One of the highlights of both the closing and opening assemblies for Washington School District staff is the presentation of the WINGS Foundation awards.

WINGS presents two awards each year — its Educational Excellence Award, also known as Teacher of the Year, and the Support Staff Person of the Year.

This year WINGS announced changes to both the nomination and selection process in an effort to recognize more staff members.

Brad Mitchell with WINGS spoke at the district’s closing ceremony Wednesday morning at Washington High School. More than 650 district employees were in attendance.

Mitchell said WINGS feels strongly about recognizing as many wonderful staff as possible, as a result made some changes, with the most notable being anyone can now nominate someone for the awards.

“We’ve also decided to begin announcing the finalists for each award and then naming the winner at different times of year,” he said.

Support Staff Award

At Wednesday’s program, Mitchell announced the six finalists and winner for Support Staff Person of the Year. The finalists include:

Dawn Beste, Washington West Elementary paraprofessional;

Penny Wilmesherr, Washington High School secretary;

Dave Wells, Washington High School custodian;

Paula Mueller, technology network technician;

Craig Vonder Haar, communication and web manager; and

Nancy Shiels, Washington Middle School secretary.

“All of these individuals provide unique services to the district that directly or indirectly support students and the mission of our district,” said Mitchell, who announced Wilmesherr as the winner. She received $1,000.

Teacher of Year

Finalists for the Teacher of Year also were announced Wednesday morning. The winner will be named at the WINGS Hall of Honor banquet Sept. 29.

“The winner also will be able to serve as our Regional Teacher of Year nominee next year, representing the district,” Mitchell said.

WINGS received many nominations for the award and six finalists were selected. They are:

Dan Brinkmann, Four Rivers Career Center auto tech instructor;

Cody Stapel, Washington West Elementary special education teacher;

Melissa Ziegler, Washington Middle School science teacher;

Tim Branson, Washington High School No Excuses teacher;

Heather Clark, South Point Elementary counselor; and

Jennifer Maune, Augusta Elementary third-grade teacher.

Mitchell said all these teachers have shown exemplary passion for the work they perform with students.

“Their dedication and skills are to be commended and we recognize that they all bring specific gifts to the table,” he said. “These individuals also share one observable common trait — doing what is best for kids.”

This group represents career and tech ed, special education, regular education and guidance counseling.

“We are thrilled to recognize each of them,” he said.

All of the finalists were recognized on stage and presented with gifts.