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District honors employees of the year and retiring employees

The District honored its 2020-21 Employees of the Year and Retiring Employees at the May 27 School Board meeting.

Classified Employees of the Year

Cindy Cole, Islander Middle School paraprofessional 

A co-worker said in nominating her, “She never fails to show up and provide a positive and student centered learning environment. She had created and implemented a crazy amount of material this year to support her students' needs/wants. Beyond her extreme dedication to our students, she motivates everyone around her to be a better version of themselves. She is constantly working with our team to find the best ways to educate the whole child. She is, by far, one of the most determined, dedicated, honest and caring coworkers I’ve had the honor of working with.”

Joe Gonzalez, Custodial Foreman, Maintenance and Operations

Joe has been a true professional teacher and custodian in our schools for well over 30 years. He anticipates and looks for problems to solve even before they arise. A custodian is defined as someone who tends to and looks after something. Joe does this across the district and his dedication goes beyond serving as a custodian for the schools. He not only tends to and looks after our facilities, he takes ownership of and treats them like his own. 

Lynn Lawrence, administrative assistant, West Mercer Elementary

Lynn is always willing to help, students, families, staff, teachers, new employees, everyone!  She is the face (and voice!) of West Mercer and her presence there is significant. She is sensitive to the needs of others, has an amazing sense of humor and grace in her job.

This year has been a challenge for everyone and Lynn has shown herself to be an outstanding employee in spite of the challenges. She was one of the first staff members who came in person regularly this year, she has helped to safely manage the many in-person expansions, and she is an important voice on the West Mercer team.

Certificated Employees of the Year

Elementary Teacher of the Year

Lisa Pepple, Lakeridge

She is an outstanding educator who has a unique ability to see every student’s potential and who they are and then tailor her caring, kindness, instruction and support to guide students in realizing their true and best potential. 

Students find academic success, social-emotional wellness and calm, and authentic, genuine connection and relationship with her on their team. Families express their heartfelt gratitude regularly and often every school year. Her colleagues genuinely admire, trust and seek her advice and she reciprocates the same to her colleagues. She is a life-long lead learner all in service to students, staff, families and the art of teaching. She is simply the definition of inclusive and reflective practitioner with a heart and humanity that is unrivaled. 

Islander Middle School Teacher of the Year - Whitney Swope

In all her years at IMS, Whitney has established herself as a master curriculum and lesson designer—always rooted in empathy and equity; a leader among her colleagues—eager to collaborate and share new and innovative ideas; and above all else, a champion of students—seeing the whole child and empowering leaders within and beyond the classroom. 

From adopting and modeling new and creative teaching methods to engage her kids wherever they are—to hosting virtual events with Leadership to help all students feel more connected—to designing professional development and offering support to teachers as we learn how to more equitably assess student learning—Whitney’s desire to see IMS be the best it can be is so obvious. If the best teachers light fires within their students, then our entire IMS family is ablaze with Whitney’s dedicated teaching and courageous leadership.

Mercer Island High School Teacher of the Year

Christy Kenyon

Christy Kenyon is a tireless advocate for students with disabilities. When passing by her classroom you will often hear students laughing and dancing. A coworker recently described the noise as JOYOUS. She is a strong, caring and passionate educator who always puts the needs of her students first. 

Through COVID, Christy is a hero in service to our students and our team of teachers that support students with the highest level of service. Opening the school year, she and her team welcomed every student and family in her classes. While taking every personal precaution, she never let the obstacles present create barriers to her students’ care and their learning. Always working to collaborate and solve the problems inherent this year, Christy kept students’ first.

COVID-19 Leadership Award - Karla Rimmer, Islander Middle School

Karla has worked incredibly hard this year to make sure that all members of the MISD community have stayed safe as we have experienced remote, return of small groups, and finally full hybrid. She has spent countless hours with the bargaining team, advocating for all the mitigation necessary to not follow politics, media hype or rumors, but to make sure we follow the science and use common sense.

Karla has diligently spent time and effort in making sure that IMS and all district staff, students and families are able to work, learn and teach in a safe environment. She has gone beyond the typical role of a school nurse to implement safety procedures and communicate information in a year like no other. Karla's work impacts not just one group of students, but the school community as a whole.


300 total years of service to the District


Rick Haney, Transportation

Denise Hopkins, Island Park

Virginia Imani, Lakeridge

Kay Johnson, Islander Middle School

Miguel Guerra-Kerrigan, Transportation 

Steve Kiner, West Mercer custodian 

Mike Lein, Infrastructure Engineer

Mary Newcomer, Administrative Assistant, Learning Services

Barb Shephard, Registrar, MIHS 

Kendall Taylor, Superintendent Services



Carole Azose, Northwood SLP

Cathy Dugovich, Lakeridge teacher

Diana Low, Island Park teacher

Ellis Reyes, Islander Middle School teacher

Debbie Urman, Lakeridge teacher

Carol Best, West Mercer principal