Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Best Among Us

Each year Chets Creek chooses an Employee of the Year. We have so many paraprofessionals, office staff and other support staff that go above and beyond that we always have an outstanding representative. This year Romy Wilkening is our Employee of the Year. She has also recently been named the Duval County Employee of the Year and will move on to the state competition!

We always spend a morning before school celebrating the Employee of the Year around a theme. This year the theme was Valentine's Day because Romy certainly exhibits love in everything that she does. We started with a slide show of her life. Romy's children have been at Chets Creek so we got to relive their lives as well. Then it was on to the grade level skits - hilarious and touching! The faculty always presents a money tree and the PTA made a special presentation because, after all, Romy is one of their own. Added to all the ways that Romy has been of service to our school - she is also a past Chets Creek PTA President!
I'm not sure how long Romy has been at Chets Creek. I first met her as a kindergarten para. She was so anxious to do all she could for our youngest learners. She worked with kindergarten teacher Maria Mallon and quickly became one of our strongest safety net providers under Maria's tutelage. She quickly became one of our best Reading Mastery teachers. You would see her in the hallway with her rolling cart and little group of safety net students every single day. She became so proficient that for many years she was the person that kept up with all the supplies and trained the new legion of paras working with safety nets each year. I have no idea how many newbies she has trained over the years, but it is a significant number.

As the years went by it was evident that Romy had a special place in her heart for our second language families. She is fluent in Spanish (Bolivia native) and has always been available to the front desk when parents needed a translator - which has been more often as the years have gone by. You could always call on her to translate for a parent conference or to translate a parent note or to call a family to figure out what was going on. She became a vital link in keeping in touch with our second language families. Often we called on her off the clock, but I don't think I can ever remember her saying no.

When we decided we needed a family night for our Spanish speaking families, she was right there, making sure that parents knew about the night and brought their entire family so that they could be involved in their child's education.

When we decided to open a tutoring center for an area of our school where some of our neediest students live, we recognized that many of them were Spanish speaking, so Romy led the support team in offering a hand in so many areas - not just tutoring, but explaining school rules, even going to court, explaining immigration laws and getting information about green cards! She has even cleaned out a room in her own home so she can lend it if the need arrives. How do you say thank you to a person like this that lives and breathes service to others?
Romy is currently serving as a para for our second language students but she is so, so much more than that. Years ago Romy gave me a wooden figurine of a little girl smiling, holding flowers. She wrote on the bottom, "You inspire me." I was so touched. I have the statue in my office at home. My grandchildren love it and drag it all over the house. I look at it often as the sun streams over it in the early morning. Now, however, when I look at it, I reflect on how the tables have turned and how much Romy inspires me. She has shown me that I can make a difference - even with families that don't speak my language - even with children who come into my class without knowing a word of English. It's Romy that inspires me... inspires me to believe. How fortunate am I that someone like Romy has touched my life in such a profound way!


Suzanne said...

I love that we honor Employees of the Year like this. Romy is SO deserving of both the CCE EOY and the Duval EOY, and the work she does with students and families is life changing.

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Its really honor to have teachers like her...