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CSEY Awardees 2021

Classified School Employees of the Year (CSEY) Awardees for 2021.

News Release and information regarding the Classified School Employees of the Year Awardees for 2021.

Additional information can be found on the May 27, 2021, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces 2021 Classified School Employees of the Year News Release #21-42.

Natalie Hung

National Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award Nominee External link opens in new window or tab.
Clerical and Administrative Services
Secretary, 8 years in current position
Castro Valley Elementary School, Castro Valley
Castro Valley Unified School District, Alameda County

Natalie’s work ethic and performance are unparalleled. This year, she was instrumental in the school’s transition to distance learning. She spent countless hours in the school office when many employees were working remotely. It became Natalie’s mission that all students would have everything they needed to be successful learning virtually. This led to her organizing the distribution of hundreds of Chromebooks and portable Wi-Fi devices to families, supporting families when they ran into technical difficulties, and helping teachers troubleshoot connectivity issues with students. She also coordinated material pick-ups and would stay late to accommodate working parents.

Dan Luu

Custodial and Maintenance Services
Lead Custodian, 15 years in current position
John Baldwin Elementary School, Danville
San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Contra Costa County

Dan’s dedication and love of the school grounds is comparable to someone caring for their own home. Dan arrives early in the morning to clean, walk the grounds, and to ensure that the campus is at its best for students, staff, and community. The demands of a lead custodian’s job changed dramatically with school closures, and the subsequent reopening for small groups, child nutrition distribution, and hybrid reopening. While the school was physically closed, Dan was hard at work cleaning out storage rooms in anticipation of furniture storage, and he later helped create a new cleaning schedule to accommodate for a.m. and p.m. student cohorts. Dan leads through example and mentorship. He ensures that each employee under his guidance is trained in all facets of the position, from familiarity with their runs, summer cleaning expectations, proper use of equipment, safety practices, how to engage in site inspections, and emergency preparedness.

Rhima Blenkhorn

Food and Nutrition Services
Cafe Team Lead I, 13 years in current position
Orchard Elementary School, Rio Linda
Twin Rivers Unified School District, Sacramento County

Rhima has one of the most complicated food service operations in our district. She serves meals to students in preschool, elementary, and middle school all while implementing three different menus. Many Orchard students require special diets due to food allergies and food modification needs. Rhima prepares and serves these meals with great care and attention ensuring the meals are tasty and appealing to each student. Rhima also trains other Cafeteria Team Leads from the Twin Rivers Unified School District on preparing food for students with special needs and actively participates in department programs and events by sharing her expertise when it comes to creative menus, new entrees, and recipes. She is always the first to volunteer for trying out and piloting new programs. She was one of the first to bring salad bars to her site and was instrumental in piloting breakfast carts for seventh and eighth grade students.

Pamela Wampler

Health and Student Services
Licensed Vocational Nurse, 20 years in current position
San Joaquin County Office of Education, San Joaquin County

Pam is a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), and an exemplary member of the nursing staff for the county’s Special Education Department. The department serves more than 1,000 students who have moderate to severe disabilities, or extensive support needs. Although based at a preschool site, Pam serves all students in the Special Education Department, age's birth to twenty-two. When students started returning to hybrid in-person instruction in September, Pam assisted school nurses with contact tracing by contacting parents, educating them regarding public health quarantine guidance, and following up. Pam also helped facilitate training around personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) with Special Education staff. She administered immunizations at the County Office of Education’s clinic which vaccinated more than 13,000 education employees in San Joaquin County. She willingly worked overtime to help the team accomplish this great service to the community.

Aven Callahan

Paraprofessional Services
Library Assistant I, 7 years in current position
S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, Riverside
Alvord Unified School District, Riverside County

Not only has Aven excelled in her role as library assistant, she has gone well beyond that role to support the school and district. She volunteers to judge spelling bees and science fairs, participates in after-school activities and helps out wherever she is needed. She completely revamped the library, creating a functional and inviting space for our students. She also created a Maker Space Program which promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills by exposing students to hands on learning opportunities. Aven is always identifying ways to combine fundraising and community involvement. Each year, she runs a book fair that the kids absolutely love and that brings parents and families to the school. She also writes grant requests showing the community the great programs the school has to offer and has successfully secured four grants to support her library programs.

Patricia Mendez

Security Services
Activity Monitor, 10 years in current position
Manuel Esqueda Elementary School, Santa Ana
Santa Ana Unified School District, Orange County

Mrs. Mendez is not only an outstanding activity monitor and supervisor, she’s also an ambassador for Esqueda K-8 School and the surrounding Santa Ana community. She has helped the school with Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) incentives and awards for students and organized work teams to help teachers prepare supplemental materials for classrooms. Through a collaborative project with Esqueda and Chapman University, Mrs. Mendez arranged for parents to take learning walks through classrooms to help parents better understand the 21st-century learning that takes place in classrooms today. She is also involved in a local district project, Santa Ana Early Learning Initiative, which seeks to bring parents closer to the classroom so they can provide more support for their child’s education.

Adrian Prieto

Skilled Trades Services
HVAC Technician, 24 years in current position
Anaheim Union High School District, Orange County

As a Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technician, Mr. Prieto is directly responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all HVAC units at Anaheim High School, South Junior High School, Katella High School, and Sycamore Junior High School. These four sites have approximately 380 HVAC units. By utilizing his unparalleled knowledge and expertise in this field, Anaheim Union High School District estimates that Adrian saved the district more than $380,000 last year alone. Mr. Prieto is not only an outstanding HVAC Technician but also a committed member of the community who genuinely cares about the wellbeing and happiness of others. When the pandemic first began, he volunteered his time to help distribute food packages to those who were in need and donated money towards purchasing masks for those who could not afford them. When one of the maintenance team members lost a family member and was not able to afford the burial costs, Mr. Prieto took it upon himself to gather enough funding to pay for them.

Chris Martinez

National Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award Nominee External link opens in new window or tab.
Technical Services
Systems Network Tech II, 13 years in current position
Magnolia Elementary School District, Orange County

Chris Martinez has served as an integral member of the technology team at Magnolia School District for the past 12 years. Chris is fondly known as the “go to person” in technology as he seems to always do what is best for students. This past summer Chris was committed to getting technology into the hands of students and staff as he worked tirelessly to distribute over 3,000 Chromebooks in the month of August. Chris organized two distribution teams to cover our nine school sites. He happily will work on a Saturday to fix classroom technical issues so instruction is not interrupted, and he will step in to support teachers and kids whenever there is a need. He’s also been influential in building a state-of-the-art technology team, and he’s skilled in both English and Spanish which allows him to communicate and build a rapport with many students and their families.

Tony Williams

Transportation Services
Bus Driver and Custodian/Maintenance, 8 years in current position
Igo-Ono Elementary School, Igo
Igo, Ono, Platina Union School District, Shasta County

Tony takes the time to get to know each student so he can greet them by name with a smile as they board the bus. He serves as "bustodian" to make the campus shines and operates smoothly in addition to driving, maintaining, and inspecting buses. He’s responsible for all aspects of the district’s transportation program. Not only does he transport students and complete vehicle safety, he also checks operating systems on small and full-sized buses. He maintains records, completes licensing requirements, schedules all necessary maintenance, and creates bus routes as needed. This year, in addition to fulfilling all his regular duties, he has implemented multiple new protocols to ensure student safety during the pandemic. His positive relationship with students means there are never problems on the bus and students arrive happy and ready to start their school day with a positive mindset.

Questions: Awards Unit | | 916-319-0842 
Last Reviewed: Monday, April 4, 2022