Classified Employees of the Year
Meet Puyallup's Classified Employees of the Year
Posted on 02/20/2020
Meet Puyallup's Classified Employees of the Year

Three classified staff members were surprised recently when they each learned they were selected as 2019-20 Puyallup School District Classified School Employee of the Year. The announcements were made during staff meetings in front of their peers.

This year’s classified honorees are Human Resources Staffing & School Support Coordinator Rhonda Knudson; Emerald Ridge Lab Technician Lisa Martin; and Maplewood Elementary Office Manager Carla Tyree.

Nominations for classified employees were accepted during the month of December. The process encourages nominations of classified staff members who have made a positive difference in their profession. Characteristics for the award include an outstanding contribution to student success, professional leadership qualities, and number of years of service.

Knudson, Martin, and Tyree were recognized at the Puyallup School Board meeting on February 18 at Ballou Junior High. Family, friends, and staff members were on hand to congratulate them.

As Classified School Employee of the Year they each receive a plant basket, certificate for professional development, and an engraved plaque.

Lisa Martin

When it comes to science labs, Lisa Martin is the expert. She has served her entire 13 years with the district as the Science Lab Technician at Emerald Ridge High School.

As a science resource to all secondary schools in the district, Martin has trained the other lab technicians and been an ongoing mentor. She teaches best lab practices and assists in making the district labs safer. “Lisa’s leadership and expertise have become the standard by which secondary schools look to model their science labs both in terms of lesson design and student safety,” says Emerald Ridge Principal Richard Lasso.

At Emerald Ridge, Martin runs the general science lab which can host up to four different classes at one time. On any given day, she can be seen demonstrating labs for students, researching best practices, and refining materials to ensure an engaging experience for students.

She sets up the labs, makes sure they work, rewrites them when necessary, and assists teachers in lab instruction. She makes sure all the equipment is cared for and often teaches students and staff how to run the equipment.

“Lisa is the cornerstone of what happens in our science lab. Ms. Martin’s advocacy for high quality, rigorous science instruction and access to materials for all students is evident in her work with science teachers across the district.” Emerald Ridge Principal Richard Lasso

Martin is someone who gets involved outside of her daily tasks. She has assisted the district in implementation of new science and CTE curriculums, is the Union Rep for PESPA at Emerald Ridge for the past two years, and she started a new club at the school last year called C.A.R.E club that centers around animal rights awareness and changing the impact humans have on the environment.

Rhonda Knudson

When it comes to recruiting and hiring new employees for the Puyallup School District, Rhonda Knudson is on the front lines. She is described as a tireless and enthusiastic recruiter providing immediate support from the first meeting with a potential employee, to hiring and certification, further training, and wherever possible — into programs to further their education and career goals.

As the Staffing and School Support Coordinator, Knudson says, “I get to work with Dr. Ailene Baxter in the recruiting and staffing efforts for the district. This entails registering for various recruiting events, obtaining necessary recruiting materials, and coordinating for each of the events.”

Knudson works directly with people to help them through application requirements, hiring paperwork, fingerprinting, district identification badge processing, and new hire orientation.

Her responsibilities also include supervision and providing support for the substitute services office.

Since she was hired in 2015, “Knudson has shown leadership and been a mentor. Rhonda understands the importance of hiring and supporting great people to serve our students,” says Dr. Ailene Baxter, human resources director of staffing and school support.

As a volunteer, Knudson serves as a role model and mentor to students. She has mentored at Walker High School, and for the past two years has been paired with a student at Meeker Elementary where she helps with homework, has provided lunch, attends assemblies, and helps out in the student’s classroom.

“I am truly blessed to work for the Puyallup School District and specifically with the Human Resources Department,” says Knudson. 

Carla Tyree

It’s all about building relationships for Carla Tyree. As the Office Manager at Maplewood Elementary, she is described as a role model for kids, with a personality that is warm, welcoming, and engaging. She is often the ‘go-to’ person for staff, students, and families.

“Our families, like their children, take to her instantly. These relationships allow us to serve our children better,” says Maplewood Principal Susan Walton.

Her job as Office Manager requires Tyree to wear many hats. She tracks the budget, orders and organizes supplies, and coordinates substitutes. “One day can cover many titles: accountant, nurse, teacher, counselor, public relations, de-escalator, encourager, principal assistant, receptionist, student advisor, staff advisor, facilities coordinator, and many other duties as assigned. I love it all!” says Tyree.

Walton says Tyree treats all students with dignity and respect, regardless of the situation. She knows every student by name, and she knows their unique needs.

She runs the Maplewood office in a professional manner. “She is articulate, efficient, and always organized. Her professionalism is always in place, but it is enhanced by her warm and welcoming personality. Without fail, Carla greets each student and parent with a big smile and sincere ‘How can I help you?’, says Walton.

Tyree began her career in the district in 1991 as a substitute employee. During that time, she worked at Riverside, Waller Road, Woodland, Stahl, and Maplewood. “I get to work with many fantastic people, not only at Maplewood, but throughout the whole district. I can honestly say that there is NEVER a day that I do not want to come to work!,” she says.

Nancy French
frenchnl@puyallup.k12.wa.us