Meet the 2019 Kennewick School District Staff Excellence Award Winners.

These outstanding employees go above and beyond to help our students succeed and to make our schools better. They make a difference, and we’re grateful for all they do for the Kennewick School District. We surprised our winners with their awards this past week. To watch videos of the special moments, go to

Chad Foltz

Administrator of the Year: Chad Foltz
Chad Foltz, principal of Amon Creek Elementary, is the “epitome of the word ‘leader’” and the “prime example of effective leadership,” his colleagues say. He leads by making sure his door is always open to staff, by getting out into classrooms and ensuring teachers have what they need, and by reaching out to other administrators as a mentor. He also connects with students and makes them feel like they belong and can succeed. He even created special achievement awards for students and personally hands them out.

Johanna Gerry

Creativity in Curriculum: Johanna Gerry
Several colleagues paid Johanna Gerry one of the highest compliments possible for an educator: they said the Chinook Middle School teacher is exactly who they’d want instructing their own children in math. She’s creative and innovative in her teaching and has become a model for math instruction district wide. Her classroom is a stop on learning walks made by teachers and administrators from other buildings who want to see great instruction in action.

Cindy Crane

Staff Support Person of the Year: Cindy Crane
Cindy Crane, custodian at Vista Elementary, is known for her cheerful greetings. One colleague says that hearing her call out, “Good morning, sunshine!” starts the morning off right. Another colleague says that “if you come in feeling crummy, you just have to walk by her office” and that will soon change. Students also flock to her and have found connection, support and confidence working with her.

Debbie Moore
Staff Support Person of the Year: Debbie Moore
Debbie Moore, secretary at Sage Crest Elementary, is known for being unflappable. She always remains patient, even when things are busy or stressful. She also has a knack for anticipating needs and making sure the Sage Crest staff is prepared for what’s ahead. She’s also known for innovation, including helping to start an attendance recognition program.

Carol Mattair
Staff Support Person of the Year: Carol Mattair
Carol Mattair’s colleagues at Chinook Middle School say she brightens up the room when she walks in. The paraeducator is known for having a kind spirit and for working hard to build positive relationships with students. She even does the day’s homework assignments on her own time each night so that she’s better prepared to help her students the next day with any questions.

Noemi Morales
Certificated Specialist of the Year: Noemi Morales
Colleagues describe Noemi Morales, a counselor at Amistad Elementary, as inexhaustible. She’s one of the first people in the building each morning, and she’s often one of the last to leave at night. They also cherish her bright spirit, saying that her positive attitude and enthusiasm are contagious – spreading to students, parents, staff and others around her.

Audrey Hickman
Elementary Teacher of the Year: Audrey Hickman
Audrey Hickman's colleagues at Ridge View Elementary School say she's a perfect fit for her job as a kindergarten teacher. She helps her students learn important skills, and instills in them a love for learning and for school. She also shares her expertise and excitement about teaching with her colleagues, serving as a resource and a source of encouragement.

Jessica D'Aquila
Middle School Teacher of the Year: Jessica D’Aquila
Jessica D’Aquila, a special education teacher at Desert Hills Middle School, is known for her skill and organization. She’s also known for her ability to stay calm when things become hectic. Her colleagues say she’s an exceptional educator, and she’s become a model for special education instruction districtwide. In the words of her principal, she’s “awesome in every way.”

Lt. Col. Curt Wichers
High School Teacher of the Year: Lt. Col. Curt Wichers
Lt. Col. Curt Wichers is a U.S. Air Force veteran and commander of Kennewick High School's Air Force JROTC program. His colleagues say he’s an exemplary teacher who is molding his cadets into strong leaders who contribute to the community. During his tenure, the JROTC program has done everything from host major competitions to dazzle a visiting U.S. congressman.