Congratulations to this incredible slate of winners (pictured above, L-R): Alejandra Silva-Avendano – Outstanding Rookie Teacher, Alain Semet – Outstanding Volunteer, Charles “Chuck” Garrity – Outstanding Alumnus, Alberto Mendoza Garcia – Outstanding Classified Staff, Karly Feria – Outstanding Professional Staff, Alicia Gaynor – Outstanding Administrator, and Marianne Schneeman – Outstanding Teacher. Photo courtesy Highline Schools Foundation.

On Thursday night, Mar. 24, 2022 the winners of the 2022 Gold Star Awards were announced at the Highline Schools Foundations’ sold out Gold Star Bash, highlighting the outstanding efforts of educators, staff, volunteers and others who work in Highline Public Schools.

And the winners are…these seven individuals, “who live and breathe our Highline promise to know every student by name, strength and need so that they graduate prepared for the future they choose:”

  • Outstanding Teacher – Marianne Schneeman, Language & Literacy Specialist – Marvista Elementary School
  • Outstanding Rookie Teacher – Alejandra Silva-Avendano, Teacher, Pacific Middle School
  • Outstanding Classified Staff – Alberto Mendoza Garcia, Bilingual Tutor and Paraeducator, Chinook Middle School
  • Outstanding Professional Staff – Karly Feria, College & Career Access Specialist, Tyee High School
  • Outstanding Administrator – Alicia Gaynor, Principal, Bow Lake Elementary School
  • Outstanding Volunteer – Alain Semet, Green Energy Team Mentor, Raisbeck Aviation High School
  • Outstanding Alumnus – Charles Garrity, Class of 1957, Highline High School

Seventy-three individuals were nominated for the 2022 Gold Star Awards, representing 31 programs, schools and departments throughout the district.

Read on to learn more about what makes each of these seven winners extraordinary.

Outstanding Teacher


As Marvista’s language and literacy specialist, Marianne wears many hats, including teaching both the students and the teachers. She serves as Marvista’s instructional coach, delivering and introducing new curriculum to the teachers in an approachable and digestible way with an emphasis on academic discourse. Marianne’s nominator stated: “Marianne is the definition of an outstanding teacher. She revolutionized the role of Literacy and Language Specialist at Marvista and used her position to lift up everyone around her, especially the most vulnerable. She strives to create success for both teachers and students and helps increase their confidence in their abilities. Marianne has steadfastly advocated for educational equity and made an immense impact through her deep commitment to the bilingual and immigrant families in the district. The whole idea of making sure each student felt confident, heard, and wasn’t left behind, was truly important to Marianne. The grace, kindness, and positivity she demonstrated made all the difference. Students wanted to work hard and do everything they were asked because of the way she encouraged and gently coached them. Marianne also empowered me to do my best as a teacher. Marianne truly has the gift of inspiring others, both students and staff, and through the pursuit of her passion she has changed many lives.”

Outstanding Rookie Teacher


Alejandra teaches 8th grade Social Studies at Pacific Middle School. She serves students in several capacities including leading Pacific’s LatinX club, helping students in Homework Help after school, coaching track, and committing to help students during lunch. Her nominators say, “Alejandra treats every student with dignity and respect and ensures that each of her students has what they need to be successful, whether it is translated texts and instructions for newly arrived English Language Learners, support during after-school homework help, or extra communication with a student’s family. She collaborates effectively with other history department members to calibrate assessments and plan effective standards-based instruction. She is the epitome of the “warm demander” and ensures students know that she has high expectations for them because she cares about them and their future. Alejandra participates in our school life with the wisdom of a teacher far beyond her years. There is no rookie teacher more committed to students.”

Outstanding Classified Staff


Alberto is a bilingual tutor and ELL paraeducator at Chinook Middle School. Alberto is not just well-loved and appreciated by his colleagues but is an integral part of Chinook and broader communities, doing an incredible job working with students and families. His nominator shared that “Alberto is an invaluable and irreplaceable component of the Chinook Middle School staff. He is incredibly hard-working but does far more than his job description, with gentleness, consistency, dependability, and good-natured humor. Consistency and dependability go hand-in-hand with one another and have been shown through Alberto’s long-term position at Chinook, his willingness to do whatever is asked of him as well as jump in wherever else he is needed. He is always willing to help and usually starts helping you before you even ask. He goes above and beyond every day and Chinook is incredibly lucky to have him.”

Outstanding Professional Staff


Karly serves as a college & career access specialist at Tyee High School, providing college and career-awareness-building opportunities, activities and events that help Tyee students gain access to post-secondary opportunities– education, training or work. She is an amazing advocate for Summer Search and goes above and beyond to get us in front of as many students as possible and follows up with students who trust her because of the efforts she puts in to know and connect to them. From her nominator: “Karly genuinely cares about the lives of the students, not just how they are in school but about who they will become in life. She genuinely see’s students for who they are and doesn’t push a narrative of what she thinks is success onto them. I see the way students are comfortable to show up as themselves around her and she is truly a trusted adult to many on the Tyee high school campus. Folks like her make all the difference in young folks’ lives.”

Outstanding Administrator


Alicia Gaynor is the principal at Bow Lake Elementary School. To prepare for this role, Alicia has worked with youth in a wide variety of roles – ranging from mentor, coach, secondary science educator, and school leader. She is passionate about educational equity and creating an equitable school where all students excel. Her nominator shared, “Ms. Gaynor has been nothing but stellar leading our school since she first arrived at Bow Lake in 2019. Facing the pandemic mid-way through her first year as principal, Ms. Gaynor took charge of the challenge while strategically assessed our school culture, needs, and literally completed a makeover for our school. She spearheaded a tremendous effort in transforming our school into a calmer and welcoming environment while attending to the needs of her staff. When it comes to work, Ms. Gaynor is an extremely hard worker. Her work ethic and laser focused are unmatched. She truly leads by example and is an inspiration to those around her.”

Outstanding Volunteer


Alain Semet is a volunteer mentor for the Green Energy Team at Raisbeck Aviation High School. As a mentor, he volunteers consistently and extensively – even traveling with the team to Texas as they participated in the National Solar Car Challenge in 2019 and 2021. His nominator shared: “Since 2015, Alain has been volunteering at RAHS, engaging with and mentoring students who are converting engineering ideas into reality. In his role, he has worked with students in Science Olympiad, independent projects, and Green Energy. Under his guidance, students have grown as engineers, as team players, and as people. The work they do in the shop instills students with the confidence and the skills they need to take agency of their lives. In addition to modeling the value of putting in the time and demonstrating the power of specialization and generalization, Alain guides students on their journeys of growth.”

Outstanding Alumnus


Charles (Chuck) Garrity grew up in Burien and is a proud graduate of Highline High School, Class of 1957. After high school Chuck joined the United States Air Force where he served as a navigator during the Vietnam War. He left the active-duty military after six years of service but continued to serve in the Air Reserve, retiring as a Major in 1980. In 1966, he become a commercial pilot. Chuck had a long and successful career as a pilot for TWA, retiring in 1995.

Wanting to ensure that students demonstrating academic success, but perhaps not the financial resources, to be able to attend college, he set up the Charles M. Garrity Scholarship Fund in 2015. Over the years, this scholarship fund has provided more than $374,000 to 17 high achieving students who have graduated from – or are currently attending – schools such as Howard University, Pacific Lutheran University, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California and the University of Washington. For some students, this financial support has made attending college possible, and for many, being able to attend their dream schools. This coming May, the Highline Schools Foundation will award two more Charles M. Garrity Scholarships to deserving students, with each scholarship worth up to $30,000 over four years.

Gold Star Breakfast coming April 14

The Gold Star Winners will be celebrated at the 2022 Gold Star Fundraising Breakfast on Thursday, April 14, 2022 at Cedarbrook Lodge in SeaTac.

The Gold Star Breakfast is the Highline Schools Foundation’s biggest fundraising event of the year, helping them raise critical funds that give the opportunity to provide a variety of programming throughout Highline. Funds raised at the Gold Star Breakfast fund the purchase of school supplies and basic needs for students throughout Highline, boost innovative learning in classrooms and libraries through Excel and Impact Grants, and pivot quickly to new and emerging needs as they arise.

More information can be found on the Foundation’s website.

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