Foundation selects Elizabeth McEwen for Classified Employee of the Year Award

The Yakima Valley College Foundation announces the selection of Elizabeth McEwen, a instructional technician with the college’s veterinary technology program, as the 2024 recipient of the Darlene Koch Classified Employee of the Year Award. Former YVC Vice President of Administration and YVC Foundation Executive Director Darlene Koch established the award to honor the hard work and dedication of classified staff. The YVC Foundation Board of Directors makes the selection from nominations submitted by faculty, staff and administrators.

A lifelong resident of the Yakima Valley and alumna of Yakima Valley College, McEwen earned her associate of applied science degree in veterinary technology in 2009. After spending several years working in a small animal clinic, McEwen joined YVC’s team in 2015, and rejuvenated her love of the profession.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do initially,” says McEwen. “After starting on the track to be a teacher I decided that wasn’t for me.” Eventually, she began taking general education courses to get her associate degree and at the recommendation of her cousin began working a veterinary clinic as a kennel assistant — where she discovered her passion for working with animals.

“I didn’t know that there were such things as veterinary technicians,” continued McEwen. “I started watching them work and I was like I want to do that, that looks amazing. So I searched and found that YVC had a program and applied and started the following year.”

As an instructional technician McEwen runs the program’s lab space, helps prepare materials for instructors and students, demonstrates proper animal care techniques for students, evaluates students’ work and helps provide animal care.

“Liz truly exemplifies the dedication of the Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT). She brings the skills she developed as an LVT to her position at YVC,” said Program Director and Instructor Joanna Fischer.” “At the core of her work is her desire to be a problem solver and to support the work of those around her. I couldn’t possibly list all of the ways she supports the learning of the students in our program.”

McEwen also leads the instructional technician team in setting up and ensuring that laboratory sessions run smoothly and serves as an expert for colleagues and students.

“Beyond simply guaranteeing that the program has the working equipment and supplies needed for each individual course, she is knowledgeable in the curriculum being taught so that she can be a source of learning support for our students. Liz acts as tutor, mentor and role model to our students as they progress through the program. I can’t stress her value as a role model to our students enough,” said Fischer.

For instructor Nicole Papageorgiou, McEwen’s attention to detail is something that sets her apart and helps promote the success of students studying in the program.

“As an adjunct faculty, Elizabeth always makes sure I have the supplies and resources I need to present the curriculum required. She has that special veterinary technician skill of consistently anticipating the needs of her team. Elizabeth has many job responsibilities and yet she can always be found assisting in classes or helping the other instructional classroom support technicians in their day-to-day duties,” says Papageorgiou.

For McEwen, who never dreamed of teaching, there is no greater reward than helping prepare students for their careers caring for animals. Her favorite example of this is when second-year students return to campus after serving their externships.

“They come back, and they have these stories of things that they’ve gotten to do during their externships and they’re so excited to tell us all about it, they’re beaming with joy,” said McEwen. “Sometimes we have to pull them kicking and screaming through classes but the joy for me is when they come back and [share things like] ‘you’ll never guess what I got to do’ and ‘I did it — you told me I could do it and I didn’t believe you but now I can’ and that’s the best part. I wait for those two weeks each year. I love my job throughout the year, but when they come back at the end of spring quarter, that’s the best.”

The recipient of the Darlene Koch Classified Employee of the Year Award is presented a $1,000 unrestricted monetary award. It is open to any full-time classified staff member at Yakima Valley College. For more information contact YVC Foundation Executive Director Stacey Kautz at or 509.574.4645.

The Darlene Koch Classified Employee of the Year Award will be presented during YVC’s Commencement ceremony on June 14.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /