Featured Staff Members

  • Featured Staff: Sarah Colem OASC Activities Adviser of the Year – 2019

    Hillsboro, OR – Sarah Cole, Student Council Adviser, Leadership Teacher, and Activities Adviser at Hillsboro High School has been named the Oregon Activities Adviser of the Year for 2019 at the OASC Spring Conference. 

    What makes this award even more special is that it started with students nominating Sarah and working with their administration to help complete the application.  John Matsuo, Assistant Principal at Hillsboro, stated, “Student leadership, under the stewardship of Sarah Cole, has endless entry points and a place for everyone.  Every traditional group uses Sarah Cole’s office as a hub and place without barriers.  They eat together, laugh together, cry together and work to change the school and the world. They couldn’t be any more diverse and have a vast array of interests and activities, but they come together for StuCo and leadership. Sarah is one of the finest mentors I have ever watched in action.”

    One of the nominating students, Tiffany Huynh, wrote, “Ms. Cole is always searching for better ways to improve HilHi’s climate and culture and is so proud of our schools immense diversity – unlike any other person I know.  She has gone out of her way to build a close relationship with ALL of us (60+ student leaders).  Alumni from past years always come back to visit Ms. Cole – this shows her impact on students’ lives, past and present.  I could not imagine my high school experience or student council without seeing her red hair every day!”

    Sarah supports her students beyond the classroom and school – she helps them attend conferences, summer camps and demonstrates the importance of networking with other students and schools.  At the end of the year, Sara hosts a dinner for STUCO.  At it, she honors each senior with a personal speech and gives them a children’s book that reminds her of them.  There is not a dry eye in the house.  She personalizes each student’s experience.   Mama Cole (as she is often referred to) and the relationships she creates are magic!

    We are honored to have Sarah Cole represent Oregon and OASC this year as the Activities Adviser of the Year!


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  • Featured Staff: Ronda Gatewood and Anna Woodard
    Congratulations are in order for two HSD counselors who were recently elected to the
    Oregon School Counselor Association (OSCA) Board of Directors: Ronda Gatewood (pictured left) of Witch Hazel Elementary School is the new Elementary VP, and Anna Woodard (pictured right) of Brookwood Elementary School is the new Secretary. Ronda and Anna will serve in this leadership role for the next two years.

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  • Featured Staff: Olga Acuña, Director of Federal Programs

    On March 1st, Olga Acuña, HSD Director of Federal Programs was selected as Centuro Cultural's 2019 Community Lider Honoree at the Gala de Cultura annual fundraiser. Olga has made profound contributions to the Latinx community as an educator, mentor, advocate, elected official and long-term valued partner of Centro’s familia. A model of educational leadership and public service, Olga has been the outspoken advocate for students. Congratulations and well done Olga!

    Photo: Olga Acuña with Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callway.

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  • Featured Staff: Jennifer Johnson, Climate and Culture Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA)

    Stress is a fact of life. But managing stress is not necessarily something that we are innately born with. Often times, it is a skill that we must learn as we grow through life. Jennifer Johnson’s efforts to strengthen social and emotional well-being in schools provides students with the tools to work with their stress and emotions in ways that build healthy school environments for everyone.

    Jennifer and her colleagues established the PAX Good Behavior Game, an initiative that creates safe and welcoming classroom environments where students can grow and thrive both emotionally and academically. The initiative took root in the Hillsboro School district and is quickly gaining popularity and spreading to other school districts in Washington County. She helped establish the Hillsboro School District’s Wellness Centers — classroom environments that offer a quiet, caring, and inclusive space for students to reflect and learn self-regulation skills so they can calm themselves when they are under stress. And she has been an advocate for Playworks in her school district, an evidence-based program that teaches young people resilience skills through games, play, and physical activity. As a result of Jennifer’s work, students are finding healthier ways to manage their emotions and continue to learn in the classroom. And their well-being is, in turn, benefiting the teachers and staff who work with them.

    Source: Kaiser Permanente's 2018 Honor Roll Thriving Schools Champions 


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  • Featured Staff: Lisa Aguilar, HSD Region 8 Title I-C Advocate of the Year

    The Oregon State Title I-C Advocate of the Year is Lisa Aguilar, principal of WL Henry Elementary.  She received her award on Friday, November 2, 2018, accompanied by family members.

    Lisa Aguilar has been in the field of bilingual education for over 20 years, and has always been a strong advocate for EL and Migrant students and families.  This is a life mission very close to her heart.  She works closely with both PAC and PTO parent leaders, and holds monthly “coffee with the principal” meetings to gather feedback from families and to build relationships.  She is a trust-builder who fosters open dialog and meaningful conversations. Principal Aguilar guides Henry to be a welcoming, safe space where students are respectful, thoughtful, honorable, and kind. 

    Hillsboro School District extends celebratory congratulations to Principal Aguilar, and is proud to have such an exemplary educator at the helm of WL Henry.

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  • Featured Staff: 2018 Mental Health Champions

    October 30, 2018 - Two staff members from Century High School have been named 2018 Mental Health Champions by ASHA International: Ruben Garcia-Puga, student support and wellness counselor, and Kendra Quiroz, Youth Contact counselor. Meaning “hope” in Sanskrit and standing for “A Source of Hope for All” in English, ASHA is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote personal, organizational, and community wellness through mental health education, training, and support. In the 2017-18 school year, Ruben and Kendra partnered with ASHA to provide mental health and wellness presentations to health classes at Century, which is something they plan to continue this school year. For their proactive outreach to students, they were each recognized with a Mental Health Champion award at ASHA’s Celebration of Hope event on Friday, October 19. Congratulations and great work, Ruben and Kendra!

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  • Featured Staff: Hilhi Science Teacher Brian Pendergrass

    October 26, 2018 - Congratulations are in order for Brian Pendergrass who teaches Biology, Physics, and Bio-science at Hilhi. Brian was recognized by The Timbers and Safeway for making a big difference in the lives of students. He was nominated by community member, Elisa Joy Payne, who saw Brian’s constant dedication in creating bio-science technology career pathways for his students. Well done Brian! See more photos - click here.

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  • Featured Staff:  HSD Elementary Music Teachers

    October 12, 2018 -
      Shown here attending an Amidon workshop where they learned folk dancing and story telling for the music classroom.

    Left to right back row: Lyndsey Sherman - Free Orchards, Susan Penrod - Indian Hills, Carmen Stuve - Butternut Creek, Kayse Durgan - Witch Hazel, Kristin Lebreau - Brookwood.

    Left to right front row: Amber Young - Lenox, Lana Pratt - Ladd Acres, Brian Janssen - North Plains.


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  • Featured Staff: Rebecca Buchanan, Century High School Art Teacher

    October 1, 2018 - In September, Century High School art teacher Rebecca Buchanan was one of twelve artists recognized by Artists & Mentors in a group exhibition at The Painting Center in New York City. Golden Artist Colors began working with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers nearly five years ago with an objective to recognize and showcase the talent of artists across the US who have also been recognized as mentors of their students – youth who recently received awards through Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Annually since 2015, GOLDEN has supported the opportunity for three visual arts educators – chosen in conjunction with the Alliance and the National Art Education Association – to take part in a two-week residency at the Sam & Adele Golden Foundation Residency Barn, located just down the road from Golden Artist Colors in upstate New York. These twelve artists recognized in Artists & Mentors are some of the best of the best amongst art teachers in the US. Artists featured in the exhibition.  >> Read more    >>See her painting (top right).

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  • See KATU2 Feature video above or click here to read full story.

    Quatama’s Sharon Angal Earns Prestigious National Award for Science Teaching

    July 9, 2018 -
    Congratulations are in order for Sharon Angal, teacher at Quatama Elementary School, for winning a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The PAEMST is the highest recognition available for K-12 math and science teachers in the United States.

    Angal was nominated for the prestigious award by her colleague Sandie Grinnell, herself a science specialist, back in 2016 when she was serving as a STEM Integration teacher on special assignment (TOSA) at both Quatama and Tobias Elementary Schools. However, because the award alternates each year between K-6 and 7-12 teachers, and because the process is so intensive – involving letters of recommendation, narrative response demonstrating mastery of the Five Dimensions of Teaching and Learning, supplemental materials, videotaped classroom lessons, and both state- and national-level reviews – she did not actually receive the award until June 26 of this year.

    As a PAEMST recipient, Angal was flown to Washington, D.C. to for the award ceremony and to participate in discussions on STEM and STEM education priorities led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). She earned a $10,000 award from NSF as well as a presidential citation.

    “I am honored to be a recipient of the Presidential Award,” notes Angal. “The award celebrates the many colleagues, administrators, students and families who have supported, challenged, and encouraged me along the way in my profession. Receiving this award validates my passion for teaching and the commitment I have every day for challenging students to meet high expectations, providing positive, hands-on learning, and working to help all students be successful in the classroom and in their daily lives.”

    Read more about Angal here.

    Read more about the PAEMST here.


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  • Featured Staff: Eric Walker, Glencoe High School

    Note: Article written by Jumpstart.org

    Building on Compound Interest
    Each month Jumpstart.org features innovative and dedicated educators and the work they do in classrooms across the country to make #afinlitfuture a reality. Contact Heather McElrath with any questions or to suggest an outstanding teacher.

    Teacher:  Eric Walker
    School:  Glencoe High School (Hillsboro, Ore.)
    Subject(s):  Accounting II and II, and Personal Finance (an elective course)
    Grade Level(s):   10th through 12th
    Years Teaching:   16

    State Financial Education Requirement:  Oregon does not require a personal finance course. However, Eric shared that there are some personal finance or financial education standards embedded in the social studies curriculum.

    Why Personal Finance:  For Eric, personal finance is a personal passion. He said he came from “the school of hard knocks,” and once the opportunity to teach the class came up, he advocated for himself to be the one leading.

    At the time only one semester of personal finance was available – today, there are seven, which represents three-fourths of his time. The class grew because Eric said, “all the kids want to take it.” He teases that it’s his teaching style that helped the class grow, that current students tell others and his classes fill up. But, Eric also says, that the students feel connected to the material. They are looking for a real-world connection, and, unlike many of the classes they take, they see the relevance of lessons on W2s, car insurance and even renters insurance, which they understand they will need once they leave home.

    Eric also shared that when he started teaching personal finance “a decade or better ago, the public wasn’t backing it now … (you see all these) passionate people. And, parents who say they wish they had the class in high school.”

    He said personal finance teachers are “consumer advocates for young people, and we can hold our heads high – we are being a contributor to the greater good.”

    Why Teaching:  While teaching currently is Eric’s second career, it was originally his first choice. His mother was a teacher as was his grandmother, who taught in a one-room school in South Dakota. So, in part teaching was in his blood, but Eric also said he wanted “something that was active; that helped people.” And where he didn’t have to wear a suit and tie.

    As with many things, life happened and his original educational pursuits changed. When, in his mid-30s, Eric got a divorce, he went back to school for his masters – and as he said: “things just started falling into place.” He had one interview – before he even finished his masters – and 16 years later is still at the same school.

    Resources:  This year’s National Educator Conference in Washington, D.C., was Eric’s third, and he hopes to make it an annual event – he said the networking and resources help him in his classes. However, like many teachers, he pulls resources from m=numerous areas.

    When he first started, Eric said, he was leery of using some of the available resources, but today they are so reliable and abundant. He uses, among other resources the Jump$tart Clearinghouse to help filter some of the choices. And one of the things he likes about all of the choices is that he doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

    He also added that “it’s refreshing to see the public backing the importance of educating our young people on how money works in America.”

    His Story
    Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.  Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. Compound interest is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.
    - Albert Einstein

    Those words from Einstein, hang on Eric’s classroom wall and greet his students each day. It’s perfectly fitting because, for Eric, the foundation of his lessons build upon compound interest.

    He stresses to his students that “if other people have their name on your money it’s gone. Our biggest wealth-building tool is our income.” And by not paying compound interest to others – in the form of debt “you can hold onto your money and invest and earn compound interest.” To do this, Eric focuses on retirement accounts.

    He wants his students to create a tax umbrella first and then to understand how the stock market works as well as learn to appreciate their own risk tolerance. While the markets fluctuate and can take a negative turn, Eric shares that after every negative event (except Pearl Harbor) the market returns in one year. And even after 9/11, the market, which immediately crashed, returned to September 10 levels in 59 days. “It’s not a straight line, but ultimately it goes in the right direction,” Eric said. And that “right direction” helps him and his students compound their savings.

    On the students’ first day, Eric writes on the chalkboard:

    God bless Shakespeare. God bless the trombone. God bless the Pythagorean Theorem. God bless photosynthesis. God bless the opera.

    He writes this to illustrate that you can put those things down for a day, for a week, a month or even longer, but personal finance is every day. Below that statement he writes:

    1. 401K to company match max
      1. Roth IRA
    2. 403(b)
    3. Traditional IRA

    To drive the point home, Eric opened a 403(b) that he shares with his class. (It’s a second account he calls his Glencoe 403(b) that doesn’t divulge too much personal information.) In sharing the account information with his students, he wants them to know that when they are his age “they can be rich; it’s nothing more than mathematics,” he said.

    Of course, it also means that a student has to say no to things. But by showing the students the ‘end’ result it helps them understand the impact of their choices. Eric said he “wants kids to know they have choices – even if the choices are difficult.” He wants them to know they can be successful. He also wants his students to stay debt free and be very aware of the dangers of debt.

    With so many students – and each one’s personality – Eric varies the tools he uses in class. Often, it also can depend on what the students want to learn. In some classes he uses videos, in others PowerPoints, others games – it all depends on where the class goes. Eric says he benefits from designing his own curriculum so that he can adjust to the students’ needs.

    However, in all the classes he uses stories from his life. He shares what has and hasn’t worked for him. As Eric said, he “teaches with stories because (he’s) been on the planet a number of years.”

    While it was a number of years ago during his divorce, Eric said he was one of the 7 in 10 Americans living paycheck to paycheck. He shares that debt held him back at one point.  However, for the last 20 years, he has been debt free – a personal platform of his that people should be consumer debt free.

    Eric believes, however, that even if you find yourself in debt, it’s not permanent. He’s teaching his students to avoid debt, but he’s also teaching them that it’s something you can “climb out of; it’s not something that you’re going to be in forever.” He truly wants people to earn compound interest rather than pay it.


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  • Century Teacher Jeff Gower Nominated for LifeChanger of the Year Award

    February 23, 2018, Hillsboro, OR – Jeff Gower, an options and proficiency based learning teacher at Century High School, has been nominated for the 2017-2018 national LifeChanger of the Year award.

    Sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, LifeChanger of the Year recognizes and rewards the very best K-12 educators and school district employees across the United States who are making a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.

    Gower was nominated by his principal, Martha Guise. In his role, he manages over 300 students during the school year in the Options program, which is made up of online, offline and proficiency-based learning classes that give students many options to graduate.

    Gower works with content area advisors who approve strong standards for the program.  He holds classes every day, creating a quiet learning environment and building trusting relationships with the students he sees.

    See KATU2 Feature video above or click here to read full story.

    "Our school attained a 91% graduation rate last year, and Mr. Gower's work was part of the reason for that number,” said Guise. “Every student can find a place in his program. He works with me to find a way to celebrate every time a senior attains their diploma, and they can feel that sense of achievement and know that they can overcome obstacles to achieve a goal. Mr. Gower is a coach, counselor, teacher and gentle voice of reason, coaxing students back to school.”

    This year, with additional supports, he helped interview and select several staff members to grow that student outreach and engage more students in getting support in academics, attendance and self-advocacy.

    "I have known Jeff Gower for 20 years.  I know his kids and spouse, and I have worked with him as a teacher, assistant principal, and as the principal of Century High School," Guise said. "There are very few people in this profession with as true a heart for teaching and students as Jeff.  I am deeply honored to work with an educator of his caliber."

    Each school year, LifeChanger of the Year receives hundreds of nominations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Seventeen individual LifeChanger of the Year awards will be given during the 2017-2018 school year.

    • (1) Grand Prize Winner – will receive $10,000 to be shared with their school/district.
    • (4) Grand Prize Finalists – will receive $5,000 to be shared with their school/district.
    • (10) LifeChanger Award Winners – will receive $3,000 to be shared with their school/district.
    • (1) Spirit Award Winner – This award is given to the nominee whose community demonstrates the most support for their nomination. The winner will receive $5,000 to be shared with their school/district. Learn more at
    • (1) Spotlight Award Winner – This award is given to a nominee in a specific discipline each year. For 2017-2018, the award was given to Debra Santiago, who works as a secretary and bookkeeper in Orlando, FL. She received $5,000 to share with her school, Timber Lakes Elementary School.

    Winners are announced via surprise award ceremonies held at their schools. The grand prize finalists will also be honored at a national awards ceremony in spring 2018 in Bermuda, where the Grand Prize Winner will be revealed.

    Winners are chosen by a selection committee comprised of former winners and education professionals. Nominees must be K-12 teachers or school district employees. To be considered for an award, nominees must

    • Make a positive impact in the lives of students
    • Enhance their school or district’s atmosphere, culture and pride
    • Demonstrate exemplary leadership at the school and/or district level
    • Possess a proven record of professional excellence
    • Show commitment to building a nurturing environment that supports learning
    • Adhere to the highest moral and ethical standards

    A resource page with ideas for how to celebrate nominees can be found at http://lifechangeroftheyear.com/showspirit/.

    To view Mr. Gower’s LifeChanger of the Year nominee profile, or to nominate someone from your school community, visit www.LifeChangeroftheYear.com.  


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