Ten teachers from seven Mid-Columbia school districts will be honored for their contributions to education with Tri-City Crystal Apple Awards this year.
A surprise special achievement winner also will be unveiled during the awards ceremony Thursday at Columbia Basin College's Gjerde Center in Pasco.
Representing all levels of K-12 education and subjects ranging from language arts and history to math and biology, administrators praised this year's winners for their dedication to learning.
"We're extremely excited about it every year," said North Franklin Superintendent Gregg Taylor.
The three large Tri-City districts, plus the four outlying districts of Kiona-Benton City, Finley, North Franklin and Columbia-Burbank, work with Educational Service District 123 to provide the awards each year. At least one winner is announced from each district, with three at-large awards also chosen.
Districts review nominees, who must have at least four letters of recommendation from administrators, parents, past students and community leaders, among others, said ESD 123 spokeswoman Molly Curtiss. A district's final choices are then provided to a committee of district and ESD officials for final selection.
"It's hard to pick just a few," said Pasco Assistant Superintendent Glenda Cloud in a statement about her district's winners. "They are representative of so many great Pasco teachers."
Along with a Crystal Apple trophy, winners will receive $1,000 as well as other gifts and prizes provided by local businesses.
Kennewick's winners have taught for a minimum of 30 years in the district and are outstanding high school teachers, said Robyn Chastain, the district's spokeswoman.
Taylor said his district's winner, Connell Elementary School kindergarten teacher Judy Booker, was his teacher in first grade.
Holli Prior, a math teacher and Knowledge Bowl instructor at Kiona-Benton City High School, has a knack in getting students to engage in class and drive their own learning, said Athletic Director Vance Wing.
"Basically she's one of our more innovative teachers," he said.
The ceremony will begin at 4:30 p.m. and a free reception will follow. The public is encouraged to attend.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; email@example.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald
2014 Crystal Apple winners
-- Gary Eby, social studies and AP history teacher at Columbia High School
-- Christine Witt, sixth- and seventh-grade language arts teacher at Finley Middle School
-- Linda Willingham, family & consumer science and child psychology teacher at Kamiakin High School
-- Mary Biehn, anatomy & physiology and biology teacher at Southridge High School
-- Holli Prior, geometry, algebra and Knowledge Bowl teacher at Kiona-Benton City High School
-- Judy Booker, kindergarten teacher at Connell Elementary School
-- M. Seth Johnson, social studies teacher at New Horizons High School
-- Jill McColloch, first-grade reading and first- through third-grade literacy intervention teacher at Rowena Chess Elementary School
-- David Holmberg, eighth-grade pre-algebra and intervention teacher at Carmichael Middle School
-- Jan Barber, first- and fourth-grade teacher at Lewis & Clark Elementary School.