Observer staff

Many of the brightest lights in Union County education were saluted recently at a Crystal Apple Awards ceremony conducted by the InterMountain Education Service District at Eastern Oregon University.

Fourteen Union County public school employees were honored at the recent ceremony, coordinated by Michele Madril of IMESD.

Each year, the IMESD partners with its school districts to recognize outstanding administrators, teachers, educational assistants and office and building staff for their dedication and commitment to students and for their willingness to go above and beyond their regular duties. Nominations are submitted over a two-month period by administrators, coworkers, parents, students and community members. Winners are selected from these nominations by school district administrators.

The 14 Union County school district employees honored were among 40 who are receiving Crystal Apple Awards this year. The other 26, school district employees from Umatilla and Morrow counties, will be presented with their Crystal Apple Awards tonight at the Red Lion Hotel in Pendleton.

The 2018 Crystal Apple Awards are sponsored by the InterMountain Education Service District, Bank of Eastern Oregon, the Elkhorn Media Group, CHI St. Anthony Hospital, First Community Credit Union, Mid Columbia Bus Company, Red Lion Hotel Pendleton, Rotary Club of Pendleton and Wheatland Insurance.

Following are the Union County winners of the 2018 Crystal Apple Awards submitted by those who nominated them for their awards. The comments were included in the biographical sketches in the award ceremony’s program


Brandi Canfield

Canfield is a fifth-grade teacher at Greenwood Elementary who has worked for the district for nine years. She is a leader, innovator and advocate for children whose classroom runs extremely well due to superb structure and the ownership and buy-in of her students, according to her nominating letter. She is a skilled Professional Learning Communities leader and oversees Greenwood’s successful Lego Robotics team. Greenwood Principal Ryan Westenskow said Canfield is “reflective, willing to take risks and always growing as an educator and professional.”

Connie Ingerson

Ingerson is the secretary at Central Elementary School and has worked for 29 years for the school district. According to nominators, she demonstrates compassion, grace, unfailing kindness and patience, all with a smile on her face, while doing a job that has constant interruptions. Ingerson is described as “flat-out amazing and the glue that holds our large school together,” according to one nominator. Her nomination letter also said, “Connie’s influence on the values and traditions of Central School has contributed to the success of thousands of children over the years.”

Mike Hayden

Hayden is the head custodian at La Grande Middle School and has been employed by the school district for nine years. Students appreciate Hayden’s caring demeanor, great sense of humor and encouragement, according to his nominating letter. Every year, “Mr. Mike” writes messages to the outgoing eighth graders urging them to try new things and be the best people they can. One student wrote, “He always brightens my day and is always nice and caring. He also does so much for this school and I think he definitely deserves this award.”

Craig Lankford

Craig Lankford is a fourth-grade teacher at Greenwood Elementary School and has been employed with the La Grande School District for 23 years. Lankford has an amazing ability to inspire students to read, explore math, build, create and improve, according to his nominating letter. For all fourth graders, he organizes the building and launching of model rockets, a pioneer Dutch oven stew meal, an annual auction and a 20-mile bike ride that follows the Oregon Trail. According to nominators, he skillfully teaches students responsibility, confidence and a positive work ethic, dedicating himself to ensuring his students try new things, stay positive and succeed.


Ted McBride

McBride, a music teacher in the school district for 20 years, is credited by nominators with creating and maintaining a fun learning environment that engages students and builds knowledge, skills and a love of music. A Cove High School graduate, McBride is credited with fully preparing his students to do their best and instilling confidence in them. A strong school pep band and regular success at music competitions with much larger schools are evidence of McBride’s teaching skills, according to nominators.

Lisa Murchison

Murchison is a high school teacher and counselor who has worked in the Cove School District for 29 years. She goes the extra mile for her students, according to her nominating letter, opening her classroom before and after school and during lunch. She has put on “Nights Against Procrastination,” giving students opportunities to complete missing schoolwork or get additional help. A Cove High School graduate, Murchison is credited with having a lifelong commitment to the Cove School District.


Deb Horrell

Horrell is a paraprofessional who has worked in the district for 23 years. She has been instrumental in running the school district’s after-school homework program and helping students individually in the classroom, according to nominators. Horrell is credited with having a great rapport with students while working with them in all content areas, having a friendly nature and being exceptionally dedicated.

Jennifer Smith

Smith is a language arts teacher who has worked in the Elgin School District for 26 years. She took the lead role of a multi-school Professional Learning Community group that has been working diligently to increase not only her students’ performance but also other school district’s performances. Evidence of her dedication and efforts can be seen in student test scores, according to her nomination letter.


Wendy Crow

Crow has worked for the Imbler School District for 21 years. She has served as Imbler Elementary School’s secretary for the majority of this time. Crow is described by nominators as the “hub” of the elementary school, performing a wide variety of tasks including tracking of fundraising efforts of all classes and helping run the lunch program. Recently she ran a “fine dining experience” for grade school students. Nominators say that her dedication is obvious and that she goes the extra mile for both staff and students.

Peggy Lanman

Lanman is a first-grade teacher and has worked for the Imbler School District for 33 years. Her nomination letter states that her work with first graders “is the bedrock from which the remainder of student success is grown.” Lanman’s students, according to her nomination letter, often make two to three years’ worth of growth in academic areas while in her classroom, based on NWEA data.


Monica Harris

Harris is an educational assistant in the InterMountain ESD’s Early Intervention/Early Childhood Education Department. She works at Willow Elementary School in La Grande and has been an IMESD employee for three years. Harris has the innate ability to quickly and easily establish a rapport with students and families, always providing valuable insights to provide the “big picture in regard to a child’s levels of performance, according to her nominating letter. Harris is credited with being dedicated, flexible, keenly observant and an employee her team can always count on.


Seth Bingham

Bingham is the North Powder School District’s agriculture teacher and FFA adviser. He has worked in the district for three years. During that time, his efforts have dramatically increased student participation and success in the school district’s agriculture program, according to his nomination letter. Bingham is credited with setting high standards and believing that every one of his students can achieve at high levels. The FFA students Bingham supervises have won multiple regional and state awards and a state championship.

Betsy Nedrow

Nedrow is a preschool teacher who has worked in North Powder for nine years. She is a natural in the classroom, engaging students in a variety of effective ways and always incorporating playtime with academics, according to her nominating letter. She is adept at making students feel comfortable at school and encouraging them to be their very best. Nedrow’s students, according to her nominating letter, have scored well on kindergarten readiness assessments.


Chelcee Mansfield

Mansfield is completing her fifth year as an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Union High School. Mansfield has a wonderful ability to connect with students on their level, according to her nominating letter. She has created an FFA chapter that many students want be involved in because of its assemblies, banquets, contests and stock show participation. According to School District Superintendent Carter Wells, the agriculture science department Mansfield runs is the kind “every district wishes they had.”