Anchorage School District honors exemplary employees


May 16, 2016



Contact: Heidi Embley
ASD Communications Department
Phone: 907-742-4158


Three ASD employees are recipients of the Denali Award, a biannual recognition program that honors employees who have shown outstanding achievement, service and dedication in ensuring every student has the opportunity to achieve his or her potential. The Anchorage School Board will recognize the winners at its meeting tonight.


The spring 2016 winners are:


Donna Gum, English Language Learner tutor

Denali award winner spring 2016 Donna Gum is the type of person who graciously accepts every challenge as an opportunity. According to her principal, Gum - an English Language Learner tutor at Susitna Elementary School - has worked extremely hard to create a program that promotes inclusive educational practices and opportunities for the school's growing ELL population. Susitna's students, families and teachers have all benefited from her seven years at the schools.


Gum advocates tirelessly for ELL students and their families in many ways, both within and outside of her workday. She readily shares her knowledge with her colleagues to ensure they understand how to best support ELL students. She gives up her lunch breaks and offers her time before and after school to help students become more proficient.


She is determined to ensure ELL families have access to and feel welcome at Susitna. One of the ways she does this is by coordinating interpreters to attend parent-teacher conferences and IEP meetings. According a teacher at Susitna, "I count on her as I plan intervention groups and activities not only for my ELL students, but my whole class. Each school should be so fortunate to have someone like her working tirelessly to support them and their students." 


Gail Patarini, administrative assistant

Denali award winner spring 2016 Sixteen-year ASD veteran Gail Patarini is the administrative assistant at Eagle River Elementary School. She takes great pride in her responsibilities and cares about the well-being of everyone who walks in the door at Eagle River Elementary.


According to her principal, the genuine customer service Patarini provides for students, staff, parents and visitors in remarkable. Multi-tasking is her specialty. She answers the phone with a smile in her voice, can easily guide a substitute on the correct path when their GPS sent them to the wrong school and email a teacher about attendance, all while enthusiastically checking on a little one who is proudly showcasing his/her loose tooth.


She possesses a wealth of knowledge about the mechanics of the school building; she can repair a leaky sink, replace a lightbulb, adjust the lights in the MPR and repair electronics with ease. Within a moment's notice, she can shift her role and successfully wear the hat of the BPO, nurse, secretary, cafeteria manager, noon duty or counselor.


Patarini goes above and beyond to help others or just to share a smile or a laugh. Her infectious laugh carries throughout the school and staff credit her for setting the standard for Eagle River Elementary's positive school climate, making her an excellent recipient of the Denali Award.


Julie Patotzka, sixth-grade teacher

Denali award winner spring 2016 Bayshore Elementary School Teacher Julie Patotzka demonstrates remarkable dedication to her students. A math teacher in Bayshore's sixth-grade middle school model, Patotzka is passionate about education. She facilitates student learning while allowing students the opportunity to be in charge and responsible for their own success. She imparts to students that sometimes struggle is needed to persevere. Patotzka is an expert at spotting student challenges and troubleshooting success solutions. Her student, Logan, says, "She can be tough at times, but that is just because she wants us to work harder." Student Xiomara wrote that Patotzka deserves the Denali Award because she cares about her students and wants them to do great things in life.


As a cohort leader, she helps other teachers learn more about academic plans, Go Math! materials and best practices for teaching mathematics. Her classroom is often recommended to teachers who want to observe highly-effective instruction.


Patotzka is known for often arriving to work even before the janitorial staff. She opens her classroom for students to come before school and receive extra help on their assignments. According to her colleagues, she holds everyone to the same high standard that she holds herself. "Rising to that expectation is what makes everyone around her perform better and makes Bayshore an exceptional school," said a coworker. 


Supervisors have the opportunity to nominate employees each fall and spring. Nominations often include letters of support from co-workers, members of the community and students detailing why the employees are considered outstanding in their field of work. The awards are judged by a group of their peers.


ASD applauds these employees, and all nominees, for their amazing service to our students and this community.


Anchorage School District website accessibility and nondiscrimination notice. The Anchorage School District is an equal opportunity provider.