for all students. Additionally, she has written countless grants for miscellaneous campus activities including field trips, garden supplies and upgrades, cancer protection for students—the list goes on and on. 

Ms. Federico is a pillar of support for Southport Elementary, a dedicated community member and parent. Her tireless dedication and energy for serving our students creates a true Gateway to Extraordinary Possibilities for all children.
Celebrate with us! 
Purchase one our discounted tickets to the May 19th River Cats game and join us for the 2017 WUSD Employee Appreciation Night.

This year’s honorees will be recognized on the field during the pregame activities and one honoree will get to throw out the first pitch! 
To place your order, please complete and return this ORDER FORM with payment to the Superintendent’s Office. Deadline to order tickets is Friday, May 12th. Make checks payable to River Cat s.
Please contact Giorgos Kazanis at
(916) 375-7600 ext. 1235 or [email protected]