Child Nutrition Category
Cypress Elementary School
Redding School District
Shasta County Office of Education
Jackie Thurmond is the Head Cook at Cypress Elementary School. With 17 years of experience, Ms. Thurmond is committed to excellence in school nutrition and the focus of her cafeteria is healthy, homemade meals. About two years ago she willingly accepted a reassignment to her current school to take on the challenge of opening and managing a new kitchen that emphasized cooking from scratch. She puts a great degree of diligence and caring into the meals she serves and also into her relationships with students, staff members, and parents. Her work ethic is excellent, her attitude is always positive, and her enthusiasm never wavers. Ms. Thurmond leads by example by demonstrating healthy eating habits and is tremendously successful in getting the students to make the same healthy choices. When the season allows, she prepares the salad bar with the school garden harvest, nurturing the students' love of fresh fruits and vegetables they've grown on site.
Maintenance and Operations Category
West Side School
West Side Union Elementary School District
Sonoma County Office of Education
Robert Lownes is a custodian (five years current) at West Side School. Mr. Lownes had retired from work as an appliance repairman when he came to the rural one-school district in 1977. At the time, the school was in the midst of a major construction project that was followed by a devastating school fire. The disaster presented the district with challenges beyond anything it had ever experienced. They were able to unify as school community due in large part by Mr. Lownes' incredible optimism, can-do spirit, and ability to fix anything. He is by nature frugal and resourceful and was able to save the district a considerable amount of money. While he may technically be their custodian, his work performance, involvement, leadership, and commitment to West Side School far exceed the job title. His breadth of knowledge is incredible. Mr. Lownes is their go-to guy and a marvel at solving problems.
Office and Technical Category
El Portal Elementary School
Mariposa County Unified School District and Office of Education
Suzie Whitfield has been at her current position of Secretary at El Portal Elementary School for 19 years. It is well-known that the heart of any school is the school secretary. This is especially true in the two small rural schools of El Portal Elementary and Yosemite Park High, where every staff member wears many hats. Ms. Whitfield is no exception. Her colleagues say she is certainly the heart and soul of our schools, making them truly unique and special places to learn. She handles the school correspondence, manages the filing system, and operates all the office equipment, handles the supply ordering for the entire schools, bookkeeping, and personnel paperwork. She is the technology support staff, the substitute cafeteria worker, school health aid, and switchboard operator. Not only does Ms. Whitfield go far and above the call of duty, but she does it all with a calm demeanor, a caring heart, and a warm smile.
Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance Category
Computer Resource Assistant
Wildwood Elementary School
Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District
San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools
Daniela Cupples has been at her current position of Computer Resource Assistant at Wildwood Elementary School for 15 years. Ms. Cupples is dedicated to student learning in the area of technology and is always thinking of avenues to engage students in applying technology as part of their daily lives. Her talents and rich background growing up in Switzerland coupled with a master's of arts degree in educational technology provide a skill base so badly needed in our schools today. Ms. Cupples' deep desire to successfully infuse technology into the curriculum as a tool to inspire and motivate our students will help them become the digital natives of tomorrow—just the type of future workers and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs across the nation are creating. In addition to giving students computer experience, she provides technical support at three different school sites where she sets up and maintains the setup of both computer lab and classroom computers, peripherals, and the installation of software. Ms. Cupples replaces defective parts, troubleshoots hardware and software issues, maintains student databases—well, the list of her contributions appears to be endless.
Support Services and Security Category
Child Welfare and Attendance Officer
Tulare City School District
Tulare County Office of Education
Teresa Sharley, Child Welfare and Attendance Officer with the Tulare City School District, has been at her current position for 12 years. Mrs. Sharley has given much of her time and her own financial resources to support district families who have fallen on hard times and can not support themselves. It is her dedication to Tulare's homeless youth that makes her so deserving of this award. In many ways she supports the homeless youth of Tulare as she does her own four children, with respect, compassion, and understanding. Mrs. Sharley knows that her efforts today could possibly make all the difference in the life of a homeless child tomorrow. She is also responsible for monitoring attendance for 14 schools, as well as overseeing every aspect of discipline, from the school site to the courthouse. Possibly the most rewarding facet of her job is her involvement with community shelters, where she helps provide children with some of the simple necessities most of us take for granted. Most recently, she has begun to help foster children within the schools. She goes above and beyond what is asked of her in her job. She is truly amazing.
Equipment Mechanic and Driver
Transportation Department/Oakdale Joint Unified School District
Stanislaus County Office of Education
Richard Melo has been an Equipment Mechanic and Driver with the Oakdale Joint Unified School District for 19 years. Mr. Melo is responsible for maintaining our district buses, delivery trucks, and vans, in addition to driving a bus when necessary. As a bus driver, he is able to resolve conflicts and other difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact. He has excellent technical skills and is committed to ensuring that students and employees are safe in their travels. Mr. Melo is a lifelong learner and continuously seeks further education so he is able to give his profession more than 100 percent. He also serves on a number of nonprofit community organizations. He shows great concern for the welfare of others and is actively involved in finding solutions to difficult challenges especially the deep and dramatic budget cuts currently faced by education. He is a true humanitarian. Mr. Melo emulates warmth, humility, and compassion as he serves others and always expresses appreciation to others for their efforts.