Celebrating Employee Excellence, KISD Announces April STEEL Awards 2024

Ellison police officer earns April STEELWillow Springs Elementary School third-grade teacher Alisha Kruttlin and Ellison High School police officer Dawin Vazquez are Killeen ISD STEEL Award winners for the month of April.


Kruttlin has been teaching 19 years, 16 in KISD and Vazquez is in his ninth year as a law enforcement officer and fourth year in KISD.


The STEEL Award goes to two KISD employees each month of the school year. It is an acronym that means Supporting the Education and Empowerment of Learners.


Willow Springs teacher Alisha Kruttlin

Now close to 20 years in education, Kruttlin recalls her childhood years playing school with her sister in the style of Little House on the Prairie.


As a child, she admired her own teachers, who always seemed so organized, kind, professional and smart. She wanted to be like them.


Kruttlin began her career in the military, serving 13 years in the Air Force, the Army and the National Guard, earning a college degree along the way and eventually entering the teaching field.


The longtime teacher sees her profession as profound and multi-faceted but simple at its heart.


It’s about caring for students, giving them the best chance of success, keeping them safe, serving as a role model and what she calls elevating their thinking.


Kruttlin is determined to teach every child in her care to prepare them for what’s ahead.


“I love to see the development of these young minds,” she said. “I want to keep inspiring them and hope they are able to hold on to dreams and they can come true someday.”

Alisha Kruttlin earns STEEL Award

Police officer Dawin Vazquez honored


Her students receive a wide variety of instruction, including typing on keyboards, reading and writing and science experiments that incorporates such items as bubbles and clay.


She also is intentional about building relationships with students and is mindful of the stress and anxiety of life.


“It’s not just a job,” said Kruttlin. “You can’t come in thinking it’s just a job. You really have to connect with the kids.”


The best part of teaching, she said, is knowing you can help students through the obstacles they face.


Ellison High School police officer Dawin Vazquez

Vazquez worked four years as a Bell County deputy before moving over to KISD as a police officer five years ago.


He patrolled across several schools before this year taking on the lead position at Ellison High School.


Vazquez said he loves interacting with students and staff members at the large high school. His days are largely talking with whoever needs assistance or advice or guidance in the right direction.


The officer sees himself as a positive mentor working proactively to keep students from winding up like the people he picked up as a county deputy.


When he has time, he makes his way to the baseball field to play catch.


“I wanted to make a difference,” said Vazquez, explaining that he saw the need juvenile offenders had for positive mentors.


“At the school, you wear many hats. You are a police officer. You are a mentor. You are a counselor. It goes on and on.”


The officer said he feels well-placed to help students understand why they get in trouble and how to make better choices.


“You will see me talking and joking with kids,” he said. “You see me giving me high fives. I like to go to the baseball field and throw a baseball.”


Vazquez helped to develop the Blue Elf program two years ago. KISD police officers manage a toy drive leading into the holidays to help families in need.


“I was surprised,” he said of earning a STEEL Award. “I like to work behind the scenes. You don’t do anything by yourself. Being nominated, it was an honor.”