Marie Stalsberg of Evergreen School District has been named ESD 112’s 2019 classified employee of the year. She is coordinator of Thunder Academy, a program at Mountain View High School that works with at-risk students to help them recover credits and graduate on time.
In 2014, the graduation rate of these students was 47 percent. In 2018, after a program redesign that Stalsberg helped implement, it rose to 96 percent. “I truly believe that our success with our Thunder Academy and increased graduation rate is directly a result of Marie Stalsberg’s commitment to our students,” says Sheri Walker, associate principal of Mountain View High School.
A combination of curiosity and caring has fueled Stalsberg’s success. Wanting to know why students were not coming to school, she and her colleagues began making weekly visits to students’ homes. This practice led to conversations with students and families, which helped determine what interventions were needed and created relationships that brought students back to school and helped them graduate on time.
Cassie Delaplaine, who graduated from the program in 2015, describes how she did not have enough money for school lunches and had a hard time focusing in school. Delaplaine says Stalsberg noticed and began bringing homemade lunches for her.
She also recalled entering a quasi-military credit-recovery program that required her to bring supplies she was unable to afford. Again, Stalsberg and her colleagues stepped in to provide everything she needed—and even gave her rides to boot camp and back.
“Almost every day I would get a letter from Marie with words of encouragement,” Delaplaine says. “After a long road of struggles, I finally did it—I was the first person in my family to graduate, and none of it would have been possible without the help from Marie.”
“Building relationships with students along with high expectations has been key to students’ success,” Stalsberg says. “When I am able to walk in their shoes, for even a short time, I have more empathy and a little more understanding of their lives.”
Mountain View High School Registrar Anita Busby says Stalsberg’s patient, loving, nurturing manner instills confidence in her students. “Many of these students are learning how to succeed now and later in life with the skills they have learned in her credit recovery classes,” she says. “They thrive in her classroom environment.”
Stalsberg will join the eight other regional finalists May 15, when the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction will announce the state winner.