[Should load map with regional landmarks - click refresh]
Investing in our future
Support education or upskill yourself through our highly regarded educational system in Clark County.
Click on interactive map points to learn more, click on regions for information on each district.
2021 Real Heroes
Business leaders across Clark County appreciate our quality educational system. It is the foundation of vibrant, healthy communities where people want to live and employers want to operate.
Each year we take a moment to thank volunteers and staff who go above and beyond to make our community such a great place to learn. We call them Real Heroes.
Each honoree is deserving of our appreciation because their efforts foster a supportive culture and inspire others, even though none seek recognition for what they do.
The extra commitment of staff and volunteers is why we have such a great educational system today. They are the ones who champion modern facilities, innovative programs, and a diverse range of student support programs that make it possible for each student to thrive.
Here are our 2021 Real Heroes. If you know them, say thanks.
Battle Ground Public Schools
Cathy Shannon knows how to adapt. In 2005 after losing her husband, she stepped away from her demanding career as a hospital registered nurse. A substitute nursing role in Battle Ground evolved into overseeing a team of 48, including handling a measles outbreak. In January 2020, she received a phone call about a strange flu going around. That initiated an intense pandemic response where Cathy and her team are credited with tackling public health obstacles head on and limiting the impact of COVID-19 among students and staff throughout the district.
Monty Anderson served as a Battle Ground School director for 12 years, where he invested 10-20 hours a week governing Clark County's third largest district. Numbers come easy for Monty. He is corporate treasurer of the Battle Ground-based construction firm Tapani Inc. He brought a knack for helping citizens understand complex school finance -- like B is for Bonds and Buildings, and L is for Levies and Learning. But Monty routinely went beyond the numbers, getting into the classroom and speaking with students and staff, so he could account for everyone's needs when making decisions.
Camas School District
Like most nurses, Carol Bruce’s passion goes far beyond a first-aid kit. She is one of the fiercest advocates for student safety and wellness. When COVID arrived, her focus was elevated from student health to public health. Carol embraced the ever-evolving challenge, not only for each student and their family but for 1,000 employees. Policies, procedures, protocols and PPE permeated every level – from consulting leadership, to communicating change, to helping individuals cope and adapt in an uncertain time. Carol works tirelessly and with a sincere heart to ensure students and staff are provided the care they need.
A trio of Camas volunteers embraced the district-wide vision of "seeing and serving each student." When leaders expressed the need for collaboration in creating Community Equity Forums, Robin Webster, Sarah Yee and Tammy Herdener among many others stepped up. They supported a multi-year process which included co-constructing content for training and advancing ways to improve equity across the Camas system. Community and staff members alike appreciated the breadth and depth of discussions on such an important topic, which has accelerated quality resources and opportunities across the community.
Mike Silva is a 20-year employee of Clark College where he dutifully kept information technology running smoothly. He took great pride in minimal technology issues to protect classroom time for students and teachers. Then COVID hit and Mike became one of the most critical people on campus. He created a safe way for about 500 students to get to campus and obtain a laptop in just 72 hours. He created safe approaches to providing computers and hotspots to students on campus. He assisted with the installation of COVID screening stations. He participated in a team that set up remote management of portable devices. Most importantly, Mike provided a steadfast, calm, reassuring presence to students and staff despite ever-changing conditions.
Keith Koplan is a persistent hero of Clark College. He has served on the Clark College Foundation board for 35 years, and chaired the investment committee for 25. It's a role he earned by raising $2 million to secure a matching $6 million grant. That was the investment propelling the Foundation to more than $100 million in assets, among the nation's top five leaders. It now awards $1.2 million a year in scholarships to many who otherwise couldn't afford the opportunity. Despite being 80, the voracious reader says he will never quit supporting Clark College and the opportunities it provides to all students.
Evergreen Public Schools
Shane Gardner earnestly works to prepare his school district for any emergency. After serving in the Army and then area law enforcement for two decades, he now directs a 30-member campus security team that works hard to keep students, staff and schools safe and secure, while proactively finding ways to support and advocate for students facing adverse situations. When COVID hit, Shane devised systems to track symptoms, adapt to evolving guidelines and address safety questions. He directed virtual graduation ceremonies and drive-through events. As COVID subsides, his focus returns to supporting students, so that student safety and graduation rates go up, and arrest rates go down.
Jeff Angelo returned to Clark County a decade ago and discovered a passion for creating equitable access to resources for everyone. His day job is directing the ARC of Southwest Washington, opening employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. For Evergreen, he is passionate about helping families and students receive food, resources and support to level the playing field. He presided over the Evergreen School District Foundation for three years, bridging basic needs gaps, fostering innovation and providing opportunities for student access. He tirelessly seeks volunteer involvement to help with student scholarships, Principal Checkbooks, early childhood learning support, school supplies, food pantries and covering advanced placement test fees.
Hockinson School District
If one of a counselor's greatest assets is a big heart, then it's no wonder Jessica Ambrose is a beloved counselor at Hockinson Middle School. She makes herself available to students, lending an ear without judgment and helping them adapt and explore themselves and their futures. She helps create programs where she sees needs, such as a care closet managed by recent high school graduates, Lunch Bunch groups, a middle-school mentoring initiative and individual support programs. Her efforts help create a positive culture as students set their course in life.
When driving through Hockinson, you can't miss the iconic Hockinson Market run by Hockinson alum Justin VanNatta. The convenience store and tap room are situated at the main intersection between school and community, just like his family. The second-generation owner works hand in hand with the school district and local parent teacher association to support students. From donation nights to school merchandise sales, Hockinson Market has always been an ally to the district. They even made the sweet gesture of donating an ice cream cone to every elementary student as a reward for persevering through this year’s challenges. Justin also lends his graphic design skills to district initiatives, including designing a custom t-shirt to congratulate fifth grade graduates.
La Center School District
Joel Shaw is a classic IT guy. He loves to make technology work, from producing events, to live concerts, and keeping document cameras and chromebooks operational. A part-time tech support role a decade ago has become a full-time assignment to keep La Center schools connected. With COVID, he and his colleagues went into hyper-drive. This included deploying 1,400 chromebooks to students through a device distribution plan, plus troubleshooting, plus an exchange and repair program, all the while adhering to robust safety protocols. Joel's supervisor credits his work as critical to La Center's success despite the stress and uncertainty of a global pandemic.
If you ever need a n example of how to pour hope into students and community, just follow Walter Hansen. As a founder of the La Center Education Foundation, he is a key contributor, fundraiser and volunteer in improving facilities. He carried signs at sports events, dressed up like a mailbox to promote voting, sold raffle t ickets and helped build a middle school bleacher cover. Following in the footsteps of his late father, Walter's family has continued a 50 year tradition of hosting a frog jump contest at Woodland Planter Days. Walter takes it personally. Over 30 years, he has mentored 170 youth who need another adult in their life, coached many others, and extended a free snow cone as a gesture of friendship.
Ridgefield School District
Ridgefield is a community recognized for its bold vision and strong sense of place. In early 2021, the school district sought to construct a new entrance to its stadium using only donated materials and resources. Faced with a tight timeline, there was one person who had the resources and the vision to help the district reach their goal: Jim Buchan, owner of Ridgefield-based Alliance Industrial Group. When approached for construction assistance, Jim did not hesitate. He committed resources to the project, rallied others, and became integral to planning and coordination. Jim's dedication to the project helped Ridgefield meet its goal of completion in time for the Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremony.
After three decades of teaching experience, one could understand if Peggy Horne chose to sit back and relax. Instead, her dedication and passion only grows with time and experience. Peggy has a remarkable willingness to bring others into her classroom and to learn new things, no matter how challenging, so long as it benefits her students. This includes endless hours of summer training to learn new technologies for remote learning and collaborating with support staff to create behavior support plans. She maintains high expectations for her students, focusing on students' emotional development and building social connections and community. Even with growth-minded energy and a seriousness about student learning, Peggy's laugh lights up a room and she can still laugh at herself.
Vancouver Public Schools
Vancouver Public Schools include more than 3,000 parents and guardians who speak Spanish, and another 500 who speak Russian. That's no problem for Sofia Avila, Ekaterina Walla and Fawn McKay. With Sofia growing up in Mexico City and Ekaterina in Moscow, they bring a world of experience helping multi-lingual families receive information, which supports the district's values of equity and family engagement. Along with Fawn, who spent her early years in Chicago, their special services have been critical during the pandemic, including remote learning, hybrid schedules, and health and safety protocols.
Vancouver residents who love to watch high school volleyball, football or basketball games on the internet or through cable television can thank volunteers like Sam Petrie. The Fort Vancouver alum got exposed to video when participating in the Fort Sports program, learning to operate cameras and direct broadcasts. This stimulated a career in Sam who received a degree in broadcasting from Washington State University. After graduation, he has volunteered dozens of hours to VPS Game Time. Now, he's paying it forward by helping current students gain skills, while getting reps locally such as working Portland Trailblazer broadcasts for TNT.
Washington State School for the Blind
Adrienne Fernandez grew up in Camas but had no idea the Washington State School for the Blind had been operating nearby for 150 years. A grade school lesson in career exploration introduced her to the idea of recreation coordination. So, she ran with it. For two decades, Adrienne has helped students embrace their world by cycling, skiing, hiking, baking, dancing, writing and self-defense. Always passionate and optimistic, Adrienne has tripled the number of volunteers to 350 who join her in impacting student lives at the statewide school located in Vancouver.
Kaitlin Dittmar has experienced quite a bit of the country, growing up in Wyoming, graduating from college in Florida, living in Montana and North Carolina, and then settling here when her spouse Shane became the school's music teacher. She was drawn into volunteering, first for concerts, caroling and dance. Then, she saw a gap in reading and writing, and decided to form a creative writing class, which evolved into a book club via Zoom during the pandemic. While finding a way to ply her own passion for writing, she found students hungry for adventure, cherishing activities that open their hearts and minds to the limitless power of literature and words.
Washington State University Vancouver
Mike Caulfield landed here in 2013 after growing up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. His focus: find ways to serve WSU Vancouver students more effectively beyond the classroom and textbook through networked and video learning. His work in digital literacy has been cited in higher education journals, Wired Magazine and the New York Times. His digital transformation hit warp speed when the pandemic forced immediate dependence upon distance learning. Mike took it one step further; he championed an empathetic "care at the core" philosophy, ensuring a spirit of partnership between students and teachers. WSU Vancouver's stage is now set for blended learning environments for generations to come.
From the moment Jasmine Tolbert walked onto the WSU Vancouver campus, she sought ways to plug into the diverse college experience. She found it through the student club Black People United, the Diversity Center and through welcoming classroom staff. Her student experiences propelled her into volunteer roles with NAACP Vancouver and YWCA Clark County, the WSU Vancouver Equity and Diversity advisory council, and the Interstate Bridge replacement program. Finding friendly ways to advocate, Jasmine has quickly become one of Clark County's most influential advocates for racial equity and social justice.
Washougal School District
One motivated person and four decades can change a community. When Sandra Renner first moved to Clark County from the Yakima Valley, there were only a handful of Hispanic residents here. Through her work in property management, auto sales, and as a school volunteer, she saw the need to help Spanish speaking families feel welcome and connected. Now, she uses her language and social skills to help families navigate the systems that lead to student success. Her work became essential during COVID when about 47 Spanish families had limited access to computers -- she went door to door to create Zoom connections and line up tutors. Her trusted support translated into significant improvements in student participation and engagement, better outcomes for students, and a stronger and more welcoming community.
Kasey Morales understands that the strength of a community begins with a strong public school system. She’s been instrumental in the work of the Washougal Schools Foundation for more than a decade, including serving as president and playing a key role in The Student Stride for Education, a community run and student event that raises money for classroom projects that fall outside the scope of typical funding. She has used her marketing experience to support student learning, including partnering with Career and Technical Education teachers and students to design and produce hands-on projects with real world applications, like recipe boxes for a Foodie in Training effort.
The Learn Here Project is a special project of Identity Clark County, a nonprofit business leaders group that strives to make Clark County an even better place to land, live and learn for a lifetime. The Learn Here Project is made possible by Real Living The Real Estate Group, NW Capital Mortgage, Port of Vancouver USA and iQ Credit Union.