North Thurston Public Schools Celebrates Educators Who Embody a Culture of Kindness

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Submitted by North Thurston Public Schools

A key ingredient to successful learning is ensuring our schools are places where everyone feels encouraged, supported and part of a community. During the 2023-24 school year, North Thurston Public Schools celebrated staff members who reflect a culture of kindness, our district theme for the year.

Thank you and congratulations to these NTPS staff members who demonstrate the kindness we want to see in our community! We asked each honoree to reflect on what a Culture of Kindness means to them:

Charles Weik, special education teacher at Timberline High School

A calm, kind, and patient educator who authentically engages with his students and builds positive relationships with them.

“A culture of kindness, to me, is doing what you can to make the world a better place. This can be listening to others, supporting others and even just caring for others. This culture is not built upon the randomness of the acts but rather by incorporating these acts into our daily routine through positive interactions such as greeting one another, lending a helping hand when it’s needed and seeking to build each other up in every interaction. I believe that we can influence those around us positively by being the positivity we want to see.”

Margarita Dunlap, NTPS district bilingual liaison

Helps connect countless families this school year with information and resources and helps ensure families feel engaged and welcomed to our district.

“A Culture of Kindness is one where everyone contributes to making everyone successful, even when you must go out of your way to make things happen. It’s a selfless act demonstrated by the entire team.”

Cindi Bertram, library paraeducator at Aspire Performing Arts Academy

Brings enthusiasm and love to work each day and nurtures an environment of belonging at Aspire.

“Being your true self.”

Cindi Bertram, library paraeducator at Aspire Performing Arts Academy. Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

Luke Nelson, school counselor at Lakes Elementary School

Connects with students and families on a deep level and remembers the smallest details about home culture and family.

“A Culture of Kindness is one that reminds people that they are valuable, loved, and created with purpose. It’s extending compassion, forgiveness and patience to everyone we meet or interact with on any given day. It’s treating others the way you want to be treated. Sometimes, it’s leaving convenience at the door and sacrificially giving to others. Sometimes, it’s as simple as sharing a smile or greeting someone by name. It’s finding points of agreement, meeting people where they’re at, offering a listening ear and finding ways to build each other up through genuine encouragement.”

Luke Nelson, school counselor at Lakes Elementary School. Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

Lorissa Brose, health and fitness teacher at River Ridge High School

Enthusiastic and caring teacher who encourages students to be inclusive and supportive by teaching a special needs/adapted physical education class.  

“When there is a culture of kindness, all participants feel cared for, safe, included, and valued. I strive to create this environment in all my classes. I encourage students to be inclusive of their peers, acknowledging that we all come from different backgrounds and celebrating our differences – understanding that it is our differences that ultimately help build a more diverse and robust group.”

Lorissa Brose, health and fitness teacher at River Ridge High School. Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

Caitlin Morrison, school counselor at Meadows Elementary School

Reaches out to families to offer specific resources and help guide them through the process of getting support with bills, car payments, extra food, clothing and other basic needs.

“Creating and being a part of a culture of kindness starts within myself. Choosing to have compassion and empathy with others is a conscious choice that I try to make every day. We create this kind of culture and community at our schools and model to our students how to treat others. Life can be very challenging and trying for all of us at times and choosing to be gentle and kind with others always makes life sweeter and worthwhile. I believe having authenticity and being down to earth and being approachable creates a culture of warmth and kindness.”

Karly Enlow, ASB, athletics and finance assistant at North Thurston High School

Keeps her focus on student success and supporting the NTHS team.

“A culture of kindness means being respectful of everyone’s views and opinions in life, knowing that we may not all agree, while trying to keep a calm and inviting environment for everyone.”

Karly Enlow, ASB, athletics and finance assistant at North Thurston High School Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

Tom Harn, paraeducator at South Bay Elementary School

Helps create a positive, welcoming environment for South Bay students, staff, bus drivers and visitors.

“We all lead busy lives. We all get absorbed in our day-to-day activities and sometimes we need a moment to pause and enjoy a treat. I like Wednesdays at South Bay Elementary, because it’s treat day. I get to wear a bright tropical shirt and carry around a bag filled with treats for all our staff, bus drivers, district workers and volunteers. I really like making people smile and for a moment connecting with them and hopefully making their day a little brighter and better.
Smiles and kindness are contagious. I have no idea what people are going through in their lives.  So, offering a smile and a treat is something I can do to make everyone feel appreciated for how hard they work. One of our core values here is to be kind. It’s my job to foster that culture and encourage positive interactions. I like to “HARNess” the Kindness.”

Tom Harn, paraeducator at South Bay Elementary School. Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

Autumn Cummings, assistant principal at Pleasant Glade and Chambers Prairie Elementary Schools

Supports school paraeducators in aligning their supervision with student social-emotional goals, and offers training, coaching, and support on restorative practices for staff.

“Building positive relationships and supporting one another with empathy and compassion within our schools. This promotes a sense of community within our school where everyone belongs and is kind to one another. It creates a ripple effect in the community when we focus on kindness. It might start small as a smile or giving a compliment and can grow into volunteering and giving back to our community in so many ways. Every act of kindness counts.”

Autumn Cummings, assistant principal at Pleasant Glade and Chambers Prairie Elementary Schools. Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

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