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Pathfinder Awards

The Pathfinder Awards, established in 2016, celebrate graduates of Mercer Island High School whose achievements, strength of character, and citizenship inspire and challenge today’s youth.

The Mercer Island School District presented the 2023 Pathfinder Award  presented its eighth annual Pathfinder Award to a 1974 graduate of Mercer Island High School whose achievements, strength of character, and citizenship inspire and challenge today’s youth to make significant contributions to humankind.

The 2023 Pathfinder Award recipient is Joan Vetto Papasedero, 27-year MISD special education teacher, instructional coach, and MIHS Class of 1974.

“Our Pathfinder Award committee felt Joan’s contributions to our District as a teacher, coach, and curriculum instruction assessment assistant over 27 years, plus returning to the District recently to help with a staffing shortfall in special services show how the meaningful contributions of her service to a community, which just happens to be our school community, can inspire today's students,” said Superintendent Dr. Fred Rundle.

“The committee also felt that for the last three years MISD teachers have had to be inventive, creative, and imaginative as they navigated teaching students through the Covid-19 pandemic. The work MISD teachers have done during this time is such a meaningful contribution to our community and has positively impacted numerous families and students. The committee felt that to be able to select a MIHS graduate who has impacted our world can show how all our teachers are doing exactly what she did as a teacher - serving, educating, inspiring,” continued Rundle.

Joan, originally hired in the early 90's to teach, helped create and secure curriculum for Special Services and was a mentor the Special Services Department. She created, taught and implemented the Individualized Education Program (IEP) online program that the District uses. In addition, she was tabbed to be an instructional coach and IEP reader/reviewer for the entire Special Services department.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education (SPED) from Washington State University and a Master’s of Education Tech from City University. Papasedero’s Master’s project was to expand and update a previously created digital IEP development database bringing it into compliance with new regulations, including the creation of a guidebook to assist teachers with its use.

Papasedero was one of three Teachers of the Year in MISD in 2004 and became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2010.

Papasedero was honored at the Mercer Island Schools Foundation Breakfast of Champions on Tuesday, April 25.

At Mercer Island High School there is a permanent display that recognizes all Pathfinder Awards recipients as well distinguished graduates recognized prior to the Pathfinder Awards.

The deadline to submit a nomination for the Pathfinder Award is in January/February. As part of the nomination, submitters will be asked to tell the Pathfinder Award committee how the nominee has contributed to society as a Pathfinder through their service and leadership. Additional documentation such as news stories, awards and honors, other letters of support, photos, CV or résumé may be sent to

Pathfinder Award recipients have contributed to society in meaningful ways through their service, leadership, and creativity in our communities. Graduates of Mercer Island High School have impacted the world in a variety of fields, including but not limited to the following areas: the arts and athletics; business; education; entertainment; law; medicine; the military; philanthropy and volunteerism; public service; religion; scholarship and science. 

Growing up on an island with committed schools and residents, they embraced the larger world around them and pushed the boundaries of their potential. They are our inventors and artists—imaginative and creating the future. They understand the global context in which we live today. All are pathfinders who aspire to a better way of living for humankind. They discovered that path, or showed others the way. 

Program objectives

1. To recognize distinguished alumni from Mercer Island Schools and to inspire students and residents with their accomplishments; and

2. To create a network where alumni and students feel they are part of an extraordinary global community who support each other and are dedicated to making the world a better place for humankind.

Criteria for selection

Nominations will be vetted by a Selection Committee of teachers, residents, business leaders, alumni, and school officials from the district and the Mercer Island Schools Foundation. The committee may request additional documentation if needed. The Selection Committee reserves the right to reject any or all nominations. Individuals not selected this year will remain eligible for two years following the initial nomination process, without requiring a new submission.

2023 Pathfinder Committee
Andrew Howison – MIHS Senior. Student Representative to the School Board
Annabelle Hegarty – MIHS Junior
Asha Woerner - MISH Junior. Student Representative to the School Board
Daniel Becker – MIHS Class of 2001. Parent of future MISD student.
Ian Henry – MIHS Class of 1991, MISD Communications Coordinator
Vivek Mehta – MIHS Class of 1989. Parent of two MISD students.
David Rosenbaum – MI Deputy Mayor
Tammy Shoop – Executive Director, Mercer Island Schools Foundation

For more information, contact Ian Henry, Communications and Alumni Relations Coordinator, 206-236-4514. 

Pathfinder Award Recipients
  • The Pathfinder honors our graduates’ remarkable impact in a variety of fields, including the arts, athletics, business, education, entertainment, law, medicine, the military, philanthropy & volunteerism, public service, religion, scholarship and science. 

  • Candidates must be graduates of Mercer Island High School and have graduated at least 10 years prior.
  • Any person may submit a nomination, except for Selection Committee members.
  • Posthumous nominations will be accepted.
  • Nominations for 2023 Pathfinder Awards require submission of the district's nomination form, which will be released in November of 2023. 
  • All information submitted will be considered confidential by the Selection Committee.
Year Pathfinder Award Recipients    
2023 Joan Vetto Papasedero, 1974      
2022 Matt Galvin, 1987 Kirk Robinson, 1995    
2021 Kathy Taylor, 1984 Hunter Goodman, 1988 Mickey Rowe, 2007  
2020 Robin Bennett, 1977 Steve Hawes, 1968    
2019 Caroline Fraser, 1979 Blake Nordstrom, 1978 Pete Nordstrom, 1980 Erik Nordstrom, 1981
2018 Dawn Bennett, 1982 Mary Lindquist, 1967 Marty Lott, 1968 Joel McHale, 1991
2017 Trish Coffey, 1979 Leslie Hendricks Fall, 1981

Adrian Hanauer, 1984

2016 Warren Brown, 1988 Earle Canfield, 1965 Dariush Mozaffarian, 1987 Michelle Flowers Taylor, 1988