YAKIMA, Wash. - A total of 11 Yakima School District staff won Excellence in Education awards Friday night. The celebration continues throughout National Teacher Appreciation Week.

Two of the six Crystal Apple Award winners work at Nob Hill Elementary school including the principal, Erin Thomas.

"I was shocked, I couldn't believe it even when I went up on stage," said Thomas, "When I heard Caitlin's name being called, my heart just exploded it was awesome."

Instructional facilitator, Caitlin Lindborg, said she expected Thomas to win but not herself.

"I can't think of a better person to have won the reward and I'm honored that I got to be up there with her," said Lindborg.

Reading interventionist, Lora Dykes, said she nominated Thomas for her genuine care and helping teachers be the best they can be. 

"When teachers are at their best, they can bring out the best in the kids," said Dykes.

Thomas said the achievement gap between ethnicities is shrinking. 

"Even after the coming back from the pandemic, we have seen our kids achieve the highest scores that we've seen in reading accuracy," said Thomas.

Thomas said she thanks her rock star staff, like Lindborg.

MTSS Interventionist, Phillip Roberts, said he nominated Lindborg for her drive to know more than 400 students by name and their personal needs.

"I'm very impressed by that and its very inspiring," said Roberts.

Lindborg said she could fill-in in any classroom with any grade-level at any time. 

"Students love it, whenever I call their name and they think I don't who they are," said Lindborg, "I just say it's my job."

Awards like these inspire teachers and staff to do better year after year, said Thomas. 

"Because education is very difficult, but it's the most important work," said Thomas.