Return to Headlines

Schools Foundation Hosts Successful Luncheon for Education

The Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation hosted its annual “Small Hands to Big Plans” Luncheon on March 17, 2016 at the Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club. The annual fundraising event celebrates innovation in education and grant-funded projects that enhance the learning experience, among a packed room of community supporters. The Foundation also recognizes the excellence of Snoqualmie Valley educators – by naming Educators of the Year – and honors the sponsors who generously contribute to supporting local schools.


Since the event, Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation President Lorraine Thurston has reported: “I’m so thrilled to be able to share the wonderful results of the 2016 Small Hands to Big Plans Luncheon. Thanks to a full room and generous hearts, we were able to raise over $101,000 for our district schools! (Our biggest success yet!) These funds will go towards funding support and initiatives that support every student, in every classroom, in every school in the Snoqualmie Valley School District.”
Thanks to all who volunteered, attended, and contributed to the Foundation’s mission. Established in 1988, the Foundation works to encourage excellence and assure opportunities in education for every student, in every school, every day in the Snoqualmie Valley School District. In the last ten years, the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation has raised over $750,000 in funding for innovative projects that engage young minds and spark big dreams.
More details will be provided later this spring on the programs these donations will fund for next year, once the Foundation identifies the greatest needs for our students. In the fall, teachers will also have an opportunity to apply for innovation grants to help grow and implement exciting new school programs. Learn more at the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation website (

2016 Educators of the Year

Congratulations to the 2016 Educators of the Year.
Pictured left to right: Schools Foundation Vice President Cheryl Duncan;
Alexandra Clark (from the Parent Partnership Program), Middle School Educator of the Year;
Nikita Armbruster (from Snoqualmie Elementary), Elementary School Educator of the Year;
Ingrid Garhart (who serves students in several SVSD schools), Classified Educator of the Year;
Karen Rockow (from Mount Si High School), High School Educator of the Year;
Schools Foundation President Lorraine Thurston; and Superintendent Joel Aune.
 SVSF Luncheon 1  SVSF Luncheon 1
 SVSF Luncheon 3  SVSF Luncheon 4
 SVSF Luncheon 5  SVSF Luncheon 6
 SVSF Luncheon 7  SVSF Luncheon 8
 SVSF Luncheon 9  SVSF Luncheon 10
 SVSF Luncheon 11  SVSF Board Members
More highlights from the luncheon:
  • Watch the video that introduced the four 2016 Snoqualmie Valley Educators of the Year at the luncheon.
  • And, read the article written by Carol Ladwig, in the March 23 Snoqualmie Valley Record; also excerpted below. 
Schools Foundation Honors Educators of the Year
    by Carol Ladwig, Snoqualmie Valley Record, March 23, 2016 

"She inspires, educates, partners, is a cheerleaders, motivates, engages and coaches, but most of all, at the end of the day, she loves my kid," read one nomination for Elementary Educator of the Year Nikita Armbruster, a third grade teacher at Snoqualmie Elementary School.
After finding out she had received the honor, an emotional Armbruster said "I love my kids. I love my job."
It was a scene played out three more times on video to a capacity crowd at the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation luncheon March 17. The video recorded the announcement of the awards to each teacher, along with some staff and student reactions.
Ingrid Garhart, speech, hearing and language assistant at several schools, and Classified Educator of the Year, smiled widely when she heard the news of her honor, but the biggest smiles were reserved for her students. "I love working with children, she said.
"I tell everyone who will listen how lucky I am to have Mrs. Clark as my child's teacher," read another nomination, for Middle School Educator of the Year Alexandra Clark. Clark works with the school district's Parent Partner Program for home-schooling families.
Karen Rockow, High School Educator of the Year, was surprised with the news in the middle of a game with students at Mount Si High School. That didn't ruffle her, but later during a student interview, she got another surprise.
"She helped me through a lot of work to get my grades up," one student told the audience, "and I'm pretty sure she's helped a lot of people in here, and yeah, I love her, a lot."
He then popped up and ran across the room to hug a pink-faced Rockow.
The Schools Foundation luncheon also featured comments from Schools Foundation officers, Superintendent Joel Aune, Mount Si High School Principal John Belcher, Twin Falls Middle School Principal Jeff D'Ambrosio, students Brynne Hollasch, Emily Webb and student school board representative Baly Botten, and a performance by the Cascade View Elementary marimba ensemble.
It was a program, Superintendent Aune admitted, designed to inspire the audience to think about how much they wanted to contribute to the foundation.
"You can be part of this effort to help enhance a system that provides the type of environment and experience that helps children discover their talents, develop an appreciation for citizenship, to learn to care for and respect one another and ultimately to achieve their potential," he said. "So I ask you the question, who wouldn't want to be involved in that?"
Expanding on the theme, Principals Belcher and D'Ambrosio discussed the district's new AVID, or Advancement via Individual Determination, program; the school district, with funding from the schools foundation, sent a group of teachers to AVID training in the past year.
The program, Belcher explained, trained teachers to work with students "in the middle of the bell curve," to build "college readiness and excitement and create a college-going culture."
"This isn't something new," he added. "It's just grabbing all the best practices and teaching teachers how to do a very regimented approach to get (students) those skills."
Students are identified at the middle school level as potential candidates for the program. They then go through a competitive application process to earn an invitation into the program, which teaches them the basics of learning, such as problem solving, and how to study and take notes.
“Who here was ever taught how to take notes?” asked D’Ambrosio. “I know I wasn’t.”
Class cohorts stay together throughout high school, or, the ultimate goal, until the students ask to leave the program in order to pursue their own college readiness goals, Belcher said.
In addition to financial support, the district is seeking current college students who can work with students twice a week, in paid positions.
At the end of the luncheon, Foundation president Lorraine Thurston reported that the event raised $101,000 in donations and pledges.
Learn more about the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation at