Six educators from the Yakima School District were honored with a 2021 Crystal Apple Award and celebrated at an outdoor ceremony Monday afternoon.

May is National Teacher Appreciation Month, and awards are based on nominations from peers and community members. The educators were honored at a drive-thru celebration at Sarg Hubbard Park in Yakima.

The winners are:

Jennifer Hernandez, an eighth-grade math and algebra teacher at Washington Middle School. She was nominated by assistant principal Nick Mifflin for finding creative ways to engage and support students during remote learning, and celebrating student success.

Colleen Kaluzny, a counselor at Nob Hill Elementary School. Kaluzny was nominated by Nob Hill Elementary student support interventionist Phillip Roberts for helping to build a “thriving” building culture, reminding students of their own skills in self-regulation, and expressing “sincere care and confidence” in her interactions with them.

Amy Markus, a sixth-grade social studies and Associated Student Body/leadership teacher at Washington Middle School. She was also nominated by Mifflin for building relationships with students and parents in addition to providing high-quality classroom education, mentoring and supporting students in school and life both while they are in her classroom and in following years.

Carrie Pitts, assistant principal of Robertson Elementary School. Pitts was nominated by school music specialist Nichola Hill for empowering “students and parents to become independent learners” and serving as an ally to them as they grow.

Jeffrey Rist, a photography and film teacher at A.C. Davis High School, who was nominated by assistant principal Jewel Brumley for setting up “students for success, helping them overcome shyness, procrastination, nervousness and the need for perfection,” while growing a culture of excellence among his students.

Holli Wolcott, a business communications, computer technology, tech theater and career choices teacher at Stanton Academy. Wolcott was nominated by student advocate Donna Kelly for her ability to make learning hands on and relevant, ensuring students “feel welcome and accepted equally.” Her work helps students “gain confidence in their abilities to learn, read, write and speak,” and provides encouragement and strategies for fellow staff.

The recipients were awarded $1,000, a crystal apple and student-made apple-themed leis, and were celebrated by fellow staff, families and community members. All recipients and nominees will receive a $100 gift card to Yakima Steak Company.

The Crystal Apple Awards have been an avenue for the Yakima business community to honor certificated educators dating back 34 years. Selections are made by a committee of past winners and members of the community, and the Yakima School District is not involved in the process. Carmela Solorzano of the Yakima Herald-Republic and Drew Harris of Heritage Moultray Real Estate Services were the co-chairs of this year’s committee.

The awards will change slightly in the coming year. Crystal Apple Awards will combine with classified educator and community awards in the first annual Excellence in Education awards event, according to an announcement of this year’s awards by Yakima School District. The new award will be coordinated by a committee as well. Contact Priscilla Trevino, the recently appointed executive director of the Yakima Schools Foundation, at to serve on the Excellence in Education committee.

Reach Janelle Retka at or on Twitter: @janelleretka