Volunteer Awards

The PTA Honorary School Service Award Program recognizes service and dedication of both individuals and organizations for outstanding service to the welfare of children and youth in our school.

2020-2021 Volunteer Awards

South Pasadena Council PTA HSA

Karissa is truly the heart and soul of South Pasadena. She is a dedicated steward to our city’s schools, to our city’s sports, and to our community in general.

This is Karissa’s second Honorary Service Award, and it’s well deserved. Karissa has been volunteering at At AV for 10 years.  She served on the PTA while all three of her children attended AV. She has served as PTA President, Executive Vice President, Historian, VP of Ways and Means, 5th Grade Promotion Committee Chair, Jog-a-Thon Committee Chair, and countless other roles.  Always ready to share her sporty spirit, Karissa was the mastermind behind Whiskers, our school mascot, and she has also kept us all moving this year by instituting the weekly AV Active workouts! 

Karissa is dedicated to community athletics. She has not only coached Little League teams but has also served multiple leadership positions on the SPLL Board of Directors. She is also in a leadership role with South Pasadena High School Athletic Boosters and will be on the South Pasadena Middle School Athletic Boosters next year.

Karissa became PTA president during a very unique time in history! Throughout the pandemic, Karissa always stayed positive, rarely said “no” to a project, and has worked tirelessly to keep AV more than just a school, but a community. Most of us probably don’t realize how many hours and how much communication goes into making all the incredible programs happen at AV. Karissa has her hand in almost all of them. She communicates daily with the AV teachers, administrators, and staff. She is constantly working out logistics, thinking outside the box, and leading her Executive Board to support the school. She is a room parent, a Council PTA board member, and she still steps in on committees when they need help, including leading the weekly “Wildcat Assemblies” on Fridays! 

Although Karissa is now moving on from AV, she will continue to play a crucial role in our schools and community. Next year, she will serve as Council PTA President. Congratulations, Karissa! We are lucky to have you in our community!


Megan Gardner is a visionary and has taken AV to the next level.  Her tireless effort and the countless hours she has given to the students and families of AV to ensure that everyone has the best school experience possible, is simply admirable. Her technology efforts between 2015 – 2020 brought AV to the modern era. Megan not only designed our school website, she created ways to move all payments, forms, registrations, (and more) from paper to online. She also designed reporting systems to help reconcile and report incoming payment data for accurate accounting. Not only that, she gave our Weekly Wildcat newsletter a makeover and simplified the behind-the-scenes process for sharing it with the community. 

Acting as our in-house Technology Mastermind is just the tip of the iceberg though!  Megan has been heavily involved with so many AV programs including organizing All City Track Meet from 2017 to present. She also created and developed AV Gives Back. And because she’s such a dedicated volunteer, she has also served as a room parent almost every year she has been at AV as well as volunteering for anything and everything.  Megan has also served as Corresponding Secretary for Council PTA for two years. Megan is involved with SPMS Boosters, lending her tech-magic wand to their communication systems.

Most recently, she has served as EVP from 2019-2021 and supported Karissa through her PTA presidency. In addition, During the pandemic, Megan acted as “co-president” hosting a variety of school programs, assemblies, AV Active workouts, classroom parties, online games, and online activities. . She also organized parent-tech-helpers during distance learning.  

Megan always brings her special touch of order and simplicity to all AV systems and programs. We are so lucky to have someone as amazing as Megan, who consistently goes above and beyond, as a leader in our AV community.  We look forward to Megan leading the PTA Executive Board as President next year! 


There’s a 100% chance that if you’ve had a student at AV in the past 5 years, you’ve encountered volunteer-superstar, Erik Gammell! He served as PTA Parliamentarian for 2 years and VP of Wish Night for 3 years. Last year, Erik took on the safety coordination and leadership role, which involved heading up community safety during neighborhood emergencies and manning and organizing new school drop-off lanes. Erik is also a loyal member of the South Pasadena DUDES, serving several years as recruitment and activities coordinator. In addition to his executive board duties, Erik has been a reliable classroom volunteer and a stalwart helper at just about every AV event since his oldest daughter, Lucy, was in Pre-K. Always willing to lend a hand, Erik has a reputation for being the most helpful guy in town! 


Kirsten Kawai has been a reliable presence at AV all throughout her three boys’ time here. She has served on multiple committees including Staff Appreciation Committee and 5th Grade Promotion. This year, she served as the Council PTA Membership Chair. Kirsten is the kind of volunteer who raises a hand to help out with just about everything! Room Parent? Yes, she can do that! Classroom volunteer? Of course! Calm and steady popsicle saleswoman? Yes, that too! Thank you so much Kirsten!


Heidi is a known “go to person” here at AV! Heidi was in charge of the Staff Appreciation Committee for the past two years and went above and beyond in the pandemic year to make our teachers and staff feel loved. She also headed up the Read Across America Committee, organized special lunches for staff, and served as a room parent multiple years. In addition, she has shown up as a weekly classroom volunteer, library helper, art volunteer, and more. Over the last 2 years, Heidi has helped transform the teachers lounge into a beautiful, upgraded space and she organized the adorable “welcome yard signs” for when the students came back to “in-person” learning. Heidi has a special touch, and she raises the bar here at AV! The middle school will be lucky to have her next year!


Kelly is a true community servant! She loves fostering civic involvement in children and inspiring them to learn about their community. She founded her non-profit organization, “Good Samaritots” in 2016 and bridged this model to the AV Gives Back program. In 2018, Kelly was thrilled to lend her grant writing skills and countless hours to help AV win the Blue Ribbon Award for excellence in education.  In addition, Kelly organizes our school book fairs and Story Nights, helps with All School Sing and Read Across America Week, and serves as a room parent and classroom volunteer. She is also a Girl Scout Leader and a leader at her local church. Thank you Kelly for your dedication to our community!


Panda has worked so hard to create amazing memories for the AV community. While serving as PTA Historian for the past year, she elevated the position to new heights by creating beautiful slideshows of our children to share during the Friday assemblies.  Panda was a major force behind the Bright Side Magazine and she lent her creative vision to the Movie Night Committee.  Didn’t we all love those popcorn buckets? Additionally, this year Panda helped place AV PTA on the social media map, she organized and emceed the highly successful Halloween Trivia Parent Party, she volunteered at the Golden Shoe Adventure.  On top of it all, Panda consistently lends her medical expertise as a speaker at Red Ribbon Week and is a dedicated classroom volunteer. Thank you Panda for making our community feel even more special! 


Erin has served as art volunteer since 2018, and she stepped in as an Art Docent in 2020. Erin worked tirelessly on the Bright Side magazine, and was one of the co-creators of the incomparable and amazing Pandemic Art Program. For the past two years, Erin has also lent her graphic design talent to AV to create cool and fashionable designs for AV spirit wear. If you have an AV car magnet, t-shirt, or hat, you can thank Erin for that extra touch of style! In addition to all of this, Erin is always willing to pitch in and help with many other AV programs and events including yearbook, class projects, AV Equity Committee and more. AV wouldn’t be the same without her creative eye and fun cheerful spirit.


Cassandra was a rockstar art volunteer from 2019-2020 and an Art Docent during the pandemic school year. Cassandra brought a thorough, reliable, efficient and creative approach to all AV art endeavors. She tirelessly gave her all to our students this year, designing art projects and presentations with her Art Docent co-chair, running art lessons over zoom, and ordering and distributing supplies. Also, Cassandra jumped in to help in a timely way with the Bright Side magazine, new school murals, and more. We are lucky to have her artistic perspective at AV! Cassandra is also a part of the AV Equity Committee and she organizes a yearly litter clean up around town on MLK Day. Thank you, Cassandra!


2019-2020 Volunteer Awards

Cheryl was the heart of AV for 9 years, building an environment based on connectivity, collaboration and love. This is most evident in her unique connection to each and every child at the school. Under her leadership, AV fostered feelings of warmth, acceptance and comfort. Her inspiring reach extended to parents and teachers as well, uniting the school community as a team with a common goal. Furthermore, she led our PTA with a commitment to guide us to always provide the best for our entire community of teachers, parents and children. She never failed to bring enthusiasm to every event and for every new group of students that passed through. Under her direction, numerous teachers won District Teacher of the Year, and AV also achieved recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School,, a CA Distinguished School, a CA Gold Ribbon School, and a National Campaign of Business and Education Leaders Honor Roll School.  As the current Principal of South Pasadena Middle School, Cheryl has already started working her magic, and all promoting AV 5th graders for years to come will benefit tremendously from her leadership.


Since Brian Mahler joined the PTA Executive Board as Parliamentarian in 2018, he has been a highly committed, respected and influential contributor, but he has gone above and beyond his parliamentary duties.  AV’s best kept secret is that Brian is the person who pulls the strings behind Whiskers, who has brought joy to the students, staff and parents at AV over the last two years, and who has been an especially welcome and uplifting presence during this difficult pandemic year.  Brian also organized the All School Sing in 2019, demonstrating once again that his enthusiasm, dependability, and dedication to going above and beyond make him indispensable.


Chad, our Technology Integration Teacher on Special Assignment, has served an utterly crucial role in training and supporting staff for distance learning. In the spring of 2020 when the pandemic knocked us off course so suddenly, Chad gracefully and expertly shifted gears, creating useful webinars on platforms and software for the teachers, offering one-on-one troubleshooting sessions, and hosting “Appy Hours” to foster friendships within user groups.  He made himself quickly available to answer calls for help, and he has continued that level of top-notch support throughout this school year.  The staff at AV truly does not know what they would have done without him.


Nicolas Hua served as AV’s computer lab tech for several years before being called over to the district’s technology team a few years ago. AV teachers had always very much appreciated Nic’s expert help with technology on campus, but with the unique challenges brought on by the pandemic, his support has been indispensable.  Nic worked feverishly behind the scenes to ensure a smooth rollout of distance learning platforms and technology in the spring last year, he made himself available at all hours to answer panicked calls from teachers, and he continued throughout this school year to offer his passionate and tireless support of our AV staff.


Laura Ishibashi, who has been teaching at AV for 24 years, has been serving as the teacher representative on the PTA Executive Board for 4 years.  She has a unique gift for using her gentle voice and big smile to connect the needs and goals of teachers and parents through our PTA.  She advocates passionately for teachers and students while always expressing her appreciation for the parent volunteers and AV staff that support them.  Her calm, rational approach and considered input has afforded the PTA many opportunities to effectively enhance the lives of our students and our teachers. .


Agnes is the veteran of the All City Track Meet Committee.  She helped lead the team for 7 years, and her no-nonsense, get-things-done attitude has made it a success.  The track meet, in a normal year, is a huge undertaking involving months of preparation and the coordination of more than 50 parent volunteers, not to mention cooperation with leaders from the other elementary schools in town as well as the high school track team. Thank you Agnes!


Jayme was a pillar of the AV Arts community for six years.  She was Mrs. Swanborn’s right-hand-woman in every art class.  Jayme led art docent lessons and Art Happenings with amazingly creative ideas, and she also continues to teach after-school and summer art classes though SPEF.  On top of all that, Jayme, a working mom, made time to volunteer her graphic design skills for banners, programs, fliers, t-shirts, 5th grade promotion, and a host of other special projects.


DeMarais Riley was the lead organizer for both the Fall and Spring Book Fairs for many years.  As such, she spent countless hours gathering volunteers, coordinating with Scholastic and with Mrs. Baydaline, AV’s librarian, and helping to manage evening library events.  Her love of books and the children were evident in her continuous support of the library beyond the Book Fair and associated events. She was a dedicated library volunteer, committing many behind the scenes hours helping to organize and prepare the library to provide our students with the best possible experience.


Glenna was a behind-the-scenes force. For 9 years, while two children passed through AV, Glenna volunteered for AV in many different ways. She was a room parent and weekly classroom and library volunteer, she managed the 5th grade Friday popsicle sales fundraiser, she spent 4 years managing the Box Tops collection contest and fundraiser, and most notably, Glenna was the mastermind behind the annual STEM Expo for several years.   One AV mom said it best… “All I know is that every time I volunteer, Glenna is there.“