Every day, Rebecca Snow, the librarian and media clerk at Mae Hensley Junior High School, goes to work with a sense of importance in her mission to help educate students. Her drive is what has gained her recognition as one of five school employees in Ceres, Hughson and Keyes who have been recognized in the Stanislaus County Office of Education's "Employees Making a Difference" recognition program.
The honor is also going to:
• Polly Ammon, office manager of Central Valley High School;
• Jose Hernandez-Silva, a custodian at Cesar Chavez Junior High School;
• Guadalupe "Lupe" Lopez, the attendance clerk at Hughson Elementary School;
• Khush Samra, attendance clerk at Keyes Elementary School.
The five are among 26 classified staff members who will be recognized at the Martin G. Petersen Event Center, 720 12th Street, Modesto, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26.
"I love my job," said Snow, who has worked at Mae Hensley for two years after working for the Stanislaus County Library system. "I am passionate about reading, information, kids, and creativity so working in a school library is a perfect fit. I could never figure out what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up' because I was interested in everything. But when I discovered how much libraries - and librarians - encourage curiosity and exploration of the world, I knew it was the right career for me. Working in a school library allows me to share that with students."
Snow said she believes that work should be challenging, rewarding and fun and that "there's nothing as fun and rewarding as finding the right book, resource, or piece of information for a student and seeing it spark something inside of them."
She is in charge of updating the library collection and helping the 650 students find information in the library and on the internet.
"It's not just about books. I tell them I'm not the book lady I'm the information lady."
Snow helped develop the school library mission statement: "Working toward building independent self-confident and literate citizens through access to cultural, informational, educational and enjoyable resources."
Polly Ammon said she was surprised to receive the honor and noted that she doesn't think of her job as just a way to collect a paycheck.
"I do it because I'm invested as a community member and as a past student of Ceres Unified," she Ammon. "I am one of six in my family who went through Westport, Mae Hensley and Ceres High School who all benefited from this district's ideology that makes every effort possible for all students to be given an equal chance to succeed."
Ammon went on to say that she enjoys the challenge each day brings.
"I am really thankful for the leadership I've been able to work under during the past 25 years. Central Valley is a great place to work as it challenges students and staff to bring out their best."
Keyes Elementary School Principal Timothy Torres nominated Khush Samra for the Employees Making a Difference honor.
Khush started out with the Keyes School District 14 years ago as a district payroll clerk but has served as the Keyes Elementary School attendance clerk/ASB Tech for 11 years.
"I think I would sum up my work philosophy as trying to take care of your needs," said Samra. "If you come to the Keyes School Office, I want you to leave with a smile, or at lease with a feeling of being taken care of. And the kids, I just want them to know that they are important and cared about, that they can do anything; that Keyes Elementary School is a platform that they can take off from and grab the stars."
Khush said she enjoyed working with Keyes students, saying they are "amazingly resilient and sweet and funny." But she said the staff has its "rough days with them too, but that just makes it more important for them to know that they are cared about here at Keyes by all the staff."
Samra tries to extend that care to parents as well.
"I have gotten to know the parents and community of Keyes through office interactions and our youth basketball league, we try to assist as well as we can. Keyes has really become a second home and I feel like I am a part of this community and take pride in what happens here.
Custodial care at Cesar Chavez Junior High School has been handled by Jose Hernandez-Silva since it opened in 2011. As head custodian he supervises two employees.
"I do everything," said Jose. "I like my job. If you do your job, nobody bothers you. You pretty much work on your own."
His jobs are varied and include campus cleanup, setting up for assemblies and sporting events, mopping floors and general janitorial duties.
Lupe Lopez, who has been the attendance clerk for the 600 students at Hughson Elementary School for 12 years, said her job is simply to help people.
Lopez is in charge of kindergarten registration every year and track attendance and deal with truancy problems. She also sits on the district's School Attendance Review Board (SARB) which meets every other month.
She also helps translate for Spanish speakers since she is one of the few Spanish speakers on staff. She also assists when sick children come into the office.
"We'll see sick children all day long. When our health clerk is out we take charge. There's so much that I do that it's really a lot. I help in every way I can. I call for teachers who want to meet Spanish speaking parents. Like right now the nurse is having me call the parents of the children who are sick to come and pick them up."
Principal Eric Petersen nominated Lopez for a number of reasons.
"Lupe's great," he said. "She does whatever's needed. She's not limited by her role or her job duties and she does triage when we have kids hurt. When we have parent issues she'll come out and intervene; she's an excellent translator. She also works with the district office and does important newsletters and things that go out to the entire community from the superintendent. She's trustworthy enough that people at the top hands their words to her and entrust that it's going to be communicated in the right way. She's very reliable and comes in earlier than she's supposed to and does whatever needs to get done."
The classified (non-supervisory) employees were nominated by district officials and forwarded to SCOE.
"This program helps us recognize the efforts of some of our outstanding classified employees, many who are unsung heroes behind the scenes, yet critical to the education of our children," said Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon.
Employees were nominated from the following service areas: Child Nutrition; Maintenance/Operations; Office/Technical; Para Educators/Instructional Assistants; Support Services/Security; and Transportation.
Six of the 26 nominees will be selected to represent Stanislaus County in the California School Employee of the Year program, coordinated by the California Department of Education. The names of these six individuals will be announced at the reception.
For the third year, the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County will present the Jane Johnston Civility Award to one of the 26 nominees who best exemplify the principles of civility. The award is named in honor of former SCOE Assistant Superintendent Jane Johnston, who helped launch the county-wide Choose Civility Initiative in 2010 and passed away unexpectedly in April 2012. Johnston advocated for and co-chaired the Employees Making a Difference Program (2008-2012), and was active with the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County.
Each district was eligible to send in a certain number of nominees based on district ADA.