Snohomish teacher wins national education award

Kathy Purviance-Snow looks to the audience as she is honored in Washington, D.C. Friday, May 13.

Kathy Purviance-Snow looks to the audience as she is honored in Washington, D.C. Friday, May 13.
Courtesy, The NEA Foundation

SNOHOMISH —  Snohomish High School career pathways and civics teacher Kathy Purviance-Snow won one of public education’s highest national honors.
She received the Award for Teaching Excellence from The NEA Foundation at its gala Friday, May 13 in Washington, D.C.
The NEA Foundation noted how Purviance-Snow is trying to build an initiative to encourage students of color to become educators and change the face of education.
Within the state educator’s union, she pitched creating scholarships for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students to break financial barriers toward becoming teachers, and staying, in a field largely lacking diversity.
The award floored her. “I have felt like all I have done is take the talents and gifts I have and use them to give the students in my classrooms the opportunity to be the best they can become,” Purviance-Snow said in an interview.
She’d like to help people recognize teaching is a viable career, but also make it more feasible. “We need to make our profession more attractive to the general population,” she said.
“How she interacts with kids, it’s phenomenal,” Snohomish Superintendent Kent Kultgen said by phone. “You can tell Kathy cares about seeing kids achieve.”
Teaching is Purviance-Snow’s second career after working in sales.
She was getting tired of the grind. Being a classroom volunteer for her kids, though, excited her. A friend nudged her to utilize her bachelor’s degree in business as her entry door into teaching.
Leading a classroom provided her with a profound new sense of purpose. For someone who genuinely enjoys helping others, she described it as being at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy: self-actualization.
Many define success through power and recognition. Purviance-Snow reshapes the narrative: “If we can’t take our talents and elevate people, are we really ‘successful’?,” she said.
She is uplifted that alumni write to her saying she is the only teacher who personally believed in them. “It is impactful I had a direct influence in what they have become,” she said.
When COVID-19 caused a paradigm shift, Purviance-Snow helped her peers transition to online teaching.
Purviance-Snow became a contender for Friday’s award by winning the Horace Mann Award in October. That award, also from the NEA Foundation, is named after a financial services company.
She was a top-five finalist for the Horace Mann award by earlier winning a best-in-Washington teaching award.
Snohomish High peer Kaci Cowan, who teaches government, nominated Purviance-Snow for the Horace Mann Award.
Winning the national award comes with a $25,000 check. Purviance-Snow said she plans to donate some of the money to her church and some of it to the Poor People’s Campaign.