Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified Celebrates Employees of the Year

The 2014 honorees are:

Kristin McDonald, first grade teacher at Golden Elementary – Kristin is a first grade team leader who colleagues greatly appreciate for her collaboration. Kristin shares her lesson plans and “flip charts,” which are important teaching tools for the classroom. More importantly, she is a described as an organized and energetic teacher who cares so much about all the students and wants to give them every tool to succeed. She is constantly researching ideas that are fun and make lessons meaningful for students. Kristin’s enthusiasm is evident in everything she does, whether it’s “gushing” about her amazing students to parents or highlighting student work around the classroom.

Janmarie Halliday, Visual Arts Teacher at Tuffree Middle School – Artwork by Janmarie’s students can be seen showcased throughout the district, including in school district buildings, the district art show and the foyer of district’s new Performing Arts Center. Seeing their work displayed in various public venues beyond their classroom keeps students excited about their work. Her students even started an after school club where they have an opportunity to knit caps for cancer patients. A teacher who is always full of energy, Janmarie also spends countless hours writing grants to fund additional large scale projects for her class. With the most recent grant, her students created shadow puppets, a project that involved researching culture and history behind nursery rhymes, short stories, fables and fairy tales. Students wrote their own scripts, created props and built a theater for a standing-room only performance on the opening night of the district art show.

Kathleen Switzer, Drama Teacher at El Dorado High School – Kathleen’s contributions are many. She teaches Beginning Theatre, Intermediate Theatre, Advanced Theatre, Musical Theatre and Scriptwriting. In addition, she supervises and directs student drama productions and serves as advisor to several clubs. She keeps students engaged by involving them in school and community activities such as the Terry Conley Memorial Mile, the March of Dimes and others. One of her most recent contributions was writing the language arts curriculum for the school’s award-winning Digital Media Arts Academy as well as the new Broadcasting pathway. She is also involved in neighboring Brookhaven Elementary where she has coordinated their talent show, school play and spring musical.

Sue Mason, Special Education Instructional Aide at Brookhaven Elementary School – Sue has served with the school district’s special education program for 25 years. She was even instrumental in the development of the district’s autism program from the very first day of planning. Whether she is working with an autistic child or a student with the most significant disabilities, she always finds success by adapting her training to whatever the students need. Sue is described as a collaborative professional who always approaches every student with a smile on her face and a positive attitude.

Greg Ribeiro, Print Shop Operator – As the print shop operator, Greg single-handedly produces all large print jobs for the entire school district. He downloads files, scans if needed, fixes coloring, prints incoming jobs, collates (often by hand), folds, staples, numbers, binds, packages finished work, stuffs envelopes and stages finished jobs at the warehouse. He excels at his job, has an incredible work ethic and is incredibly fast. Even though, Greg does not work directly with students, he is often heard saying, “Anything for the kids.”

Jose Serna, Plant Coordinator at Woodsboro – Jose is exceptional at his job and is always willing to help. In addition to taking scrupulous care of the school in cleaning classrooms, bathrooms and buildings, he even notifies teachers when their rooms are ready. He will even step up to translate for families who don’t speak English so that they immediately feel a warm school welcome. Jose also makes things happen. For example, teachers across campus wanted some way to recycle and it was Jose who stepped up. He brought recycling containers, placed them around campus and now collects the materials for teachers. On the day when the surprise announcement was made that he was an Employee of the Year, the crowd of students and staff broke into a joyous chant of “Jose, Jose, Jose.”

Elaine Marshall, Risk Management Supervisor – Elaine wears many hats. She handles all health and welfare enrollment changes, worker comp claims and communication with medical, dental, vision and life insurance companies. Most recently, as a member of the Health Benefits Committee, she was a leader in launching the school district’s “Your Health Matters” employee wellness campaign. Endlessly patient and understanding, Elaine goes out of her way to help employees understand insurance options so that they can choose the best plans for their families. Even in difficult times when employees lose loved ones or experience serious family illnesses, she helps them navigate the complex path ahead of them with insurance companies.

Vivian Cuesta, Principal at Melrose Elementary School – With great enthusiasm, energy and dedication, Vivian launched Merlose to a successful beginning in 2004 as the school’s first and only principal. A former principal at many PYLUSD schools, Vivian is retiring this year but not before making a tremendous difference. She has created a school culture which established and maintains student success as the primary focus. Her personal slogan is “Do Whatever It Takes.” Under her leadership, Melrose School’s Academic Performance Index IAPI) increased from 626 points to a remarkable 824. Through the school’s success, Melrose Elementary has closed the achievement gap for English learners and some of the neediest students in the school district.

Three teachers, three classified employees and two managers are selected each year. The teachers and classified employees now advance to the Orange County teacher and classified employee of the year competitions.


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