PASCO -- Organizers of the Crystal Apple Awards didn't have to make up a story to get the surprise recipient of this year's Special Achievement Award to attend Thursday's ceremony.
Rich Cummins was going to be there anyway.
He's president of Columbia Basin College, where the event was held, and he was the master of ceremonies.
The achievement award recognizes a person -- not always a teacher -- who has contributed significantly to education in the Mid-Columbia.
Cummins has been at CBC since 1990, first as an instructor, then as a director pushing technology into the classroom before other community colleges did so. He later became dean of communication technology and vice president of information services before he was chosen as college president in 2008.
Since then, Cummins has presided over CBC's partnership with Tri-City school districts at Delta High School, the introduction of a bachelor of applied science program and the construction of the $20 million Center for Career and Technical Education, which opened last month.
The Crystal Apple awards started in 1999. This year, 11 Mid-Columbia educators were honored.
They were nominated by co-workers and parents. The teachers received crystal apples, $1,000 and gift certificates to area businesses.
This year's winners are:
* Patti Aune, head of business education at Columbia High School in Burbank. She started at the school in 2001 and has developed coursework for accounting, consumer math and video editing.
* Jill McPherson, a fourth-grade science teacher at Columbia Elementary School in Burbank, who grew up in Moses Lake and returned to the area after teaching low-income kids in a rural Arizona district.
* Teresa Howard, a math and reading teacher at Finley Middle School. She is responsible for testing students in special education programs and managing their individual learning plans.
* Rachel Merkley, a math teacher at Finley Middle School for 10 years. She coaches volleyball and track at the middle school, and is the Voice of the Panthers at high school basketball games.
* Jean Bowman, a counselor at Amistad Elementary School in Kennewick. She coordinates the parenting classes for Amistad parents and is a public speaker on childhood behavior disorders.
* Gayle Hane, a reading teacher at Desert Hills Middle School in Kennewick. She's taught Kennewick kids since 1969 and has also lectured at colleges on reading instruction.
* Tony Milewski, a construction trades teacher at Tri-Tech Skills Center in Kennewick since 2007. He also is an instructor for the carpenters' union, a Little League coach and a Boy Scout leader.
* Sandra Nelson, a reading and math intervention specialist in the Kiona-Benton School District since 2007. She was a substitute teacher in Richland for five years before that and taught elementary school kids in Benton City in 1991-98.
* Dianna James, an after-school program coordinator for the North Franklin School District and special education teacher at Robert L. Olds Junior High School in Connell since 1997. She also has been the summer school director there since 2001.
* Carolynn Frankenfield, a math teacher at Ellen Ochoa Middle School in Pasco. She's been at the school since 2003. Frankenfield also coaches the math team and is a member of several teams developing math curriculum for the district.
* Evan Woodward, a biology and chemistry teacher at Hanford High School. He's taught in Richland schools since 1994, starting as a science teacher in middle schools. He has coached basketball, track and football and is the current head coach for the Hanford High girls' basketball team.