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School employees honored at annual event
school employees awards pic
Yolanda Estrada, right, Turlock High School Coordinator of Campus Supervision, recieves a plaque commemorating her selection as an "Employee Making a Difference."

Nominees from the Turlock area:

·         Chris Rushing, Keyes Union School District, Custodian/Groundskeeper

·         Kathy Coffin, Dennis Earl Elementary School, Secretary I

·         Elizabeth Drake, Chatom Elementary School, Secretary/Parent Liaison

·         Barbara Rose, Hughson High School, Administrative Assistant

·         Lisa Jensen, Wakefield Elementary School, ELD Para-Professional

·         Yolanda Estrada, Turlock High School, Coordinator of Campus Supervision


Moving on to the state California School Employee of the Year program:

·         Valerie Hausburg, Martone School, Cafeteria Manager

·         Lennie Morgan, Salida Union School District, Maintenance Worker II

·         Jean Kimberling, Waterford Middle School, Secretary

·         Noelle Tomlinson, Standiford Elementary/Woodrow Elementary Schools, Library Media Assistant

·         Bill Reed, Graphic Services Department, Graphics Technician

They’re the heroes behind the scenes of every school. Those individuals who dish out the macaroni, trim the grass, schedule substitutes, and watch over the school yard, but seldom receive appreciation.

That’s why the Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Association of California School Administrators band together to honor outstanding classified education employees each year through a program called “Employees Making a Difference,” held Tuesday at the Petersen Event Center in Modesto.

“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.

Twenty-six classified employees from around the county, representing five fields – child nutrition, maintenance/operations, office/technical, para educators/instructional assistants and support services/security – were invited to this year’s event, including Elizabeth Drake, secretary/parent liaison from Chatom Elementary School.

Like most nominees, it was Drake’s first time at the gala event, with catered food, emcee, a performance by the Oakdale High Jazz Band, and scores of attendees gathered around tables festooned with balloons.

“It’s great,” Drake said.”I’ve never been to one of these before. It’s really special.”

Drake’s presence was made extra special as she was the lone representative selected from the Chatom Union School District. Depending on enrollment, some county districts sent as many as four representatives.

As nominees walked across the stage to receive certificates from state legislators, gift bags and commemorative plaques, a bit was said about each one, from Kathy Coffin, a Dennis Earl Elementary School secretary who “defines professionalism” to Hughson High Administrative Assistant Barbara Rose, who has been with the district for 37 years – arriving before 6 a.m. each day.

Yolanda Estrada, coordinator of campus supervision at Turlock High School and an employee of the district for over 30 years, had an oft-heard reply when asked what being nominated meant: “It’s an honor.” But, like many of her peers, Estrada was quick to pass along the credit to her coworkers.

“It’s so easy when you work with good people to do a good job,” Estrada said. “I have a fantastic job.”

At the end of the evening, five classified employees were selected to move on to the statewide California School Employee of the Year program. But even those who weren’t picked to advance still came out of the event feeling like winners.

“I’m glad to have gotten this far,” Estrada said. “It’s such an honor to be nominated.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.