For my final article of the 2020-2021 school year, I would like to highlight an upcoming event and acknowledge the many educators who have a hand in making West Fargo Public Schools the district of choice.

In a first of its kind, West Fargo Public Schools is celebrating staff accomplishments and years of service at the annual staff recognition party on Monday, June 14. The newly formatted district staff recognition party honors the 2021-2022 Staff of the Year Award winners, state-level educator of the year awards, Apple Teachers, 2020-2021 retirees, and those meeting a significant milestone for years of service to West Fargo Public Schools.

Liberty Middle School is the host of this year’s party, with the official recognition party scheduled for 4– 4:30 p.m. in the school’s theater. A social and community celebration is scheduled from 4:30– 5:30PM p.m., with light refreshments and musical entertainment provided.

West Fargo Public Schools recognizes two district employees through our Staff of the Year Program. Nominees for the award are nominated by colleagues, students, parents, and/or community members through a letter of support highlighting the nominee’s commitment to education, professional development, and dedication to the West Fargo community.

Lisa Vasichek, lead school nurse, was awarded the 2021–2022 Classified Staff of the Year Award. Vasichek’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic was invaluable to not only the school district, but the community: As stated in her nomination, “The efforts that she has helped lead across the district throughout this past year to get us to the point we are at right now, back to a fully on-site, in-person instruction model, is more than deserving of recognition.”

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Jessica Camacho, a reading teacher at Deer Creek Elementary School, was awarded the 2021–2022 Professional/Licensed Staff of the Year Award. Mrs. Camacho was described in her nomination as an educator who “always brings great ideas to the table and builds great relationships with students, staff, and families. She finds ways to build her students up, while showing dedication and care for their growth; her students adore her.”

In addition to our own recognition program, the district also had two administrators honored at the state level:

Dr. Denise Jonas, Director of CTE, was presented the North Dakota Career and Technical Education Association (NDCTEA) Administrator of the Year Award. In their announcement, NDCTEA stated “[ Jonas] is a tireless leader and advocate for career and technical education and is recognized by educators, business and industry supporters on the local, state, regional, and national level as a thoughtful and driven person with a vision to make an impact on CTE.”

Dr. Jennifer Fremstad, principal of West Fargo High School, was named the North Dakota Principal of the Year by the North Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals (NDASSP). The NASSP National Principal of the Year program recognizes outstanding middle school and high school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools, and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity select one middle school or high school principal to represent their state. As a state winner, Fremstad will be considered for a finalist spot for the National Principal of the Year Award.

Finally, I would like to honor and congratulate our retirees. The years prior to retirement are typically a time when our veteran staff can relax a little because of the vast well of knowledge and skills they have developed through their many years of experience. They are often utilized as mentors to staff new to the field, to help ease their uncertainties about their new role. This past year was so different. Everyone was in the same boat: uncomfortable. The rapid rate of technology advancements has been a huge learning curve for many of our veterans, me included, even prior to COVID-19. With the world-wide pandemic, teachers were given a two-week notice to quickly learn how to educate their students virtually. This was not easy. This fall, they were thrown a new curve: teach virtually and face-to-face at the same time.

This also wasn’t easy. But through it all, we continued to persevere, because every staff member at West Fargo Public Schools is dedicated to our mission of educating today’s learners or tomorrow’s world. If you see any of these wonderful retirees out and about this summer, please thank them for their dedicated service to the students and families of West Fargo Public Schools.

Debra Beeler, Speech-Language Pathologist, L.E. Berger Elementary School

36 Years of Service

Connie Binstock, Custodian, Independence Elementary School, 10 Years of Service

Cathy Birrenkott, English Learner Teacher, Freedom Elementary School, 31 Years of Service

Diane Bjornson, Library Media Specialist, Aurora Elementary School, 27 Years of Service

Mary Kay Boeshans, Reading Teacher, Willow Park Elementary School, 33 Years of Service

Allen Burgad, Secondary Assistant Superintendent, 8 Years of Service

Robert Conrad, Bus Driver, 15 Years of Service

Nanci Dauwen, Math Teacher, Sheyenne High School, 16 Years of Service

Penelope Eckelberg, Paraprofessional, L.E. Berger Elementary School, 22 Years of Service

Kay Edwards, Paraprofessional, Osgood Elementary School, 26 Years of Service

Gwyn Erickson, Fourth Grade Teacher, Willow Park Elementary School, 15 Years of Service

Eva Fercho, Administrative Assistant, Sheyenne High School, 5 Years of Service

Jay Gibson, Business Teacher, Sheyenne High School, 30 Years of Service

Nancy Hansen, Paraprofessional, Aurora Elementary School,25 Years of Service

Robin Hill, Director of Human Resources, 24 Years of Service

Larry Johnson, Bus Driver, 7 Years of Service

Robin Johnson, Second Grade Teacher, Aurora Elementary School, 30 Years of Service

Kevin Kessler, Paraprofessional, Liberty Middle School, 2 Years of Service

Terry Koppang, Custodian, Willow Park Elementary School, 23 Years of Service

Donald Lennon, Principal, Cheney Middle School, 27 Years of Service

Kim Lien, Administrative Assistant, Sheyenne High School, 11 Years of Service

Cynthia Metcalf, Operations Supervisor, Food Service Department, 24 Years of Service

Linda Moe, Paraprofessional, L.E. Berger Elementary School, 21 Years of Service

Karen Morrison Music Teacher, Cheney Middle School, 40 Years of Service

Lawrence Ries, Bus Driver, 12 Years of Service

Scott Sanders, Maintenance Worker, 34 Years of Service

Vonne Smedshammer, Science Teacher, Cheney Middle School, 30 Years of Service

William Vistad, Occupational Therapist, Liberty Middle School, 26 Years of Service

Robert Wenzloff, Maintenance Worker, 41 Years of Service

Debra Wenzloff, Custodian, Willow Park Elementary School, 36 Years of Service

LaDonna Wiederholt,Paraprofessional, West Fargo High School, 11 Years of Service

Rebecca Zerface, Art Teacher, Westside Elementary School, 14 Years of Service

When we say that West Fargo Public Schools is the district of choice, please don’t think that we believe the school district has done this alone. We are the district of choice because our community rallies behind our students and staff and supports the system by engaging in our activities and ensuring we have the resources we need to do our jobs. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating our educators on June 14 at Liberty Middle School after what has been the most challenging and memorable year in our educational careers.