Kelso School District Family Support Specialist Nancy Baldwin was named the Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced Monday.
Baldwin has worked with homeless students for more than 20 years, with 18 of those years in Kelso. She helps students monitor their grades, missing assignments, absences and immediate needs.
“For students and families experiencing homelessness, Nancy may serve as their liaison, but she also serves as their counselor, confidant, graduation specialist, and community service provider… as well as their inspiration,” Don Iverson, Kelso student services director, said in a statement. “Nancy exemplifies our district’s commitment in doing whatever it takes to graduate 100% of our students. ... We are so proud of her!”
During the pandemic, Baldwin has worked to expand the range and depth of the district program intended to support homeless or in-need families and unaccompanied youth.
In her letter recommending Baldwin for the award, student Bryanna described when she learned she’d aged out of her living situation and didn’t have a place to go.
“Mrs. Baldwin took me back to her office and told me we weren’t leaving for the day until she had a place for me to stay,” Bryanna wrote. “When I say Mrs. Baldwin saved my life, I really mean it. For the rest of my life, I know I have her. I am so grateful to have met her. I know without her I would not be graduating; I would be homeless and even worse.”
The Classified School Employee of the Year program recognizes one worker from each of the state’s educational service districts every year, and a committee chooses the state employee of the year from this group. Baldwin will compete for the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) award administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
“Mrs. Baldwin is a prime example of the power of a great educator changing the course of a student’s life forever,” said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal in a statement. “It’s clear that through her tireless efforts, she is making a difference for students and families experiencing homelessness in Kelso and throughout the region.”