Certificated Appreciation Week 2024

Certificated Appreciation Week 2024

May 6-10, we celebrate our certificated staff! We have more than 930 certificated staff members, each who bring a high level of expertise to their field. This group includes our teachers, counselors, librarians, psychologists, speech language therapists, principals, social workers, occupational and physical therapists, nurses and more. Thank you for your dedication to the success of your students!

To celebrate, we are shining the spotlight on several of our certificated staff members. Read about them and their deep connections to our schools.


Christan Connors

Christan Connors

Creativity and artistic talent shine throughout the hallways of White Bluffs Elementary, thanks to the mentorship of art teacher Christan Connors.

Mrs. Connors has been an educator since 1999, spending her entire career with the Richland School District. When White Bluffs opened in 2007, she joined the team as the school’s art teacher.

“Art rooms offer students a unique space in schools,” she says. “Here, they can take creative risks, try new styles, problem-solve, and be free to experiment artistically. Even if the final product isn’t perfect, they learn from the process.”

In addition to being the school’s art instructor, Mrs. Connors is also the advisor for the school’s FIRST Lego League team.

“Legos are a genius invention,” she says. “They provide kids with infinite opportunities to be creative.”

Legos are just another tool for kids to use in their creative evolution, she explains.

Whether her students are creating masterpieces with clay, watercolor, markers, or Legos, Mrs. Connors wants all students who enter her room to know they are seen, heard, and valued.

“My hope is that [students] feel safe to push themselves to try new skills that help them grow as artists,” Mrs. Connors says. “And ultimately, grow positively as humans who coexist on this fragile but beautiful planet we all share.”


Nicole Lidey

Nicole Lidey

Nicole Lidey started at Badger Mountain Elementary School as a Structured Special Education teacher in 2019, right before the pandemic.

Everyone has unique needs, but students in a special education classroom require individualized plans and resources to achieve success. During Covid, it became increasingly challenging to provide support from a distance, but Ms. Lidey went above and beyond to help her students.

“We had to get creative to meet [our students’] needs,” she says. “We created individual home schedules to help with routines and met with students whenever it worked best for them and their families, even into the evening.”

The out of the box thinking, adaptability and flexibility that helped Ms. Lidey during the pandemic, is still serving her well today.

Her and the team of paraeducators brainstorm together to meet the vast needs of the students in their classroom. From finding just the right layout of furniture in the room for students to feel calm to daily schedules catered to each students’ abilities, everything takes planning.

Ms. Lidey is grateful for the whole special education team at Badger Mountain and their ability to make connections to families.

“Sometimes we have to have hard conversations,” she says. “But when the families feel the support and understand that they are a big part of the IEP team, then it makes those conversations a little easier.”


Shanon Plew

Shanon Plew

Shanon Plew has seen many changes over the course of her 30-year career as an educator. She began working at Carmichael Middle School 28 years ago, just as the school transitioned from serving 7th-9th graders to students in grades 6-8.

“I was the school’s first sixth grade P.E. teacher,” Ms. Plew says. “At that time, we didn’t have enough P.E. lockers, so the sixth-grade students didn’t change into P.E. clothes. They just ran in their jeans and sweatshirts.”

For Ms. Plew, P.E. is more than just sports; it’s about learning how to pace oneself, pushing to try new activities, and persevering.

“I have a passion for help kids find a healthy lifestyle,” Ms. Plew says. “P.E. is about teaching students to find activities they love that will keep they active for a lifetime.”

Ms. Plew also recognizes that each student is different. After she teaches her students the fundamentals of a sport or activity, she gives them the choice of a team or independent activity.

“Not all kids shine or feel comfortable in team sports,” she says. “Some like to run the track instead of play basketball, and that’s okay. Being active is the most important thing.”


Angel Gutierrez

Angel Gutierrez

Angel Gutierrez, known as Mr. G to his students, operates Richland High School’s Automotive Technology and Car Care classes like a genuine mechanic shop. He not only teaches students how to troubleshoot and repair car parts, but also emphasizes quality workmanship and customer service.

“I want students to gain real world experience in my classes,” Mr. G says. “I want them to learn how to give customers full-service treatment, from repairs to vacuuming and cleaning the car.”

Mr. G knows a thing or two about good service. He worked as a mechanic for ten years before joining the team at Richland High this year. His expertise ranges from repairing small car engines to oversized tractors.

Now, as he nears the completion of his first full year of teaching, Mr. G is seeing what a positive connection to students can make. His classes have become so popular that he's adding an additional course next year.

Mr. G sees his classes as his opportunity to make a difference in his students' lives.

“When you're young, you don’t always think through your decisions,” he explains. “I want my students to understand that what they do now can affect them for the rest of their lives.”


Melissa Fulsom

Melissa Fulsom

Occupational Therapists aren't typically associated with schools until a child needs additional help with fine motor skills, sensory processing, visual motor skills, and more. Then, these therapists become a lifeline for students and their families.

Melissa Fulsom is one of ten Occupational Therapists that serve the entire district. She sees students from elementary up to high school and works to find creative solutions that can meet the vast needs of varied age groups.

“I am a better therapist when I work at all levels,” Ms. Fulsom says. “I can support elementary students better because I work with high school students and understand what challenges the younger students may face as they grow.”

Before joining the Richland School District in 2015, Ms. Fulsom worked with adults in nursing homes and respite care. She would only see patients for the short period of time her services were needed.

Now, working for a school district, Ms. Fulsom gets to form connections to her students and peers. She collaborates with teachers, counselors, psychologists, physical therapists, vision teachers, speech-language therapists and families, all with the common goal of seeing students succeed.

“I love seeing what students can achieve through therapy,” she says. “Seeing their motivation and watching them grow year after year, is wonderful.”


Anna Kincaid

Anna Kincaid

Anna Kincaid, a veteran educator with 25 years of experience, joined the Richland School District this year as Sacajawea Elementary School’s Supplemental Support Special Education teacher.

She didn’t always see herself as a special education teacher, but after her brother was diagnosed with a learning disability later in life, she was inspired to help students get the support they needed at a younger age.

“I love watching my students’ growth,” Ms. Kincaid says. “It’s not just academic growth, but also personal and social-emotional growth that is wonderful to see.”

Ms. Kincaid has loved her first year at Sacajawea. She highlights the collaborative approach among special education teachers, paraeducators, classroom teachers, and administrators.

She is particularly thankful for the five paraeducators she works with.

“The paras have made all the difference in our team being successful this year,” she says. “The way they have come alongside me and worked together to support one another.”


Lori Coleman

Lori Coleman

For Desert Sky Elementary’s Lori Coleman, working at a school is much more than being a teacher; it’s about playing a positive role in the whole school community.

Ever since Desert Sky opened its doors in 2021, Ms. Coleman has gone to as many community events as possible. From family nights to talent shows, Mrs. Coleman loves being a part of the culture at Desert Sky.

Mrs. Coleman is the school’s Physical Education teacher. Every week more than 400 students come into her gym to learn skills such as hand-eye coordination, sportsmanship and how to correctly manipulate equipment such as a racquet.

“So much of elementary P.E. is about the basics,” Mrs. Coleman says. “It’s the ‘lead up’ skills to participating in sports, but it is also about teaching students to win and lose with humility.”

The real challenge of a P.E. teacher is being the only person that teaches your subject in a school, explains Mrs. Coleman.

But the specialist teachers (art, music, etc.) at Desert Sky come together and help each other problem solve difficult situations.

“It all comes back to being a part of a positive and supportive school culture,” Mrs. Coleman says. “I love it.”