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BISD STRONG Awards handed out for Fall 2019

What a joy-filled day! BISD STRONG Awards were handed out and recipients were surprised in their classrooms and departments. This is always a special day, as it's great fun to celebrate those in our district who are BISD STRONG.

Congratulations to the winners! We are now accepting BISD STRONG Nominations for the Winter 2020 Term. Know someone who is BISD STRONG? Nominate them today! The nomination period closes on Feb. 29, 2020. 


Claire Jackson

NAME: Claire Jackson (pictured on the right)

GRADE: 10th at BHS


  • Claire is really great to be around
  • I have fun being her friend
  • I  like to cheer with her

Watch the video of Claire receiving her award here.

Grayson Casteel

NAME: Grayson Casteel

GRADE: 4th at Odyssey


  • Grayson’s depth of character is exceptional.  
  • He regularly goes out of his way to make sure everyone feels included and sees and celebrates everyone's uniqueness in a positive light.
  • Grayson is truly a special person who most certainly represents BISD's strong heart and strong mind philosophy while helping to nurture a community where everyone feels safe and cared for.
  • Grayson gets along with everyone, is always positive, has a great sense of humor, and works hard and performs well academically.
  • Words used to describe you: kind, insightful, generous, selfless

Watch the video of Grayson receiving his award here.

Rob Combs

NAME: Rob Combs

DEPARTMENT: Transportation


  • Rob is such an asset to BISD. He enjoys his job and treats the students lovely. He spends extra time to get to know each student on the bus and gives them special super hero qualities as they leave the bus. 
  • In addition to driving for his specific route, he also drives for sport functions and for Bainbridge Island Senior Center. He is known for his shortbread cookies at the Senior Center. He also reads for the kindergarten classes. Everyone I know in the community who knows him appreciates him and values him. 
  • My daughter was in kindergarten last year. Rob was one of the adults who made an impact in her first year and continues as she rides the bus. He has been so warm to my other daughter — who will be starting kindergarten next year—  it will be an easy transition for her. Rob has made an impact for these kindergartens. I have also talked to some high school students who love him to drive them to their events because he takes the time to make sure their needs are met. 
  • Words used to describe you: kind, creative, warm

Watch the video of Rob receiving his award here.


NAME: Russell Milbrot



  • Russell is a hard worker, who cares deeply about the impact of his work. He manages many acres across multiple campuses, largely alone. He is professional in his approach, an Iron Man who hardly takes sick leave or vacation. For all that he does, Russell deserves the utmost respect and recognition for his daily efforts. The campuses wouldn't look as good without his tremendous effort.
  • Through the worst of weather and within the tightest time restraints, Russell always strives to keep the BISD grounds looking great. In the depths of winter, Russ rides a Polaris Ranger, without doors, without heating, minimal comfort across the central campuses. 
  • During this past summer, Russell was able to complete his own work as well as cover the basis for his fellow teammates who were working with the custodial team to move clear out two buildings. The BISD grounds were maintained at acceptable levels despite missing half of the Grounds department to construction projects.  
  • On a day to day basis, Russell continues to be as reliable as an employee can be.  Always early, and ready to approach his duties with a high level of energy and attention to detail.  
  • Russell continually provides a great deal of honesty and sincerity to both his co-workers and supervisors alike. His quiet and respectful nature is always appreciated by the staff he works with directly.  
  • He is incredibly kind-hearted. 
  • Words used to describe you: independent, real, hard-working, reliable, respectful, calm, diligent, trusting

Watch the video of Russell receiving his award here.

Vanessa Johson

NAME: Vanessa Johnson

SCHOOL: El Velero 2nd & 3rd Grades


  • Vanessa continuously goes above and beyond 
  • Her energy, compassion and charisma are truly unprecedented 
  • Her heart is so big -I’m not sure how she has enough love like she does for each child. 
  • She is always happy, positive and an absolute joy. Her ability to make her classroom her family is overwhelming, and we are blessed to have her.
  • Everything she does represents strength. Vanessa is able to make children feel confident without feeling entitled. She educates the students in a way that makes them excited about what they are learning and does so while garnering tremendous respect. 
  • Vanessa was born an educator and a leader. We are so lucky to have her at Ordway.
  • Vanessa wrote each one of her students a handwritten letter over the summer
  • Words used to describe you: caring, compassionate,empathetic, energetic, enthusiastic, fun, genuine, inspiring, kind, organized, positive, sharp, strong, warm

Watch the video of Vanessa receivingher award here.

Katie Zonoff

NAME: Katie Zonoff

SCHOOL: Bainbridge High School


  • Katie is always positive, encouraging and motivating for my daughter. Katie has been incredibly generous with her time, offering many, many hours after school to support not only my daughter, but also many other students.  
  • I can see from the rapport she has with all the students that she knows how to build positive, trusting relationships that give students the confidence they need to succeed.  What more could a parent ask for?!!
  • Katie cares about her students and it shows.  She possesses a strong heart and mind and passes that along to build the same in her students.
  • She is a phenomenal Social Studies Teacher, and her students rave about how Katie is interesting and how enlightening her courses are.  
  • Katie can break through to even the most unreachable student, and becomes a trusted adviser to many.  Katie gives kids confidence, and in turn they find the motivation to try harder and do better. 
  • Words used to describe you: accepting, caring, calm, dedicated, empathetic, encouraging, generous, good sense of humor, motivating, inspirational, intuitive, kind, patient, positive, and smart

Watch the video of Katie receiving her award here.

Michael Fricke

NAME: Michael Fricke



  • Michael consistently strives to identify areas in which the district can improve. 
  • Michael continually makes an effort to connect with students by making a point to memorize their names and small details about their lives they choose to share with him. 
  • Michael takes a great deal of pride in his work, from insuring that his routine is always complete, to making sure that he maintains a high level of communication with his supervisor and colleagues.  
  • Michael is one of the best and brightest.  Over the last five years Michael has taken his professionalism and communication skills to the absolute highest end of the spectrum. He is willing to make sacrifices on behalf of the district as well as going the extra mile. 
  • His pleasant attitude coupled with his work ethic, make him the definition of BISD Strong!  
  • Words used to describe you: dedicated, diligent, determined, reliable, forward-thinking, trustworthy, honest, focused

Watch the video of Michael receiving his award here.


NAME: Bailey Kleiven

GRADE: 5th at Sakai


  • Bailey is a part of the Sakai Library's student assistant program. In her short time helping out in the library, she has displayed many BISD strong qualities. She helps out in the library at a very busy time of day and yet maintains great poise with a calm and cheerful disposition. 
  • Bailey is great at helping other students find books, shelving books in our Humor Fiction section and speaking up and volunteering to do other tasks as needed- all with an upbeat attitude of service.  
  • Bailey works hard every day and puts her best effort in to help her teachers and the librarian.
  • She brightens up other people's days.  
  • Words used to describe you: kind, thoughtful, encouraging, reader, considerate, determined, dependable, cheerful, honest and helpful

Watch the video of Bailey receiving her award here.


NAME: Stella Targett

GRADE: 4th at Wilkes


  • Stella is an exemplary model of a responsible student as well as a caring friend to others 
  • Stella gives of her time and energy as a member of our Wilkes Leadership Council , as a classmate she is an empathetic friend to her peers, reaching out to offer whatever they might need - comfort,  assistance or just listening  
  • I have been very impressed with Stella's ability to put her best foot forward each day
  • Words used to describe you: Caring, conscientious, flexible, thoughtful, persistent, gentle

Watch the video of Stella receiving her award here.


NAME: Micah Welsh

GRADE: 4th at Wilkes


  • Micah is kind and always willing to lend a hand to others, offer support or an encouraging word. Micah participates in the 4th grade leadership team, but he has always been a leader as demonstrated by his welcoming attitude toward anyone entering the room or joining a new group, taking it upon himself to lead others to learn a routine, make a transition or follow a rule. 
  • Micah is a good and faithful friend to his buddies, but never excludes anyone who might want to join the play. 
  • Micah is respectful and polite with adults and children alike.
  • Micah is an amazing person and student. He is deeply committed to learning and is always fully present in his work, trying his hardest, and working to learn and improve. He is a humble guy, consistently happy and very supportive of other learners in the community. 
  • He is tons of fun. His happy demeanor and even-handed character contribute a great deal to the school lives of both students and teachers.  
  • Words used to describe you: persistent, focused, happy, kind, supportive, fair, hardworking

 Watch the video of Micah receiving his award here.


Lee Muir

NAME: Lee Muir

POSITION: Volunteer

SCHOOL: Woodward (and across BISD)


  • Lee has volunteered at BISD for many years, serving across multiple schools and on district committees.  She is unfailing in her thoughtful advocacy for our district, and is deeply generous with her time and experience. 
  • Lee is an unbelievably dedicated volunteer who has held multiple, large roles with PTOs. She is phenomenally organized, dedicated, and consistent in her volunteering, and is an absolutely lovely person to work with.
  • Lee always looks for opportunities to build connections.  She quietly and consistently steps up to help others. She finds ways to recognize and thank others for their work, and creates a climate of kindness and calm.
  • Lee shows an enormous level of dedication of supporting the PTO, the school and our students through all her volunteer work. I am guessing that Fallapalooza alone was dozens of hours of work, and she helped make it our most successful fundraiser ever.
  • Words used to describe you: kind, patient, thoughtful, dedicated, compassionate, caring, professional, committed, organized

Watch the video of Lee receiving her award here.