OSPI OLYMPIA—May 18, 2021—Melito Ramirez, Intervention Specialist at Walla Walla High School in Walla Walla, Washington, has been awarded the national Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award by the U.S. Department of Education, the Department announced Tuesday.
“We are thrilled that Mr. Ramirez is being recognized on the national level,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “He has served Washington’s schools for decades, going above and beyond for his students and his community. Mr. Ramirez’s dedication, compassion, and outside-the-box thinking has been instrumental in helping many of our young people thrive in school and beyond.”
In his work as an Intervention Specialist in Walla Walla, Ramirez is a model for excellence, demonstrating courage, wisdom, and creativity in solving the most challenging problems in education.
Ramirez builds positive relationships with students to help them succeed and graduate, conducting home visits, bridging the gap between home and school for Spanish-speaking families, and working to secure mental health and technological resources for students.
This has been particularly important to the Walla Walla community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramirez’s office is no longer just his physical office—it’s anywhere he can reach a student.
“We are so proud of Melito for receiving this well-deserved recognition,” said Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. "Melito lives our district's core commitments around equity, access and engagement, serving as a trusted mentor, role model and passionate advocate for student success."
Although Mr. Ramirez has spent nearly 40 years working in education, his career path nearly went a different way. Growing up, Ramirez had always planned to be a truck driver, but a “practice interview” led him to a job offer working with bilingual students in the College Place School District.
In the years since, Ramirez has transformed his community in countless ways. One example of his support for his community includes helping to organize Garrison Night School, a program for adults over the age of 20 to learn a second language. Ramirez’s involvement ensured there was a strong component for adults learning English, and the school now teaches first aid/CPR, citizenship classes, driver’s education, and even viticulture.
Melito Ramirez is the first recipient of the national RISE Award, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Ramirez was selected as Washington’s nominee based on his selection as 2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year last September.
As the national RISE Awardee, Ramirez will have the opportunity to share his perspective with state and national decision-makers.
Ramirez joins a select group of nationally recognized educators from Washington state—including another from Walla Walla High School—Johnnie T. Dennis, a Physics Teacher who was named National Teacher of the Year in 1970. Other recent National Teachers of the Year from Washington include Mandy Manning from Spokane (2018), Jeff Charbonneau from Zillah (2013), and Andrea Peterson from Granite Falls (2007).