In early March, Evergreen Elementary School third-grade teacher Therese Souers got a big surprise.
School principal Hugh Maxwell suddenly called an emergency staff meeting in the school library.
“He said district superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto was here and wanted to get together with us,” Souers recalled.
“We all thought it was going to be bad news, but then Chuck said he had good news—that someone on our staff had won the Ellen Fay Award. And he called my name,” she said.
Souers said she was more than a little embarrassed, but quickly decided it felt like an honor.
Unknown to her, Maxwell and several other Evergreen staffers, including office manger Betty McCord, fourth-grade teacher Susan Henderson and counselor Denise Doering-Burmark, had nominated her to receive the award, which is given about six times every school year, Maxwell said.
The award was named after the district’s longtime human resources administrator Ellen Fay who was well-known for her kindness and her ability to remember people’s birthdays and other special days.
When Fay retired, the district created an award in her honor to be given to any district employee whose commitment goes “above and beyond” what is expected, Maxwell said.
Souers is one of those people.
“Therese is always willing to do the extra thing that needs to be done,” he said. “She pushes herself and she’s always trying to learn new things and get better.
“In this educational climate which has so many expectations, she goes above and beyond to help our students be successful whatever level they’re at,” Maxwell said. “She gives a lot of additional time and she inspires us all, including me, to work harder and do more.”
Souers has also been the primary reason Evergreen has a complete set of Chromebooks and other computer equipment, Maxwell added, because of her grant-writing skills.
“She’s a huge proponent of integrating technology to motivate and engage our students so they can grow and move forward,” he said. “She’s our tech support person in the building, but she just takes off and writes grants and has a way of finding different funding sources that aren’t really obvious.”
In her previous job, Souers was director of development at Green River Community College. “That’s the fundraising arm of the college,” she said.
“I’ve done grant writing and I’ve overseen grant writers, so I know the process and I know what it takes to write a grant and how to identify sources that may hit what we want. Those things all need to come together. It’s not an easy thing for people who don’t have experience in it,” she said.
Souers also developed an after-school program that teaches kids to use the new Chromebooks. This year, they’re studying 3-D programming and 3-D printing. She even managed to get a loan of a 3-D printer from a private company.
She said she plans to have the kids create a school newspaper on the Chromebooks.
But the best thing about the after-school program is the fact that when the students go back into their classrooms, they’re able to teach their classmates how to use the technology, she said.
“They’re the experts and they’re teaching their peers. How the other kids look at them has totally changed, their self-esteem has grown,” Souers said. “And they’re also teaching the teachers about the possibilities of it. Their self-respect and everything has just totally changed.”
It’s that type of change that motivates Souers to go the extra mile and keep looking for grants to bring more technology to Evergreen, Maxwell said.
“Evergreen is such a great school and this is such a great community. We have a great staff who are all about caring for the kids. And that’s what motivates me,” Souers said.
And the results of that motivation earned her the Ellen Fay Award.