School district honors Papasedero with Pathfinder Award

Longtime Island instructor inspires students, selection committee noted.

Joan Vetto Papasedero was surprised when her name was called, and she added honored and humbled to her reaction list when learning that she was chosen to receive the eighth annual Mercer Island School District Pathfinder Award.

Members of the selection committee revealed the recipient’s name at the school board’s March 23 meeting and noted that Papasedero’s “achievements, strength of character and citizenship inspire and challenge today’s youth to make significant contributions to humankind.”

Papasedero, a 1974 Mercer Island High School (MIHS) graduate and 27-year Mercer Island School District instructor, was one of more than 20 community-submitted nominees and will be honored at the Mercer Island Schools Foundation Breakfast of Champions on April 25. Further, she will be included on the MIHS wall of Pathfinder awardees and distinguished graduates.

Two years after her retirement in June of 2020, she returned to MIHS part time last year as a leave replacement and works with two MIHS math teachers this year.

The former Island school district special education teacher and instructional coach earned National Board Certified Teacher status in 2010. During her tenure in the district, Papasedero made a critical impact by helping create and secure Special Services curriculum, and creating, teaching and implementing the district’s online Individualized Education Program.

“Our Pathfinder Award committee felt Joan’s contributions to our district as a teacher, coach, and curriculum instruction assessment assistant over 27 years, plus returning to the district recently to help with a staffing shortfall in special services show how the meaningful contributions of her service to a community, which just happens to be our school community, can inspire today’s students,” said Superintendent Dr. Fred Rundle.

Added a Facebook commenter on the school district’s page: “Congratulations to Joan! She is a true champion of all students. Well deserved!”

Papasedero, who received bachelors and masters degrees in education from Washington State University and City University, taught in a host of regional school districts before joining the Islander Middle School staff in 1993 and remaining local from that time forth.

“I had the good fortune to work with some exceptional instructional leaders along the way who inspired me to continually learn and grow my skills in order to best meet the needs of all my students. I was given leadership opportunities within the building and the district at large,” said Papasedero, who added that her teaching philosophy, in part, touches upon helping students learn and grow academically and social emotionally while building their self-confidence and competence as learners.

A crucial part of her learning and life experience while studying at MIHS occurred when she and her fellow classmates participated in the senior year humanities block one morning at the old Camp Tarrywood on the Island’s south end.

“From that experience, as well as from my math teachers, I learned to consider different perspectives, to think logically and critically, to ask questions and seek out answers, to justify my thinking with evidence, and to be precise,” she said.