Communities in Schools of Federal Way raises $40,000 at 2011 breakfast

Lake Grove Elementary teacher Cassandra Stephani was named the 2011 Teacher of the Year at the Communities in Schools of Federal Way
Lake Grove Elementary teacher Cassandra Stephani was named the 2011 Teacher of the Year at the Communities in Schools of Federal Way's annual fundraising breakfast.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

From staff reports:

Communities in Schools of Federal Way raised more than $40,000 at the organization’s annual fundraising breakfast Feb. 25.

More than 200 people attended the event at Christian Faith Center in Federal Way. All proceeds support students and families in Federal Way schools through mentoring and outreach programs.

“Another success is we got 20 people that are interested in becoming a mentor,” said CIS director Tracy Oster in a news release. “I believe people were really inspired by seeing the kids and hearing the mentors talk about their experience. This is a huge contribution to the work we are doing to support students in Federal Way.”

At the breakfast, Caitlyn Remington was named the Tom Murphy Mentor of the Year Award for her work with a Federal Way student named Jackie. Remington is the daughter of Tom Murphy, former superintendent of Federal Way schools.

Lake Grove Elementary teacher Cassandra Stephani was named the 2011 Teacher of the Year.


The Federal Way School District provided the following regarding Stephani and her nomination:

The nomination and testimonial letters paint a picture of a woman who, with but five years in the district, has created a legacy that will not soon fade. 

Stephani has been a teacher all of her adult life, first as a preschool teacher at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Federal Way. While raising her own children, she operated an in-home daycare for 14 years. She eventually earned an Associate of Arts degree at Highline Community College on the evenings and weekends, followed by a Bachelor of Arts from City University.

She joined Federal Way Public Schools in 2006, teaching at Star Lake Elementary School before joining the staff at Lake Grove Elementary School. There she teaches a multi-aged class that includes 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students. Principal Patty Elmer notes that she is skilled at providing appropriate learning opportunities for the three grade levels. “Mrs. Stephani takes a personal interest in each student’s progress,” Ms. Elmer notes, adding, “She lives the words, ALL means ALL, making significant breakthroughs with her non-English speaking and special needs students.”

Despite a student population in which three of every four students live in poverty, Stephani has inspired her students to participate in multiple community service projects, including volunteering at local pet stores and collecting soap for Haiti.

In her classroom, “student voices are heard and respected.”  Elmer notes that there have been no discipline issues in Stephani’s classroom this year, and credits Stephani’s respect for her students and classroom management skills. Recognizing her outstanding teaching skills, the district’s Beginning Teacher Assistance Program (BTAP) asked her to serve as a mentor teacher for first and second year teachers.

But it’s the parent and student testimonials the provide the most vivid picture of Stephani’s impact – like that from a mother who will not leave Federal Way for an opportunity out of state, because she believes it’s more important for her younger daughter to have the opportunity to be in  Stephani’s class. “(My older daughter) was diagnosed with Selective Mutism at the age of 5. She would go to school each day for years and not say one word, and would spend her days and evenings anxious and frightened over the thought of school,” she explained.

And now? “This is not the same little girl that she was when she first came to Mrs. Stephani’s class,” the mom explained.” I couldn’t believe it when she recently described herself as ‘talkative’ in class! … Unless Mrs. Stephani wants to come to San Diego with us, we’re staying here!  I could never thank Mrs. Stephani enough for all that she has done … She definitely deserves to be the teacher of the universe!”

Or a second mother that also credits a transformation in her child, diagnosed as autistic, to Stephani: “My son today is almost unrecognizable as the same boy who started in her classroom more than 2 years ago. He has blossomed in so many ways. He is self confident, makes eye contact, and actually initiates interactions with his peers, due in no small part to Ms. Stephani’s unfailing affection and devotion to her students. When my son first came to Ms. Stephani at the start of 3rd grade, he was very shy and kept mostly to himself. Even making eye contact with a stranger was almost painful for him…she is my strongest ally, always looking for ways that we can help him grow and learn.”

Fellow teachers agree. Francine Oishi, who coordinates the Beginning Teacher Assistance Program shares that teachers mentored by Stephani have raved about her. One commented, “My mentor assisted me be more reflective about my teaching practices by guiding me instead of telling me what to do.” Another said simply, “I love my mentor!”

Despite a full plate, Stephani is also committed to constantly improving herself, taking numerous courses offered in the district and outside. Last year, she also began pursuing the rigorous National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification.


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