Shannon Graham named Oregon PTA Teacher of the Year


Local educators, student receive Oregon State PTA Awards

June 1, 2022 — Each year, the Oregon Parent Teacher Association (PTA) invites applications from local PTA units around the state for a variety of awards. Florence Community PTA and the Siuslaw community has been fortunate in recent years, to have received a number of honors in the world of education. 

This year was no different. 

Four local recipients were presented with state awards at the annual Oregon PTA Leadership Conference and Convention on April 23 in Wilsonville.

Six delegates from Florence Community PTA attended the weekend convention and were present at the Awards Dinner to cheer on our winners. All four award recipients attended the dinner, along with their families and friends.

First and second grade loop teacher Shannon Graham received the Oregon PTA Teacher of the Year award. This award recognizes a teacher that does an exceptional job of supporting PTA and makes a true difference at their school. Letters were written by parents, students, and colleagues in support of her nomination for Teacher of the Year. 

Here are just a few of the many points that make Graham stand out and deserving of this award:

• She consistently holds her students to high standards of interpersonal conduct and doing their very best in school and works alongside them to achieve those goals.

• She is an innovative teacher.

• She stays on top of the most impactful techniques and has openly shared strategies with other teachers.

• Graham took on mastering the Seesaw platform for distance learning assignments and led her colleagues in learning the program as well.

• She works tirelessly to ensure students have all of the opportunities and resources available to them.

• She goes above and beyond for every student she has ever had.

• During Covid, she continued to find ways to provide the best education for her students.

• You can find Graham at the school often before and after the school day, and even on weekends and holidays, preparing her lessons.

• She has kids who have strengths and weaknesses in different areas or learn at different paces but yet she makes them feel like one unit learning together.

• She has rallied donations of books and funding to provide free bags of books for any student who wants them to have at home.

• Graham volunteers in a variety of community events, especially when they impact kids.

• She led the Intel/First Book Grant application that successfully netted $80,000 for the district to ensure that every student was issued a Chromebook during distance learning.

• She is one of the district’s most loyal, caring, gifted, involved, and inspirational teachers.

In addition to her excellent reputation in the classroom, Graham has always been a strong supporter of and volunteer for the Florence Community PTA. We are proud to have her on our team.

In addition, Siuslaw Food Services Director David Bitner was honored with the Staff Hero of the Year award from Oregon PTA for his tireless work providing wholesome meals in the Siuslaw schools. This award is designed to honor a “staff member who goes above and beyond their job description in order to promote the mission and values of PTA and makes a true difference at their school.”

Bitner is an innovator in finding efficient and nutritious ways to feed kids in our community. He looks for the best ways to efficiently utilize grant allocations for meals, including the School Farm to Table grant. He taps into the unused portion of other school’s funds for use in the Siuslaw School District. He uses the funds to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and meats from local farmers.

Last year, Siuslaw School District shared in a grant award with Florence Food Share for family meals. Bitner and his food service team were able to keep the cost per serving down to around $5 per family of four, going out on Wednesdays each week. 

They were able to stretch the grant out to last three times longer than anticipated, feeding numerous families throughout Florence during the challenging pandemic times.

Bitner also goes the extra mile providing snacks and goodies for school and PTA functions, always good and fresh. When there are people to feed, he is there.

Florence PTA was proud to have another Student Service Award go to a deserving student this year, Giavanna Flosi. Gia is in fourth grade at Siuslaw Elementary School.

The service award is for students “who make an important contribution to their community, including community projects, charity work and advocacy.” 

Carrie McNeill, Gia’s teacher, said, “She is a good role model and leader in her class. She is kind, compassionate, and always willing to help those who need it. All the while maintaining a smile and positive attitude.”

Gia is a volunteer at the Oregon Coast Humane Society, helping to socialize animals. 

OCHS Volunteer Coordinator Valerie Swensrud said that Gia’s contributions of time with the animals shows how much she cares for them and they appreciate her service and dedication.

During the pandemic, Gia saw that there was a need to connect with the residents at Shorewood Senior Living. She started making homemade gifts and cards to drop off for the 70 residents around holidays. Her kindness and thoughtfulness during a challenging time was very much appreciated by staff and residents alike.

Michael Harklerode, who served as president of the Florence Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, also applauded Gia for her volunteer work with the organization during COVID. When 

Gia realized that a local family, designated to receive a home, was challenged with not being able to fulfill the sweat equity hours due to restrictions from the pandemic, she signed up to volunteer with Habitat and donated her hours to the family. 

“She is an outstanding citizen and top-caliber student,” says Harklerode.

Every PTA local unit across the state has an opportunity to name one Local Unit Volunteer (LUV) each year to receive the LUV Award. 

LUV is designed to recognize the importance of volunteers and the services they provide within their local PTA. This person upholds the mission and values of PTA; has been responsible for providing services, projects, or ideas to the PTA unit; and has offered assistance and support to PTA committees and members. This year, the Florence Community PTA Board nominated Brandi Taniguchi to receive the LUV award. 

In the past few years, Taniguchi has volunteered time and talents for Florence Community PTA. Her commitment to PTA and Siuslaw schools shines through her passion for the kids and her volunteerism.

Having such awesome people from Florence receive these honors is evidence that our small community truly values education and PTA’s mission of making “every child’s potential become a reality.” Florence PTA is honored to have them recognized at the state level and would like to congratulate each one of them.

Oregon PTA Convention is a great opportunity for local delegates to attend workshops on relevant topics for parents and educators, as well as network with other PTA units from throughout Oregon. Required training credits are given to local unit leaders who attend. Florence PTA has now met that requirement for the upcoming school year.

If you are interested in learning more about Florence Community PTA, contact florenceore[email protected] or visit 

Sign up to become a member by joining online at under “Join a PTA” or by picking up a form at one of the Siuslaw school offices. 

Meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at 4:30 p.m. in the library at Siuslaw Elementary School.