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2018 BP Teachers and Educational Allies of Excellence

BP launched Teachers of Excellence 23 years ago, both to recognize the contributions of outstanding Alaska teachers and to reinforce and encourage excellence in education.

In addition, the BP Educational Allies award was added last year to recognize the unsung heroes in our schools -- support staff, administrators or volunteers -- who are working alongside teachers to inspire students and make a difference in our schools and community.

Please join me in recognizing two BP Educational Allies for the Anchorage School District.

Marilyn Gallardo, or Ms. G, as she’s known, has more than 25 years of service with the Anchorage School district.

She has genuine concern for students, but also holds them to the school’s expectations of high standards of behavior.

In addition to her time spent during the school day, Ms. G is always willing to help with events outside school hours, from late-night wrestling meets to basketball and hockey, building camaraderie between opponents.


LaVerne Maynard Lee provides a critical service for a group of Alaskans who are often overlooked.

She helps children in the Alaska State School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing form friendships and relationships with others, and is an amazing advocate for the staff members and community with which they work.

Congratulations, Marilyn and Laverne, BP Educational Allies.

And now please join me in recognizing the eight ASD teachers who have been recognized as BP Teachers of Excellence this year.

Lem Wheeles
Leola Rutherford
Gerald Ramos
Kellie Puff

Matthew Prnka
Alison McCarrey
Kristopher Hinrichsen
Lea Bouton


Lea Bouton

Lea teaches science and engineering to all four grade levels at Dimond High School. She has been teaching for eight years, all in Alaska, and is an alum of Dimond High.

Lea says that her proudest moments occur when she hears from former students about the impact her class had on their lives. She states: “I shifted careers to teaching to have a positive impact on shaping our future world. It is likely the goal of every teacher to change lives, but measuring achievement of that goal is often hard to do.”

Congratulations, Lea, BP Teacher of Excellence.


Alison McCarrey

Alison McCarrey teaches orchestra at Romig Middle School and to sixth graders at Turnagain and Roger’s Park Elementary Schools. She is an alum of Anchorage’s West High School and, before that, the very school where she now teaches: Romig Middle School.

Allison teaches her kids three things: You are part of this group. What we do in this group is special, and we have high standards. And, lastly, I believe you can reach these standards.

Alison integrates team-building, social-emotional learning and partner work into her lesson plans so students build relationships and a safe and welcoming community.

Congratulations, Alison, BP Teacher of Excellence.


Matthew Prnka

Maythew teaches chemistry, Project Lead the Way engineering, and First Tech Challenge robotics at Eagle River High School. He’s been a teacher for 19 years, 16 of them in Alaska.

He feels it is important to model proper, successful behavior. With that goal in mind, he is at school every day – and hasn’t taken a personal or sick day in 10 years – he is always prepared, with lessons, labs and activities ready in advance of class, he is available, with an open-door policy for homework and study tutoring both before and after school, and he is always looking for new ways to learn.

Congratulations, Matthew, BP Teacher of Excellence.


Kellie Puff

Kellie is known as “Chef Puff” to her students. She teaches culinary arts in eleventh and twelfth grades at Martin Luther King Junior Career Center. She has been teaching for 10 years, all in Alaska.

Chef Puff is highly regarded, not just by her students, but by her fellow teachers. One wrote that she works to prepare her students as a technically skilled labor force, but also lays the groundwork to help them become good citizens.

One of her students asks, “Isn’t that what an exceptional teacher is? Someone who encourages and pushes students to be their very best?” Chef Puff is clearly exactly that.

Congratulations, Chef Puff, BP Teacher of Excellence.


Gerald Ramos

Gerald Ramos teaches third grade at College Gate Elementary School, but has spent years teaching combination classes, including first/second, second/third, and special education resource K through fourth grade. He has been a teacher for nine years, seven of which have been in Alaska.

Gerald tells us that, “We hear the phrase ‘jack of all trades,’ but for teachers, I feel we fulfill ‘hats’ of all trades. Every day in my class, I am a teacher, a parent, a nurse, a friend, a mentor, a counselor and the bad guy to my students. Every day is not only a learning experience for my students, but also for me.”

Congratulations, BP Teacher of Excellence.


Leola Rutherford

Leola Rutherford teaches fourth and fifth grades at Rogers Park Elementary School. She’s been a teacher for four years, all in Alaska. She is a fifth-generation Alaskan and proud graduate of East Anchorage High School.

Ms. Rutherford’s class is a functioning mini society. Students govern, run daily class meetings, present targeted mini-lessons, plan field trips, publish a newspaper, collaborate together and invite guests in to enrich the curriculum.

Clearly, what students are discovering in her class is a love of learning and sense of wonder for our world.

Congratulations Leola, BP Teacher of Excellence


Lem Wheeles

Lem Wheeles teaches social studies to all four grade levels at A.J. Dimond High School. He has been a teacher for 14 years, all in Alaska, and is a Dimond alum.

He believes his mission as an educator is “to empower young people to reach their maximum potential by engaging in their community as leaders, scholars and citizens.”

Lem requires his students complete a citizen action project, in which they apply what they have learned in the classroom by participating in public meetings, attending court proceedings, registering to vote, participating in political campaigns and interacting with elected officials.

One of those students writes, “The greatest way Mr. Wheeles makes a difference in the community is by ensuring that every student who enters his classroom comes out more educated, aware and ready to take on the real world.”

Congratulations, Lem, BP Teacher of Excellence.

And now, please join me in congratulating the 2018 Anchorage School District BP Teacher of the Year… Mr. Kris Hinrichsen.

Kris teaches first and second graders at Chinook Elementary School. He’s been a teacher for eight years.

He is one of the state’s leaders in social and emotional learning (or “SEL”) and has served on the council of distinguished educators for a commission in Washington, D.C., one of just six teachers asked to serve in this role.

Kris says, “I believe in serving the whole child. This means I view my job to be more than teaching my students academics. I take an interest in the things that excite them both in and out of the classroom.”

Thank you and congratulations to all of our BP Teachers and Allies of the year. You are what makes ASD great!