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Education Champions Named in 2015 ACE Awards

Local educators honored in 10th annual business-sponsored awards program

More than 80 4J teachers, administrators, classified staff and volunteers, as well as nearly 80 educators from the Springfield and Bethel school districts, were honored at the 2015 ACE (A Champion in Education) Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, April 28.

Sponsored by the local business community, the ACE Awards recognize exemplary work by educators in the Eugene 4J, Bethel and Springfield school districts.

At the annual awards ceremony, all of the nominees were honored and four outstanding educators from each district were named as the 2015 champions. 4J’s 2015 ACE Awards champions are Clair Wiles, Michelle Bierman, Harlan Coats and Anne Bridgman, and a special award was presented to Sally Huling.

Each ACE champion’s school will receive a $1,000 award for a project or program at the school. Adding up those awards over the past 10 years, the ACE Awards’ sponsors have contributed $120,000 to local public schools! 

LICENSED CHAMPION: Clair Wiles, Social Studies Teacher, North Eugene High School

Photo by Eugene Johnson/E. W. Johnson Photography

Photo by Eugene Johnson/E. W. Johnson Photography

If you peek into Clair Wiles’ room during class time, you will see a gifted educator with an animated personality guiding students through projects with passion. If you drop by during prep time, she will be hard at work with other team members getting input and sharing strategies to make that day’s lesson all the better. And after school and at lunch is when Clair develops a real following. Students and colleagues constantly step through the door, seeking her out with questions and problems, sometimes just needing someone to talk to.

Clair strives to make her students better human beings, and she also reaches out to their families and our community. She guides and mentors her students, not just as a teacher, but as a coach and a model of curiosity and passion. She makes real life connections with students that give purpose and engage them in ways that charge the air at North. You could not find a more dedicated teacher to her students, their parents, and the staff at North Eugene High School.

LICENSED NOMINEES: Susie Belnap • Carissa Boyce • Cecelia Brands • Patrick Chesterman • Mary Christensen-Moore • Daniel Clark • Kerry Couture • Patrice Cowman • Chris Dobson • Margarita Field • Amber Frank • Eric Freeman • Kristen Gianforti • Brian Gulka • Christie Hoogendoorn • Beth Hynes • Deb James • Michele Jensen • Peggy Karotko • Judith Kerner • Richard Leebrick • Shirley Madathil • Joe Mancuso • Didi Moore • Talon Nansel • Jessica O’Shea • Ashley Pond • Shannon Roseta • Eric Schiff • Jennifer Smith • Brianna Stiller • Courtney Stitt • Gretchen Suchman • Kara Walter • Clair Wiles • Jeff Wyman 

CLASSIFIED CHAMPION: Michelle Bierman, Education Skills Trainer, Kennedy Middle School

Photo by Eugene Johnson/E. W. Johnson Photography

Photo by Eugene Johnson/E. W. Johnson Photography

4J’s classified champion, Michelle Bierman, has been described as inspirational, warmhearted, passionate, devoted. She is a tireless advocate for students and holds them in the highest regard. “Ms. Michelle,” as her students call her, understands kids well. She gets their motivations, fears and issues.

Michelle seems to be able to handle any situation. She has helped parents connect with their own children, and engaged students in such a fun and dynamic way that they became more interested in school. Michelle simply makes school work for all students, and over her 24 years in our district, she has touched and improved the lives of thousands of students. Michelle plays an immense role in helping the children in our community become compassionate and responsible young men and women.

CLASSIFIED NOMINEES: Heather Acharya • Michelle Bierman • Dana Chase • Bobbie Cirel • Jan Gordon • Charlotte Haker • Maricela Hernandez • Kelly Henson • Jane Kinports • Jennifer Kotlarek • Belia Loftis • Fernell Lopez • Stephen Lueders • Nadia Lutje-Tort • Diana McElhinney • Trista Neuman • Mary Peterson • Michelle Phillipo • Eva Promen • Liz Rommel • Corey Rusco • Candise Ryder • Gary Selland • Sarah Singleton • Claire Smith • Corinne Smith • Connie Summers • Susan Wilson • Audrey Wiltz  


Photo by Eugene Johnson/E. W. Johnson Photography

Photo by Eugene Johnson/E. W. Johnson Photography

If 4J was the setting of a superhero comic book and the district staff was the cast of characters, Harlan would be a perfect choice to be the superhero. Although he may not actually leap over tall buildings in a single bound, he has tamed a snake, moved a beehive, and stopped the flow from a broken pipe during an ice storm.

Harlan has a contagious smile, an incredible work ethic, and the gusto to do anything it takes to help schools. He is always ready to roll up his sleeves and do what’s needed to get a project done right, whether it’s constructing a school, fixing a broken window, making more space for a school garden, or building a playground. He understands how schools work and the effort it takes to keep them running smoothly—and he is always looking for ways he can help make that happen. Every single time Harlan shows up to help at a school, he leaves the property a better place for students and staff.

ADMINISTRATOR/PROFESSIONAL/SUPERVISOR NOMINEES: Eric Anderson • Allan Chinn • Harlan Coats • Jericho Dunn • Michael Johnson • Courtney Leonard • Londa Rochholz • Carmen Urbina  

VOLUNTEER CHAMPION: Anne Bridgman, Middle School Mentor Program

Photo by Eugene Johnson/E. W. Johnson Photography

Photo by Eugene Johnson/E. W. Johnson Photography

Anne Bridgman has dedicated her heart and soul, her time, and her community connections to rejuvenating our district’s middle school mentor program, which had dwindled away over the years as budgets and staffing were cut.

Volunteering 20 hours a week, Anne has worked to rebuild a robust mentor program in 7 of our 8 middle schools—and starting next fall, will expand the program to the 8th school. She has trained 150 volunteers, and 100 mentors are serving in our middle schools every week. That means that 100 4J students in need now have a caring adult mentor in their lives.

VOLUNTEER NOMINEES: Bree Bouse • Anne Bridgman • Nancy Fischer • Dana Fleming • Margaret Guillory • Missy Lathon • Moira Querns • Joe Richter • Sarah Yapp 


Photo by Brie Huling

Photo by Brie Huling

In a first-time-ever award commemorating the 10th anniversary of the awards program, Oregon Community Credit Union CEO Mandy Jones presented retired 4J teacher and administrator Sally Huling with a lifetime achievement award.

Denisa Taylor, principal of Chávez Elementary School and Sally’s longtime colleague, helped present the award. Denisa said, “As a teacher, Sally was known for being innovative, adventurous and engaging. As principal, she had an uncanny ability to take challenging situations and bring people together in laughter and devotion, all with a laser focus on the students. Her door was always open and it didn’t matter which door—the one to her office, the one to her home or the one to her heart—the door was always open…Over her lifetime commitment to education, Sally is lauded as an outstanding professional, mentor, teacher, colleague, leader and friend. Her leadership and dedication to our community has inspired a love of learning in students and adults of all backgrounds and abilities.”

The ACE Awards program and awards ceremony are made possible by the Eugene and Springfield Chambers of Commerce and the generosity of sponsors from our local business community: presenting sponsor Oregon Community Credit Union, as well as supporting sponsors Kendall Auto GroupPacificSource Health Plans, Eugene–Springfield McDonald’s Restaurants, Hershner Hunter Attorneys, Lane Community College and Springfield Education Association.

Thanks are due to these sponsors and to all those who took time to nominate a deserving staff member or volunteer.

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