Each year, WestEd recognizes the excellence of its employees through the Staff Recognition Awards: the Hood Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field and the Myers Award for Exceptional Contribution to the WestEd Community.

Read on to learn about the extraordinary work of the 2016 winners! [Note: Direct quotes from award recipients’ nominators are embedded within the descriptions below.]

Paul D. Hood Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field

This award recognizes staff excellence in research, development, and service.

Joanne Jensen, Director of Assessment Client Relations, Standards, Assessment, and Accountability Services
With an extensive body of work that has impacted countless administrators, educators, and students, Joanne Jensen is widely known and respected in the field of assessment development. She has played an integral role in building the agency’s extensive assessment development portfolio and helping WestEd become recognized as an industry leader in the standards and assessment arena. Jensen’s accomplishments are vast and varied — including leading major assessment development projects in several states; directing the development of high school end-of-course exams in multiple subjects; helping develop a performance-based assessment model for California vocational students; and authoring dozens of papers and presentations.

Andrea Lash*, Senior Research Scientist, Institutional Development / Regional Educational Laboratory West
Widely viewed as one of the nation’s leading research-design methodologists, Andrea Lash is frequently sought out for consultation and report reviews by federal agencies such as the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Over her decades-long career, she has led countless research and policy studies on teaching and learning that have had significant impact on the field. Her groundbreaking research examining the validity of various teacher evaluation measures, for example, influenced state policy decisions and was widely cited in the field and the press. Andrea has also helped bolster the quality and rigor of research at WestEd. In short, Andrea “has been a leader in establishing WestEd’s renown for excellence in research.”

* Former employee as of late 2016.

National Research & Development Center on Cognition and Mathematics Instruction; Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM)
The Core Team included: Steve Schneider, Program Director, STEM; Jodi Davenport, Senior Project Director; Kimberly Viviani, Senior Program Manager; Yvonne Kao, Senior Research Associate; and Kathleen Lepori Senior Program Coordinator (former employee as of early 2017).
In addition to the Core Team, there were many other contributors along the way, including Anita Moorjani, Cathy Carroll, Shandy Hauk, Aleata Hubbard, Bryan Matlen, Larry Thomas, Jennifer Wang, Sarah Warner, May Chan, and Uma Maedke.

Over the last several years, the Math Center team at WestEd has been carrying out groundbreaking work using the latest cognitive science principles to redesign and improve math curricula, as well as conducting large-scale rigorous research to determine how these modifications impact student learning. The team has exemplified WestEd’s goal of translating research into practice and policy. They have actively engaged with the field about the practical implications of the Center’s cutting-edge research by presenting at dozens of conferences; writing numerous journal articles and book chapters; hosting teacher-focused webinars on improving instructional practice; and convening a two-day conference exploring various ways of applying cognitive science research to the classroom.

Ed Myers Award for Exceptional Contribution to the WestEd Community

This award celebrates the many ways staff have a positive effect on our collaborative agency work.

Melissa Cheung, Senior Project Manager, Information Services
An education technology expert who goes far beyond offering just tech support, Melissa Cheung is known for “trouble-shooting problems large and small, all while keeping her calm and cool demeanor.” Colleagues appreciate her proactive approach to collaboration, including her eagerness “to roll up her sleeves and deeply understand a project’s content and concept” in order to devise the best technology solution. Unprompted, she regularly takes on a variety of non-technology-based roles to ensure the success of the projects in which she is involved. She is also a “process and systems thinker” who always looks at the bigger picture — strategizing about systems and tools that benefit not only one particular project, but the agency as a whole.

Silvia DeRuvo, Program Associate, Learning Innovations
Colleagues praise Silvia DeRuvo’s “unwavering commitment to her work and clients combined with her engaging and collaborative spirit.” She is seen as a team leader who takes a “strengths-based” approach to collaborating with colleagues — empowering them to become more independent and knowledgeable in helping others in the field. DeRuvo also acts as a mentor to new staff members working remotely, helping them navigate a smooth and productive transition to WestEd. One colleague summed up Silvia’s contributions as follows: “Her professionalism, diplomacy, collaborative nature, and commitment to client satisfaction make her not only a strong mentor and highly reliable partner, but also an absolute pleasure to work with!”

Sarah Guckenburg, Senior Research Associate, Learning Innovations
A “calm and strategic thinker” with a consistently positive attitude, Sarah Guckenburg is “always looking to troubleshoot and improve” operations. For instance, she led the development of an online tool to better track staff time and project expenditures, and she played an integral role in launching a research listserv to connect researchers and evaluators across the agency. Colleagues describe Guckenburg as a leader who has a special way of bringing staff together across programs and offices, and “promoting a great work environment that allows staff to focus energy on the right tasks.” As one colleague enthusiastically shared: “Everyone loves working with her.”

Tracy Haas, Accounts Payable Lead, Accounting Department
With a “positive, can-do attitude,” Tracy Haas always goes the extra mile to ensure that staff understand the intricacies of various accounting processes. Colleagues appreciate that “she always makes you feel like your problem is her most important priority.” Haas doesn’t hesitate to step in to help a colleague for an extended period of time, all while staying on top of her already full plate of agencywide duties. “It’s one thing to do what is expedient and expected,” said one nominator, “but it’s another thing to exhibit [Haas’] level of professionalism and initiative, which is truly remarkable for its thoughtfulness and thoroughness.”

Katie Monahan, Senior Program Associate, Center for Child & Family Studies
Admired by colleagues for her “thoughtfulness, tact, and respect,” Katie Monahan has the “uncanny ability to calmly respond to day-to-day dilemmas and decisions, while never losing sight of the bigger project needs.” As one colleague noted, “I am often amazed at her capacity to effectively balance so many moving parts at once.” With her stellar project-management skills and problem-solving abilities, Monahan is unanimously regarded as an asset to every team she joins — as one colleague noted, “Everyone needs a Katie Monahan on their team.” In addition, “her calm personality and sensitivity to the cues and needs of clients and team members lays the foundation for trusting and productive professional relationships.”

Valentin Pedroza, Research Associate, Health & Justice Program
From orienting newcomers to planning social events and birthday parties at the Los Alamitos office, Valentin Pedroza is known as a “one-person welcoming committee” and “the glue that binds staff together.” On top of his devotion to building relationships with staff, Pedroza is uniformly praised for his stellar organizational abilities. One colleague shared: “His mind is always 10 steps ahead on how to organize the work.” In addition, the structures and systems he puts in place “reduce each team member’s burden, increase efficiency, and facilitate collaboration.” In short, “[Pedroza] is a major asset to every team he joins.”