North Star Elementary School kindergarten teacher Kate Tibbitts was named Educator of the Year for Bend-La Pine Schools today. Students and staff cheered for Tibbitts in a surprise ceremony on the North Star playground.

“I did not get here on my own,” Tibbitts said upon accepting the award. “I got here because I love working with every single kid in this school and every single teacher. … The only reason why I’m here is because I work with the most incredible mentors, friends and people here at North Star, and my family, who inspire me every day.”

Superintendent Steven Cook presented Tibbitts with the Excellence in Education Award for being selected the district’s Educator of the Year. Dr. Cook was joined by School Board Chair Melissa Barnes Dholakia, Board Director Shirley Olson, district administrators, the Bend Education Association, and members of Tibbitts’ family. Kyle Frick, Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations for Mid Oregon Credit Union, presented Tibbitts with a $500 check to use in her classroom.

Tibbitts joined Bend-La Pine Schools in 2014 to teach kindergarten at R.E. Jewell Elementary School. She contributed to Bear Creek Elementary and Lava Ridge Elementary before coming to North Star in 2019 to continue her work with kindergarteners.

North Star Principal Tim Burdsall said he is thrilled that Tibbitts is being recognized for her accomplishments.

“Kate goes to extraordinary lengths to open the minds, hearts, and neurons of her students. She is a collaborator, an intense and compassionate listener, and turns ideas into actions that benefit all of her students,” Burdsall said. “I am humbled and honored to work alongside such a positive life force. Her inspiration reaches beyond her classroom to all she interacts with at North Star. Kate wholeheartedly embodies our school motto: Together We Shine.”

The Excellence in Education awards honor custodians, counselors, kitchen managers, classroom teachers, educational assistants, office managers, bus drivers and other district employees who have had a positive impact on students. The recognitions began in early June when Bend-La Pine Schools honored 77 staff members from across the district who distinguished themselves with their leadership, innovation, outstanding professional practice, and positive contributions at work and in the community. From that group, 14 finalists have been celebrated this fall.

Today’s surprise announcement is the first of three Excellence in Education ceremonies planned this week. The Support Person of the Year will be announced Wednesday, followed by Administrator of the Year on Thursday.

“The three outstanding staff members we celebrate this week contribute in unique ways to their schools and the greater Bend-La Pine community,” Superintendent Cook said. “It’s an honor every year to surprise and honor this stellar group of Excellence in Education winners.”