2022 California Classified School Employees of the Year
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond honored the recipients of the 2022 Classified School Employees of the Year Award today at a luncheon in Sacramento. Eight of the nine recipients are CSEA members.
“This has been an incredibly challenging time for our students and families, and I want to congratulate these outstanding employees for going the extra mile to step up and support California’s students so they can continue to learn,” said Thurmond. “These dedicated employees make sure kids have healthy meals, safe transportation on school buses, and someone to talk to during difficult and unexpected changes—helping keep them safe and supported in their lives and in their education.”
The annual program recognizes outstanding classified school employees from the following categories: Paraprofessional Services, Clerical and Administrative Services, Transportation Services, Food and Nutrition Services, Custodial and Maintenance Services, Security Services, Health and Student Services, Technical Services, and Skilled Trades Services. This year’s recipients were chosen from 123 nominations statewide. Two of the nine winners will be nominated for the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award, a national honor for which the winners will be announced by the U.S. Department of Education in 2023.
California’s 2022 Classified School Employees of the Year are:
Custodial and Maintenance Services
Robert Estrada, El Monte Chapter 10
Known throughout the Rio Vista community as “Old Reliable,” Robert Estrada has made a lasting impact on the school that he serves. During the 2021–22 COVID-19 winter surge, Robert made himself available when staff shortages were rampant. He often pulled double duty and weekend shifts at other school sites to make sure his colleagues’ work did not stagnate due to illness. Robert uses Rio Vista’s “Lead, Learn, and Serve” initiative when teaching students how to properly clean equipment. Student custodial work is now a popular activity on campus, with kids actively volunteering to be part of Robert’s lunch preparation and cleanup duties.
Food and Nutrition Services
Gayla Hager, Ramona Unified Chapter 733
In addition to being one of California’s two nominees for the national RISE Award, Gayla Hager stands out as an exemplary school food service professional in both her kid-friendly approach to customer service and her stellar work performance, even during difficult circumstances. Gayla has perfected the balance between regulatory compliance and happy, well-fed students. Gayla learns student’s individual likes and dislikes so she can confidently represent them at districtwide menu planning meetings. On several occasions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Gayla had to single-handedly prepare, serve, clean up after, and document 450 meals in one school day. Gayla reinforces polite manners and kindness in her cafeteria to spread positivity throughout the campus.
Health and Student Services
Sheri Saladow, Capistrano Chapter 224
The Aliso Viejo Middle School community has certainly been impacted by Sheri Saladow’s service as the school’s academic advisor. Sheri has always been an advocate for English language learners and students with disabilities. In addition to her role as academic advisor, Sheri is also involved in leadership at the district level. Sheri believes deeply in each student’s potential and epitomizes the role of academic advisor in supporting each student to meet their potential. She is committed to providing a safe equitable learning environment for all students.
Renee Thompson, Enterprise Chapter 384
Renee Thompson helps to support students in every way she can, working with struggling readers by leading intervention groups and encouraging students who haven't always found success in school. She’s led multigrade and English language learner interventions, provided before school care and tutoring after school. Working as a kindergarten aide, she’s always contributing to assignments that benefit the Enterprise Elementary community.
Erik Estrada, Huntington Beach Chapter 157
As campus supervisor for Valley Vista High, Erik Estrada has a long-standing relationship with the local police department within the community. This positive relationship allows both organizations to better serve and support the students throughout the district, whether on or off campus. Erik encourages students to stay out of trouble and supports them in making better choices and life decisions. Erik walks that fine line between protecting the campus and ensuring a warm and welcoming school environment.
Skilled Trades Services
Timothy Romine, Orcutt Chapter 255
Working as a jack-of-all-trades, Tim Romine is the sole mechanic in his district where he maintains all the school buses, work vehicles, and other transportation equipment. Tim’s work performance is exceptional and he raises the level of work of those around him. Tim keeps all vehicles in the district’s fleet operating at the highest level possible—he takes a lot of pride in what he does, and it shows in his work. Tim constantly coaches and trains other employees who use district vehicles or equipment.
Armando Gomez, Los Alamitos Chapter 324
Armando Gomez has created innovative ways for students to continue to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring they have the resources and Information Technology services to excel in their distance learning programs. Armando was and continues to be critical in the development, evolution, and implementation of the district’s virtual and hybrid learning models necessary during these two pandemic years. Armando also creates tutorial documentation for students and families on the use of the Student Information System.
Shannon Lauricella, Garden Grove Chapter 121
Shannon Lauricella, also a 2023 RISE Award nominee, is known by other bus drivers as “our work mom.” Shannon continues to devote her time and talents to those less experienced drivers who want to talk or ask questions. During her campus time, Shannon assists teachers in a kindergarten classroom at Lawrence Elementary School, where she helps to guide students in various assignment and projects. Shannon is also a member of the district’s Bus Roadeo Team and mentors other drivers to prepare for a statewide competition that showcases and puts to the test the extensive skills of school bus drivers.
Please visit the California Department of Education Classified School Employees of the Year web page for judging criteria and more information.