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Turlock classified employees honored for making a difference
Medeiros Elementary campus supervisor Jenny DeSousa is one of six classified employees who were selected to represent Stanislaus County at the California School Employee of the Year program. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Medeiros Elementary School campus supervisor Jenny DeSousa was at a loss for words when she found out she was selected as one of six local classified employees to represent Stanislaus County during the upcoming California School Employee of the Year program in May.

“If I had a happy dance, I probably would’ve done it,” said DeSousa.

For the past nine years, DeSousa has worn many hats as campus supervisor at the elementary school, helping out in the cafeteria, supervising students on the playground and helping with the California English Language Development Test. However, she said that her favorite part about her job is interacting with the students.

“I especially love when those that have graduated come back to see me,” said DeSousa. “It’s a wonderful feeling to know that they are in college and they still remember me.”

DeSousa found out she would move on to the State program during the “Employees Making a Difference” ceremony on Jan. 24, which honored  27 outstanding classified education employees in Stanislaus County. The program has been hosted by the Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Association of California School Administrators Stanislaus Charter for 10 years.

Employees were nominated from service areas, including child nutrition, maintenance and operations, office and technical, paraeducators and instructional assistants, support services and security and transportation.

“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.

DeSousa was not the only classified employee from Turlock to move on to the State program in May as Kathy Smith, who has been the job coach developer at Turlock High School for more than two decades, was also selected.

“It was a real honor to represent Turlock Unified School District,” said Smith. “I was shocked.”

Smith said that she works under a contract with the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation to teach life skills to special education students, allowing them to successfully transition from school into the workforce. She works with students beginning with their senior year at Turlock High and during the year immediately following graduation. Each year, she takes on a caseload between 50 and 65 students.

Using a curriculum that starts with “looking good, feeling good,” Smith said that her day-to-day job duties include helping students discover their strengths and weaknesses, teaching them manners and how to “dress for success,” helping them get food handler certificates and driver’s licenses and going with them to open up a bank account.

“By spring they are prepared to go and start interviewing and getting a part time job,” said Smith. “They are ready to transition into being a productive citizen in the world.”

Smith said that her favorite part about being a job developer coach at Turlock High is not only watching her current students grow, but also her past students as they continue to develop into productive citizens in the community.

“I worked with this one student who had autism and he didn’t really think that he would ever really make it,” said Smith. “He took a complete different direction and now he has made it out into the workforce, understands public transportation and has a full time job. He is a successful, productive citizen and I am always so proud when I see him.”