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Congratulations, Melinda Torres!

Melinda is a master at bringing people together and getting things done to benefit the youth and families in our community. Her passion, spirit and drive go above and beyond. She deserves to be recognized for that work. She provides a role model for our youth and continues to move our community forward with her work.

Bryan Trendell, Superintendent, Coos Bay School District

Oregon Honors Education Support Professional of the Year, Melinda Torres, Coos Bay School District

In a surprise announcement, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Director Colt Gill, and lottery representatives joined Coos Bay Public Schools Superintendent Bryan Trendell and Marshfield High School Principal Elias Ashton in honoring Melinda Torres as Oregon’s Education Support Professional of the Year, recognizing her outstanding dedication and support of students, families, and the whole Coos Bay community!

Melinda Torres is the liaison supporting students who are in foster care or are experiencing houselessness for the Coos Bay School District. Melinda manages the ARK (Keeping At-Risk Kids Afloat) project and provides case management for youth and families experiencing housing instability. The ARK Project is a school-based program supporting youth and families experiencing housing instability in the Coos Bay School District.

Founded in 2009, the drop-in center is open to all Coos County residents. It is designed to provide basic needs, crisis intervention and advocacy, essential support services, and educational opportunities to children and youth ages 0-21, and their families who are facing housing instability.

“Melinda’s outstanding work and dedication to her students is truly remarkable,” said Governor Kate Brown. “I’ve heard about how she works day in and day out to expand programs that benefit the students and families of the Coos Bay community. Congratulations, Melinda, on this great achievement. Coos Bay School District is so lucky to have you.”

“Melinda is the driving force in our ability to expand services and build outreach and community partnerships to expand the program over time. She recently volunteered to be the Foster Liaison in the district as part of her duties to expand assistance to those students and families,” said Bryan Trendell, Superintendent of the Coos Bay Public Schools. “Melinda is a master at bringing people together and getting things done to benefit the youth and families in our community. Her passion, spirit and drive go above and beyond.  She deserves to be recognized for that work. She provides a role model for our youth and continues to move or community forward with her work.”

“Melinda is a deeply appreciated, influential and beloved ESP in the Coos Bay community, and it’s very clear to see why; students and their interests are her highest priority,” said Colt Gill, Director of Oregon Department of Education. “Oregon ESP’s fill countless roles in our schools, ensuring our education systems reach the needs of each and every student.” Thanks to ODE’s partnership with the Oregon Lottery, Melinda received a monetary gift of $5,000 and an award plaque. A matching plaque and banner were awarded to Marshfield High School to mark Melinda’s achievements and her impact on the Coos Bay community.

“With houselessness reaching a crisis point across the state, the support Melinda Torres provides for homeless youth and families in the Coos Bay School District is critical,” said Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack. “Melinda’s demonstrated leadership and dedication is impressive. As her nomination points out, ‘Melinda is a master at bringing people together and getting things done to benefit the youth and families in our community.’ This award demonstrates how one person can make a difference in so many other lives. Congratulations, Melinda.”

Program History

Oregon’s Education Support Professional of the Year Program is a result of House Bill 2964, passed by the Oregon Legislature in May of 2019. This bill directs ODE and Oregon Lottery to design and implement a program to honor an Oregon education support professional serving students in any grade from prekindergarten through grade 12. ESP’s work together with teachers and administrators in Oregon public schools to perform a variety of jobs promoting quality education, fostering positive learning environments, offering nutritious meals, providing reliable transportation, maintaining safe and clean schools for all students and so much more.

Educators nominated for Education Support Professional of the Year are employed by an Oregon public K-12 school or school district and meet the definition of an ESP in Oregon. Eligible nominees for the 2021 award were evaluated through a Blue Ribbon Panel facilitated by ODE.

Nominations for 2023 will open again soon on the Education Support Professional website. Be sure to nominate the life-changing ESP’s in your school!

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Previous Winners

2021
Profile photo of Nicole Butler-Hooton

Nicole Butler-Hooton

Irving Elementary School

Eugene

Lane

Nicole Butler-Hooton

Nicole Butler-Hooton

  • School: Irving Elementary School
  • Teaches: All Subjects
  • Grade Level: Grade 2

“My mission is to create an environment where all students feel they belong. I will continue my efforts each day to be an educator who makes a difference for equity and social justice.”
2020
Profile photo of Mercedes Muñoz

Mercedes Muñoz

Franklin High School

Portland

Multnomah

Mercedes Muñoz

Mercedes Muñoz

  • School: Franklin High School
  • Teaches: Special Education
  • Grade Level: 11-12

“While being an educator can be daunting, tiresome, and even frustrating--the great moments are what we live, breathe, and die for.”
2019
Profile photo of Keri Pilgrim Ricker

Keri Pilgrim Ricker

Churchill High School

Eugene

Lane

Keri Pilgrim Ricker

Keri Pilgrim Ricker

  • School: Churchill High School
  • Teaches: Health Services Pathway
  • Grade Level: High School

How Nominations Work

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1

Nominate a Teacher

Know a great teacher? Fill out the nomination form and tell us what makes them exceptional!

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2

Teacher Applications

We notify qualifying nominees and invite them to apply for Teacher of the Year.

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3

Regional Winner Selected

Each of Oregon’s 19 Education Service Districts review applications from their area and choose a winner for their region.

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4

Statewide Winner Selected

Regional applications will be reviewed by a diverse panel of education advocates and finalists will be interviewed by department staff and recommended to the director for selection.

Nominations for 2023 Teacher of the Year have closed. Check back to nominate for 2024!