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2019-2020 Employees of the Year!

The Sunnyvale School District is so proud to announce our 2019-2020 Employees of the year!

Teacher of the Year

Debbie Wiseth

San Miguel is proud to nominate Debbie Wiseth as the Teacher of the Year. Debbie is currently a third-grade teacher and is dynamic in the classroom. She presents lessons that inform and engage her students. She has tackled distance learning with a “can do” attitude and was instrumental in the new Fountas and Pinnell literacy curriculum pilot and subsequent rollout. Debbie has often said, “give me everything and I’ll figure it out. I’ll make mistakes, but that’s the only way I’ll learn and grow.” She embodies the phrase “warm demander” with high standards for student performance, ownership of student achievement data, and a growth mindset for her own professional practice and growth.

She keeps her students on task and demands that they be responsible for their learning. She knows and cares deeply about her students in and outside the classroom. In the last two years, Debbie has had two students with exceptional needs and strengths. In these cases, she is not only a warm demander for the student but for the parents. It is not uncommon for a parent to share in a meeting, that they are unhappy with the school, but “Ms. Wiseth has done a lot for my kid and family.” Debbie is responsive and open to the needs of our students, parents, and families and often works as an advocate for them.

In her classroom both online and also in person, you see students on task, participating and discussing the math problem on the board, and sharing what they know using their iPads. It is common for all the students to be able to apply their knowledge and learning to the task at hand so that 100% of the students have the right answer. Even wrong answers are used as a teaching tool in the classroom. These are used to clarify misnomers and also show that although having the right answer is good, learning from mistakes and trying hard matter more.

A colleague said, “I can always count on her to add to the teaching profession. She understands student needs and how to design curriculum.” Another colleague said, “She delves into learning the curriculum and goes above and beyond to develop lessons.” As an experienced teacher, Debbie works to continually sharpen her skills in and outside the classroom. She has and continues to serve on multiple district committees. Some examples include FPC pilot, Science pilot, Grade level leadership/grade level facilitator. When a colleague has an emergency, Debbie is always willing to step in and support! She’ll take your class, write your lesson plans, check in on your sub; whatever you need. The hardest thing is that you sometimes have to tell Debbie to stop and take a breath.

It is because of her leadership that we are able to intervene and support student social-emotional, behavioral and academic needs.

She brings fun and is an integral part of our school culture. She organizes our annual secret Santa exchange, sets up showers, welcomes new staff members, and checks in with everyone on campus. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being on San Miguel’s campus, you have had the pleasure of being greeted by Debbie.

Debbie Wiseth is a talented educator with a personal growth mindset, the demeanor of a warm demander, and an advocate for the school and for our community. We are proud that she is our nominee for Teacher of the Year.

Classified Employee of the Year

Siobhan TapiaSiobhan Tapia is our outreach assistant and 4/5 grade aide. She goes above and beyond in role on a daily basis.

She connects with students and families before, during, and after school to be sure families have what they need and are aware of resources available to them. She is always speaking with and helping parents.

Siobhan works very well with staff, students, and parents. She is able to assist in the classroom setting, does outreach with phone calls, coordinates the food distribution program, supports coordination of PTA events, coordinates parent education classes, and provides translation at parent conferences and other meetings. During registration, she provides additional support to both the office staff and families be providing translation for our Spanish speaking families and supporting them with the completion of Infosnap. She regularly supports the office staff when a team member is out. She is a true team player and steps up to support in any way that she can on campus.

Siobhan makes sure she has everything done while going above and beyond for others. She promptly responds to the needs of students and communicates with parents in a timely manner to resolve issues that need to be addressed. She recognizes when immediate support is needed and reaches out to the appropriate people or organizations for additional support. She works to recruit and train volunteers (both staff and parents) to support distributions throughout the school. During school closure, she has played an integral role in connecting with families, getting them connected to teachers and distance learning, and helping to coordinate distributions. When the school began our second food distribution with the Assistance League of Los Altos, she immediately asked how she could help. She picked up produce, sorted, and bagged items within a couple of hours. She is connected to the community in so many ways and our families know she is someone they can rely on for support. She is positive and empowers the families she is working with to become advocates for their children and their education. Siobhan Tapia is amazing!

Always at work, takes care of others, helps with so much! She coordinates events, food distribution, parent engagement activities with little guidance and support. She is quick to respond to the translation needs of teachers and administrators and knows how to prioritize them. She takes every opportunity to be available and reaches out to assist staff, students, and parents in thoughtful, helpful ways. Siobhan is such an asset to the success of Vargas School!

Management Team Members of the Year

Jeremy NishiharaTasked with the daunting and unprecedented job of preparing a whole school district to move to distance learning IN CASE it happened (only DAYS before it actually did happen) Jon WattsJeremy and Jonathan took a systematic and focused approach to build capacity on an almost impossible timeline. They assembled a small cadre of tech leaders with a solid framework that allowed the competent teachers and coaches to collaboratively build out the initial phase of learning online through school facilities closures. They simultaneously set up a way for families to communicate device and internet needs even as they worked to order mobile hot spots. This first phase provided a shared and cohesive platform for learning that also allowed for families and district personnel to understand needs in order to coordinate support.

Through a constant cycle of communication and feedback. Jon and Jeremy came to understand the barriers, fears, and the community’s needs. They moved mountains to address our teaching staff’s wide-range of experience and comfort levels related to launching distance learning programs across all grade levels with short notice. They set up a centralized website for communication templates, supported the district’s use of common platforms, made HOW TO support videos tailored for our contexts, and provided organized links and resources to support the four essential elements of a clear distance learning framework. In addition, Jon hosted daily Office Hours with responsive professional development for teachers, while Jeremy worked behind the scenes to problem solve and coordinate at all levels so that teachers and staff felt supported through unprecedented learning and growth through an unprecedented time. These two management team members’ Herculean efforts to understand and respond to needs from a variety of constituencies allowed SSD’s distance learning ship to sail forward smoothly, even as it was being built.

Mr. Watts and Mr. Nishihara lead with humor, humility, and deep empathy and compassion for those they are supporting in order to move forward together. They demonstrate collaborative leadership-driven to support the organization as a whole through transparency, hard work, and proactive inquiry as they constantly co-construct goals towards new possibilities. Sunnyvale School District is rising to the immense challenges of schools shutting down. We are making headway in meeting the needs of diverse constituencies with equity and grit in large part because of these leaders’ foresight, quiet leadership, and commitment to our community’s growth and learning. We are proud of ourselves for all we have done. And we have been able to do it because of the quiet, responsive leadership of Jon Watts and Jeremy Nishihara.

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