WASA Honorary Awards

WASA annually honors and recognizes outstanding educational administrators and individuals in other professions who have made extraordinary contributions to K–12 education.

Based on the award type for which a person is nominated, the Committee will make the following considerations:

  • Could the nominee be considered a positive change agent in public education locally or at the state level?
  • Has the nominee positively affected one or more areas: Program development, staff morale, community support, student interest, learning environment, or general support for public education?
  • Has the nominee provided creative leadership in inspiring or motivating others to achieve or contribute to public education?
  • Has the nominee personally provided a special service or achieved above and beyond what is expected in the usual public school program?
  • Have others recognized the nominee as a force for constructive change in public education at the community and/or state level.


  • Golden Gavel Award. The recipient shall be an individual, group, association, or firm that has made an outstanding contribution to public education in the state of Washington. The contribution to education should have statewide application and be of lasting value. This award does not require current or past WASA membership. One recipient per year (award not necessarily given every year).
  • D.A. Davidson Barbara Mertens Legacy Award. Presented to an individual or group who has had a significant impact on public education in Washington—a legacy that has a lasting influence. The person or group does not have to be a member of WASA. The award comes with a $1,000 gift from D.A. Davidson & Company that is awarded to a school, foundation, or similar in the awardee's name and at his/her direction. One recipient per year (award not necessarily given every year). 
  • Service to WASA Award. The recipient shall have made contributions at the state level toward goals of WASA and shall not be a voting member of WASA. One recipient per year (award not necessarily given every year).
  • WASA Leadership Award. This award is presented to a selected WASA member who demonstrates and exemplifies outstanding leadership abilities and has made significant contributions to the field of education on a statewide level. Each region may nominate one individual from that region. The nominee must be a current member of WASA for a minimum of two years. One recipient per year. 
  • Learning From Leaders. Must be an Active State WASA Member. Beginning in 2023-24, this award shall be given to a WASA  member for recognition of his or her leadership of an exemplary program that others can learn from, that has: significantly improved student learning; significantly increased student engagement; significantly improved student and staff safety; significantly increased student, staff, and parent understanding and engagement regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion; significantly increased parent or community engagement; or significantly addressed areas other than those identified will be considered. The recipient of this distinguished honor will not only receive the WASA Learning from Leaders award but also a monetary grant of $5,000 to further enhance and propagate their innovative program. We are grateful for the generous support of founding sponsors Dennis Ray, Gay Selby, and Gene Sharratt, who along with WASA have committed to underwrite the costs of the award. One recipient per year.

To make a nomination for a State award, please click this link. The application will be open until 5:00 p.m., on May 1, 2024.


  • WASA Student Achievement Leadership Award (one award per region). Recognizes innovative programs for the improvement of student achievement. This award is presented to select WASA members who have provided leadership for the implementation of an innovation that has resulted in measurable growth in student achievement. Ideally, the innovation can serve as a tool for modeling new programs. Each region shall nominate one individual. The nominee must be a current and active WASA member for a minimum of TWO years.
  • Award of Merit (one award per region). The recipient of this award shall have demonstrated effective leadership at the region level and have made a significant contribution to WASA through his/her work in the field of education in Washington. The nominee must be a current and active member of WASA for a minimum of THREE years.
  • Community Leadership Award. (WASA provides one plaque; additional plaques will be paid by region). This award is presented to community members or groups in recognition of their outstanding contributions toward education. Recipients are non-WASA members. Specific criteria includes: benefit to students, leadership, motivation, success, cooperation/coordination with local district, recognition by others, and history of service. One or more recipients per region, per year.
  • WASA Student Leadership Award. (WASA provides one plaque; additional plaques will be paid by region or district.) This award recognizes student leaders who have created or played a significant leadership role in initiatives or programs that promote inclusivity, access, equity, or social justice in their school and community. Consideration for recognition is based on criteria that includes demonstrating leadership and serving as a role model participating in and organizing events that promote respect for diversity, equity, and individual differences; through collaboration and community engagement demonstrates the ability to inspire, motivate, and impact the growth and development of others; exemplifies integrity in all words and actions and maintains a positive image and presence with the school and greater community; evokes hope and demonstrates initiative by seeking ways to enrich the future; and displays a strong work ethic inside and outside the classroom. One or more recipients per region, per year.
  • Twenty-Year Award (self-nomination). Recognizes individual’s years of service to education. This award shall be granted to any school administrator who has served as an administrator for 20 years in public school districts. The recipient must have been a member of WASA for TEN years.
  • Purple Star Award. Beginning in 2024, the Washington State Purple Star Award is issued every two years to districts meeting specific criteria. The Purple Star program is designed to recognize school districts that support military-connected children and families. OSPI has asked WASA to design and execute the implementation of the Purple Star recognition program here in Washington.
  • Retirement Award (self-nomination). Honors service to the profession. The recipient must be retiring from his/her administrative responsibilities and no longer eligible for active WASA membership. The recipient must be a current member of WASA.

Honorary Awards Links and Committee Contact Information

Thank you to the 2023–24 WASA Honorary Awards Committee for their leadership and commitment for recognition of well deserving individuals. To find your region's nomination form, click on your region link. If you have a question regarding REGION or STATE Awards, please feel free to contact your Region Honorary Award Committee representative:
 101   Ben Ferney, Cheney
 105   Kelly Garza, Wapato
 108   Jeff Cravy, Conway
 109   Dana Geaslen, Edmonds
 110   Randy Matheson, Renton
  L.Michelle, PSESD
111   Chad Honig, Bethel
  Paul Marquardt
  Mel Boyd
 112   Mike Nerland, ESD 112 
  Committee Chair
 113   Flip Herndon, ESD 113
 114   Aaron Leavell, ESD 114
 123   Rachel Gwinn, Pomeroy
 171   Michelle Price, NCESD

Region Award deadlines vary per region. Questions for REGION or STATE Awards may be directed to Shawna Kiliz.

Awards History

2023 WASA Honorary Awards Recipients

WASA Recognized Exemplary Educational Leaders at the WASA Summer Conference held on June 26, 2023.

Statewide Awards

Golden Gavel Award

Helene Paroff, Inclusionary Practices Project Director, WASA

D.A. Davidson Barbara Mertens Legacy Award

Dr. Glenys Hill, Director of the WSU Superintendent Certification Program at Washington State University

WASA Leadership Award

Kevin Chase, Superintendent, ESD 105

Service to WASA Award

Jim Kowalkowski, Director, Rural Education Center

Retirement Award

REGION 101                           Mick Miller, NEWESD 101 
REGION 101                           Suzanne Schmick, St. John-Endicott 
REGION 101                           Tim Ames, Medical Lake 
REGION 101                           Terrie VanderWegen, Central Valley 
REGION 108                           Laurel Browning, Burlington-Edison 
REGION 108                           Andrew Wheeler, La Conner 
REGION 109                           Jeff Moore, Everett 
REGION 109                           Brad Jernberg, Index 
REGION 111                           Beck Owens, University Place 
REGION 112                           Tom Hagley, Vancouver 
REGION 113                           Brian Wharton, Yelm 
REGION 113                           Dana Anderson, Capital Region ESD 113 
REGION 113                           Don Hay, Wishkah Valley 
REGION 113                           Chris Rust, Toledo 
REGION 114                           Lisa Roberts, North Mason 
REGION 123                           Rob Phillips, Kennewick 
REGION 171                           Paul Turner, Grand Coulee Dam

Award of Merit

REGION 101                        Suzanne Schmick, St. John-Endicott 
REGION 105                         Dr. Joseph Castilleja, Mabton 
REGION 109                         Anne Arnold, Everett 
REGION 110                         Isaiah Johnson, Auburn 
                                               Cathy Davis, Northshore 
                                               Patty Siegworth, Bellevue 
REGION 112                         Asha Riley, Woodland 
                                               Michelle O’Neil, La Center 
REGION 123                         Dr. Julie Perron, Walla Walla 

Student Leadership Achievement

REGION 101                        Nancy Lotze, Selkirk 
REGION 105                        Dr. Peter Finch, West Valley 
REGION 108                        Andrew Wheeler, La Conner 
REGION 109                        Bryan Toutant, Lakewood 
REGION 110                        Sonia Nicholson, Federal Way 
REGION 111                        Krestin Bahr, Peninsula 
REGION 112                        Brent Freeman, Wahkiakum 
REGION 123                        Todd Baddley, Richland

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