Fifteen local educators were honored with Crystal Apple Awards on Friday night during the 24th annual celebration of excellence in education.

Presented by the McLaran Leadership Foundation and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, the 2023 awards honored 89 nominees from the cities of Salem and Keizer for their dedication to area students. The event was held at the Salem Convention Center and featured dinner, entertainment and emcee Zach DuFault.

The 24th annual event is the first time the event has commenced since 2019.

“On behalf of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and the McLaran Leadership Foundation, we were honored to bring back this key celebration of excellence in education to the communities of Salem and Keizer,” said Tom Hoffert, chief executive officer of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We were humbled by the record number of nominations from within the education sector. From our local private and charter schools and educators, administrators and support staff within Salem-Keizer Public Schools, we had nominations from various parents and community partners. Without the support of the invested local businesses who wish to see continued student success and achievement, this event would not have been possible. We are in gratitude to Mt. West Investment Corporation, Maps Credit Union, the Epping Family Trust, and each of our supporting sponsors who created the financial infrastructure for tonight’s successful celebration of education and leadership.”

About the Crystal Apple Awards

The Crystal Apple Awards celebrate and recognize teachers, administrators and support staff who exceed all expectations of their profession, inspiring students and engaging the community in their work.

“I am thrilled to have this special and long-standing recognition program return to our community,” said Salem-Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Christy Perry. “I want to extend a big ‘thank you’ to the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and the hundreds of individuals who came together to nominate a record number of educators within our community. I am so proud of the excellent educators our students learn from each and every day in our local schools, and the 15 recipients of this year’s awards are clear examples of the incredible heart for kids within in our schools.”

The 2023 Crystal Apple Awards recipients are:

Sarah Keck

Sarah Keck, Teacher
South Salem High School

“Sarah is more than a teacher; she was more than an AVID instructor. She was a source of support; she was a safe space.”

Harry Ahn

Harry Ahn, Teacher
Blanchet Catholic School

“Harry wasn’t simply a math teacher, he taught his students about life. The more I got to know Mr. Ahn, the more he taught.”

Michael Cape

Michael Cape, Transportation Field Coordinator
SKPS Transportation Services

“Michael serves students by ensuring that they have safe, fair, and kind transportation to and from school. Michael has taken his compassion for others into his work and his team is grateful for his organization and experience in helping them navigate often stressful and confusing situations.”

Michael Daniels

Michael Daniels, Technology Support Specialist
SKPS Technology and Information Services

“Michael has this incredible ability to collaborate, coordinate, create and motivate through his enthusiasm to develop and implement TIS, and district, driven goals and initiatives. His authentic care and connection are a one-of-a-kind trait which is unique to only Michael.”

Sheila Gebhardt

Sheila Gebhardt, Administrative Specialist
SKPS Music and Drama Department

“Sheila always understands that our job is to give the students our best. She is a constant champion of our programs and our students. She knows and has so many deep and strong relationships with our teachers and is a strong advocate for their students.”

Denny McCarthy

Denny McCarthy, Principal
Straub Middle School

“As my supervisor at two different schools, I am so grateful for his day-to-day modeling of what being a servant leader looks, sounds, and feels like. His sense of humor, stories and interactions with students, staff, parents, and our community, remind me who we work so hard for – our students.”

Carl Mucken

Carl Mucken, Principal
Queen of Peace Catholic School

“Carl’s leadership as principal of Queen of Peace has brought the ‘parts’ of this school together and has resulted in inspired teachers, satisfied parents and personal achievement for the students.”

Hortencia Navarrete

Hortencia Navarrete, Bilingual Instructional Assistant
Bush Elementary School

“Ms. Navarrete is always ready to take on whatever task a teacher asks her to do. Not only does she do the task, but she often will add something or take the original vision above and beyond what was ever expected.”

Jeremy Parker

Jeremy Parker, Teacher
Auburn Elementary School

“Jeremy creates many genuine learning opportunities for students to demonstrate their creativity, diversity and kindness through his thoughtfulness and ability to relate content and activities to the interest of his students.”

Jacqueline Pope Brothers

Jacqueline Pope Brothers, Teacher
Sprague High School

“Jacqueline brings an energy and passion to the classroom that motivates her students to develop skills out of their comfort zones, learn about complicated topics and respect others’ opinions while being able to back up their own arguments.”

Dennise Pozos Gonzalez

Dennise Pozos Gonzalez, Teacher
West Salem High School

“I took my first steps into my first high school Spanish class and I was greeted with smiles. I saw her face light up for no other reason than seeing students. I saw her pride flag in the background, and I knew I was safe.”

Denise Proudfoot

Denise Proudfoot, Nurse
South Salem High School

“No matter the situation or extenuating circumstance, the student’s history or reputation, or even the time or energy needed, Denise is known as the kind of person who is willing to put in the time if it means helping a student feel heard or reach their potential.

Maricela Ruiz

Maricela Ruiz Herrera, Bilingual Instructional Assistant
McKay High School

“Maricela works with classes whose majority of students are identified as English learners. She is able to connect with families by making phone calls home, setting up meetings and interpreting the meetings with families and teachers.”

Megan Spickerman

Megan Spickerman, Instructional Support Assistant
Chapman Hill Elementary School

“Megan is a relationship person. She is friendly, caring, a team player, funny, happy, and always puts others first, especially children and their needs.”

Gabriella Steinlicht

Gabriella Steinlicht, Bilingual Instructional Assistant
Kennedy Elementary School

“Gabriella inspires students and staff to reach their potential by always encouraging them to do their best. Whether she is teaching a small group, supervising at recess, or staying late to teach an enrichment class, Gabriella brings her passion, warmth, and high expectations to every educational setting.”

View the Complete List of Nominees Here

Thanks to our sponsors

The 24th Annual Crystal Apple Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Mt. West Investment Corporation, Maps Credit Union, the Epping Family Trust, and each of the supporting sponsors, Allied Video Productions, ASK ESP, Grove, Mueller & Swank, P.C., Keizer Network of Women, Neighborly Ventures, Salem-Keizer Education Association, and Sodexo.