Union County School District employees met Tuesday morning in the Union County High School gymnatorium to celebrate the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year and celebrate the achievements of their peers.
The UCHS stage, gym floor and bleachers were full Tuesday morning as district administrators, faculty and staff, as well as invited guests, gathered for the district’s 2012-2013 opening session. With 465 employees, the Union County School District is the third largest employer in Union County (just behind the Union Hospital District and the Dollar General Distribution Center).
School board chair B.J. McMorris welcomed those in attendance, and Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall introduced the guests. The program included recognition of schools, new teachers, teachers with perfect attendance and Teachers of the Year. The 2012-2013 District Teacher of the Year, Jeri Stein, was also recognized. Stein spoke to the audience, reading from her own professional biography and describing a little girl she remembered.
“I once knew a little girl in the third grade,” Stein read. “She could be described as dirty and unkempt. Her hair was long and matted. Her clothes were dirty and hung from her very small frame as if they belonged to someone much larger.”
Stein told a story about the little girl in third grade, explaining why she had an impact on Stein’s career choice.
She said the first time she saw the little girl light up was in third grade. She described events in which the little girl’s teacher passed her math paper around the room, telling other students to look at her correct answers, how neat the work was and how nicely the name was written.
“That day changed my life forever!” Stein said, revealing that she, herself, was the little girl. “I was no longer just a name without a face — the dirty little girl. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Geisler, and in that moment I loved her dearly. My third grade teacher never knew the impact she made on my life that day, but it has driven me as a teacher to help other children for whom just coming to school is an accomplishment.”
Others recognized during the event included teachers who received overall excellent ratings for PASS testing. Those teachers — recognized with a Superintendent’s Excellence in Achievement Award certificate and a $100 American Express gift card — included Jackie Adams, Mark Inman, Ashley Anthony, Kelly Montgomery, Susan Gilstrap, Nicole Gardin, Amy Hughes, Christie Hayes and Carolyn Brown.
The final awards to be presented were the Extra Mile Awards, which recognize district employees for personifying the phrase, “going the extra mile.”
The first to receive an Extra Mile Award this year was Cleveland Jackson, who Woodall said makes a difference by reaching out to others with a generous spirit.
“One example of generosity could be giving away produce you just harvested in 110 heat index,” Woodall said. “While he is delivering the tomatoes I love, I realize he gives me three or four assignments to follow up on for students — likely ones he doesn’t even teach. As a former principal, I know first-hand how many students he quietly mentors and is one reason they made it.”
The second Extra Mile Award went to Shelley Vaughan. Woodall said Lockhart School appreciates Vaughan for countless extra miles.
“When the work day ends, she is just beginning,” Woodall said about Vaughan. “After the students leave is the time for PTO, ballgames, making hot dogs at the concession stand, lesson planning and room decorating. She might be the last to leave, but she is the first to volunteer and to participate.”
The next Extra Mile Award was presented to Sherrie Robinson, who Woodall said travels every extra mile with kindness and compassion.
“People at Buffalo Elementary say she never has a bad day, and they think it’s probably because she fills each one with giving,” Woodall said. “As a teacher assistant in a special needs classroom, she makes sure the children in her class have good days too — even on the weekends — even when it means giving up her own time to care for them or take them out to eat or to fun activities.”
Sims Middle School Media Specialist Jennifer Tazerouti was the next Extra Mile Award recipient.
“She gives students a gift that lasts a lifetime — a love for reading,” Woodall said. “The library is an inviting and fun place to be and is open even during the summer. Whether she is helping someone choose the right book or use the latest technology, Jennifer Tazerouti always puts the students of Sims Middle School first!”
The next Extra Mile Award was presented to Shirley Mitchell, who Woodall said walks the extra mile for the adults and children at Foster Park Elementary every day.
“It’s not her job to sew buttons, repair shoes or glue projects,” Woodall said. “It’s not her job to give out stickers, cover someone’s duty or collect food items to send home with children. She does these things, though, while keeping the office running smoothly.”
Monarch Elementary’s Rhonda Hollingsworth was the next Extra Mile Award recipient.
“Some wear many hats, or in this case, crowns,” Woodall said. “Her co-workers have dubbed her the Queen of Summer Conferences, the Queen of Donors Choose Grants and the Queen of Professional Development. However, her favorite title is Teacher. Every moment is one with infinite possibilities for learning. Her focus is always on doing her best for her students and her school.”
The final Extra Mile Award was presented to Jim Palmer.
“To arrive early, leave late and serve students, parents, teachers and community shows dedication,” Woodall said. “To be the life of the party while doing it shows a passion for the job. You may know him as Dr. G., Bob Barker, or The Beekeeper. Jim Palmer championed UCHS and its students selflessly during the 2012 school year.”