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North Star Elementary School teacher Rachel Hertz named OnPoint’s K-5 Educator of the Year

(Update: Adding video)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- OnPoint Community Credit Union has announced the four winners of the 2024 OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education Educator of the Year awards: 

  • K-5 Educator of the Year: Rachel Hertz, 1st grade teacher at North Star Elementary School in Bend.
  • 6-8 Educator of the Year: Sherry Reeder, 6th – 8th grade special education teacher at Molalla River Middle School in Molalla.
  • 9-12 Educator of the Year: Michelle Colbert, 9th – 12th grade art and career technical education teacher at Fir Ridge Campus in Portland.
  • Gold Star Educator of the Year: Dr. Traniece Brown-Warrens, principal at Markham Elementary School in Portland.

The four Educators of the Year will have their mortgage or rent paid for one year and receive $2,500 for each of their schools. In addition, the four runners-up will receive $5,000 for themselves and $1,500 for each of their schools. 

“Our Educators of the Year Awards recognize the remarkable educators whose dedication impacts their students and community every day,” said Rob Stuart, President and Chief Executive Officer of OnPoint Community Credit Union. “This year’s winners and runners-up use their amazing creativity and innovation to inspire students. As we celebrate the 15th year of these awards, we are honored to recognize and support the educators who go above and beyond to teach and lead our youth."

The OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education has awarded more than $843,000 in prizes to 326 local educators and schools since 2010. The 2024 campaign will award an additional $193,000 to deserving public and private K-12 educators and schools.

2024 Educators of the Year

The four winners of the 2024 OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education Educator of the Year awards are:

K-5 Educator of the Year – Rachel Hertz

1st grade, North Star Elementary School, Bend, Ore.

Rachel Hertz has spent her 20-year career as a teacher working to give her students a sense of belonging. Her philosophy as an educator is simple: there is always something new to learn, to experience and to better inform how she teaches. When we stop learning, Hertz says, we stop growing. 

A proud representative of her Bolivian and Mexican heritage, Hertz ensures her classroom celebrates every student’s background. She encourages students to share their cultures and traditions and uses culturally relevant materials to enhance their learning experience. 

She integrates social-emotional learning into her curriculum to foster a supportive space where students excel academically and develop resilience. She is analytical and data driven, researching teaching methodologies that are measurable and constantly checking in to ensure each student comprehends her lessons. She also sends books home and provides families with access to educational applications to support learning outside the classroom. 

Her initiatives extend beyond traditional teaching methods. Hertz hosted a team-building event for school staff, led a Lego Club to build rapport with students after school and initiated an annual Kindness Carnival to promote positive community values. She is frequently on hiring committees for new North Star Elementary staff (most recently for a new principal) and also supports future teachers through her work with Oregon State University-Cascades and Western Oregon University.

6–8 Educator of the Year – Sherry Reeder

6th – 8th grade Special Education, Molalla River Middle School, Molalla, Ore.

Special education teacher Sherry Reeder understands students are more than just recipients of knowledge - they want to be active participants in their educational journey. Her student-centered approach means creating an environment in her classroom where students feel empowered. 

Reeder's impact extends across the school. She worked with the administration to conduct focus groups that helped identify the causes of low satisfaction scores among students. This led to the implementation of "brain breaks" to help reduce student anxiety and stress. She is also helping to make elective classes accessible for English Language Development students and those with additional needs.

Reeder also helps mentor new special education staff members, coordinates Instructional Assistants schedules, and provides support staff development. She even organizes offsite staff events to help build connection among her colleagues.

Reeder serves as the assistant coach for the Unified basketball and kickball teams (which give students with disabilities equal access to these sports), plans summer programs, and organizes student awards nights. She also developed the "Academic Leadership Award" to ensure special education students are celebrated alongside their peers.

9-12 Educator of the Year – Michelle Colbert

9th – 12th grade Art and Career Technical Education, Fir Ridge Campus, Portland, Ore.

For Michelle Colbert, art can be a powerful tool to empower youth and allow them to amplify their voices, express themselves and do so in a setting where they feel comfortable. Colbert strives for that every day, whether she is teaching art or career and technical education (CTE) at Fir Ridge Campus. 

When her students returned to in-person learning after the pandemic, she challenged them to express how they were impacted. The result was mixed media self-portraits that gave Colbert an important glimpse into that period of their lives. In her industrial arts class, Colbert leads students through the process of manufacturing skateboards – from designing to adding graphics, grip tape, trucks and wheels. The end result is not just a skateboard but a boost in confidence and skills.

Michelle extends learning beyond the classroom through partnerships and community projects. She collaborates with Nike’s Inventors Club and local professionals via the School to Work program to connect her students with professionals in various careers. Her notable "Our Space of Possibilities" project involved students in public art, including designing a Trimet bus wrap and creating an Afrofuturism-themed art installation. Michelle also leads the Art and AV clubs, organizes the annual Fir Ridge Art Showcase and spearheaded the first Career and Technical Education Pathways Program. 

Gold Star Educator of the Year – Dr. Traniece Brown-Warrens

Principal, Markham Elementary School, Portland, Ore.

In January 2024, an ice storm left Markham Elementary School inoperable. Principal Traniece Brown-Warrens immediately jumped in to ensure as little disruption as possible. She worked with four other schools to “host” students by crafting new bus schedules and ensuring every student received support through carefully scheduled classes and counseling. Even though students could not be at Markham, Brown-Warrens made sure Markham was always with them by sending a daily newsletter called the “Energy Bus News.” 

Since becoming principal in 2022, Brown-Warrens’ impact on Markam can be felt just about everywhere. She introduced calming corners in each classroom to help students self-regulate their emotions. She implemented a "What I Need" (WIN) initiative for students to dedicate 30 minutes each day to address individual learning and emotional needs – which led to increased state assessment scores in math, English, and students’ feeling of belonging. 

To spark a renewed enthusiasm for literacy, Brown Warrens introduced a book vending machine and spearheaded the "Markham Reads a Million Minutes" read-a-thon, raising funds for the PTA and boosting reading proficiency. She also helped establish new student groups such as the Black Excellence Club, the Asian Pacific Islander Club and the Leadership Club.

She hosted a "TEDxMarkham" event to provide students a platform to share their voices and inspire others. She uses media platforms like YouTube to send inspirational messages to her entire student body and, quite often, to single out individual students for their accomplishments or to wish them luck. 

2024 Educator of the Year Runners-up

OnPoint will also award a $5,000 cash prize to each of the following 2024 runners-up and make a $1,500 donation to their schools for resources and supplies.

K–5 Educator of the Year Runner-up – Roxana Campbell

1st grade, HOLLA School, Portland, Ore.

6–8 Educator of the Year Runner-up – Lynda Beauchamp 

6th and 7th grade Math, Realms Middle School, Bend, Ore.

9-12 Educator of the Year Runner-up – Andrew Gunsul

9th and 10th grade Social Studies, Sunset High School, Portland, Ore.  

Gold Star Educator of the Year Runner-up – Martine Barnett 

Principal, Columbia City Elementary, Columbia City, Ore. 

Five Schools Receive Community Builder Awards 

The 2024 OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education also awarded one Oregon school $5,000 and four Oregon schools $2,000 in Community Builder grants for special projects that enrich their communities. Click here to read about this year's winners, which OnPoint announced on May 8.

Honoring Founders' Legacy of Excellence in Education

Founded by 16 schoolteachers in 1932, OnPoint continues to honor its legacy today by improving access to quality education for everyone. Click here to learn more.


OnPoint Community Credit Union is the largest credit union in Oregon, serving over 554,000 members and with assets of $9.0 billion. Founded in 1932, OnPoint Community Credit Union’s membership is available to anyone who lives or works in one of 28 Oregon counties (Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Gilliam, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Sherman, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington, Wheeler and Yamhill) and two Washington counties (Skamania and Clark) and their immediate family members. OnPoint Community Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). More information is available at or 503-228-7077 or 800-527-3932.

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