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    Five Teachers Win Educator Awards
    Posted on 12/11/2018
    A teacher accepts a big check in a school assembly

    Five Seattle Teachers Win Symetra Heroes in the Classroom Award

    This fall, five educators from across Seattle were recognized for excellence in teaching. The honorees are nominated by their school principal, colleagues, students or student’s families; and selected based on their extraordinary efforts inspire and engage students.

    Abbey Buchert, Decatur Elementary School; Zoe Manzo, Sand Point Elementary School; Danielle Meier, Highland Park Elementary School, Douglas Pentland, Concord International Elementary School; and Travis Peterson, Whittier Elementary School were recognized as one of 2018 Symetra Heroes in the Classroom educators.

    Each of these teachers were recognized for creating a positive climate for learning in the classroom. They all go above and beyond daily responsibilities to make a significant contributions to help students reach their academic and social potential.

    Throughout the fall, the Symetra Hero in the Classroom awards and a donation for classroom books and supplies were presented to the educators in a surprise school assembly in each school. The honorees also received Seahawk home game tickets and acknowledgment during on-field presentations at the game.

    Each of the schools with a 2018 Hero award is eligible to participate in the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom MVP Award, a $20,000 grant in support of innovative student programming. Proposals will go out to eligible schools in early 2019 and the winning submission will be announced at a springtime event at CenturyLink Field for the Heroes, their principals and school district leadership.

    Abbey Buchert holds her award in a classroom Abbey Buchert
    Decatur Elementary School
    Second Grade

    “Abbey Buchert is a truly gifted teacher who knows how to encourage all students to be their very best. She helps her second-graders grow, take risks, evaluate themselves, and work together to build a kind and caring community where everyone has responsibilities to themselves and others. Kids in her class love her deeply and want to work hard because of her unfailing positive attitude toward each of them, toward teaching, and toward their school and community,” said Kjersti Braunstein.

    “Abbey is one of those teachers who connects with and inspires every student in her class, pushing them to learn at their very best. My kids come home thinking they have had fun all day. She teaches them the basics, but also gets them asking questions. She sets them on a path to explore the world, and then they keep walking and discovering,” said Elizabeth Lunney.

    Braunstein and Lunney are among several parents who nominated Buchert for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

    Zoe Manzo holds her awardZoe Manzo
    Sand Point Elementary School
    Fourth and Fifth Grade

    “Zoe Manzo teaches at the highest level and brings a sense of confidence, creativity and excellence to her instruction. I had the privilege of serving as a volunteer in her classroom and saw firsthand her engaging, encouraging style of teaching. She is dynamic, fun and truly cares about each student’s progress and success, both academically and in life!” said Tracy Brown, the parent of a former student. “Ms. Manzo teaches a diverse group of students — some traditional learners, some who have come from other countries, some with very challenging home lives, and some who learn very differently than others. She never fails to meet each student exactly where he or she needs to be met. She genuinely cares about the growth and success of Sand Point’s students.”

    Danielle Meier poses for a photo with Tia RizkDanielle Meier
    Highland Park Elementary School
    Fourth Grade

    “Danielle Meier lives the phrase ‘high expectation for all students.’ She continuously strives to show kids that they can be their best selves and succeed,” said Tia Rizk, a teaching colleague. “One life skill that Ms. Meier helps build in her students is organization. When students walk into her class, they know what to expect each and every morning. They know where to place their reading log, where to put their homework folder and the specific expectations for learning. This gives students the feeling of safety and security that they need in order to let go of stressful factors outside of the classroom and focus on academics — and work hard they do.”

    Douglas Pentland poses for a photo with a big checkDouglas Pentland
    Concord International Elementary School
    First Grade

    “Mr. Pentland has only recently begun his second year at Concord, but he has already made his positive presence felt. He is gentle, loving and enthusiastic with all of his students,” said Robin Schwartz, a Concord parent and PTA member. “Mr. Pentland brings so much good energy to the classroom and our school community. He truly appreciates the energy first-graders have and encourages them to move around if they need to while they do their work. A true team player who goes the extra mile, he is always willing to pitch in with co-workers, as well as with parents and the PTA. And he is a double-dutch expert!”

    Travis Peterson holds a big checkTravis Peterson
    Whittier Elementary School
    Third Grade

    “Travis Peterson is a teacher who creates a classroom environment that is truly inclusive of all students. He is willing to do things outside the standard curriculum to ensure students are engaged, learning what matters, and able to access what they need to know,” said Maggie Mattmiller, a district colleague. “Mr. Peterson is the kind of teacher who will spend a few extra days on an activity rather than moving on if he can see students are excited about what they are doing or need more time to work through something. He creates a space for students to take charge of and get excited about their learning—one that encourages them to more closely investigate what they are curious about.”

    “When you walk into Mr. Peterson's classroom, you may immediately hear a low rumbling of students chatting. Listen in to the table groups and you’ll hear students talking about the topic at hand, or their books, or different ways to solve a math problem,” adds Mattmiller. “They’re learning in a collaborative way, which is a key 21st century skill. Mr. Peterson sees the value in that and understands that many students work that way. He gives them the space to authentically learn in a way that best suits them!”

    For more information about the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom program or to nominate a teacher, visit