Tina Littlefield, an instructional aide in the self-contained special needs classroom at Vincent Middle/High School, was named the 2015-2016 Educational Support Professional of the Year during a special awards ceremony held May 5 at the Central Office.
This is the sixth year the school district has presented the award, which recognizing the hard work and dedication of educational support professionals at all schools and departments throughout the county. The idea for the award came out of the Strategic Planning process as a way to promote the importance of support operations in the educational process.
Littlefield’s compassion for the students in her classroom was praised by her principal, Dr. Michelle Edwards, who said it is evident in the way she begins each day with a warm greeting and kind words for each student.
“Her heart is this school and the students in that classroom,” said Dr. Edwards. “When meeting Ms. Littlefield, she impresses you with her humbleness, respect, and coach-ability. She delivers lessons, supports self-care, creates materials, manages behavior, supervises students, and supports her teacher in order to provide the best environment possible for her students. The students in the classroom love Ms. Tina.”
Dr. Edwards also credited Ms. Littlefield with singlehandedly maintaining the consistency of her classroom during two teacher transitions in the past 12 months, which was imperative to the development growth her students.
Mrs. Littlefield says “I have the pleasure of working with some of the most dedicated loving teachers and staff of anywhere in the county. Having this kind of love and support creates a feeling of unity in our school that I absolutely love.” Mrs. Littlefield especially loves helping her students be the best that they can be.
Littlefield was recognized earlier in the ceremony for being one of several category winners. Littlefield was the winner of the Instructional category. Also recognized were the winners of the other categories, including Accounting, Custodial, Food Services, Maintenance, Secretarial, and Transportation.
Cathy Henry was the winner of the Accounting category. Henry, who has worked in several different positions in the district, including 12 years as the Library Aide at Oak Mountain Intermediate and for five years as the bookkeeper for Community Education. For the past three years, she has served as the bookkeeper for OMIS.
Henry comes from a family of teachers but saw that her gift is in the area of support and not teaching. She said she believes it is the ultimate goal of every person employed by the school system to do their part to create independent, well-balanced citizens out of every child that enters our schools. And for that reason, she can’t think of a better reason to come to work every day.
Her principal, Dr. Pat LeQuier says “Mrs. Henry’s work ethic is impeccable and her standards are high. Her positive demeanor, professionalism in handling our finances, and collaborative relationships with her peers confirm her to be the kind of quality employee that our school, and Shelby County Schools, are proud to claim as their own.”
According to Principal Larry Haynes, “Mr. Hooten makes it clear that his most important role is the safety and well-being of the students, faculty, and staff at the school.” One thing Mr. Hooten says he loves about his job is the extended family at the school and the opportunity he has to be a positive role model to them.
“It is overwhelming that a group of so many can really be considered a family, but that is exactly how it feels,” Mr. Hooten said. “I enjoy being able to help make the jobs of our faculty and staff a little easier, and be able to serve and interact with over 1100 students on a daily basis. It is so nice to be a part of such a wonderful work environment and to know how much I am appreciated.”
“She feels like it is her mission at Shelby Elementary to make sure all of the students are fed and ready to learn,” said her principal, Stacy Aderholt. “She takes each day as an opportunity to smile and greet each student as they go through her line. She invests in each student that walks into our cafeteria. She is aware of students that may be especially hungry and she will come to me and make sure they have food at home.”
Mrs. Platt says that the children are the best part of her day. “I love being a second mother to these little ones,” she said. “I am glad that I can be there to provide a hug or a listening ear. They fill my heart and give me purpose with their smiles, hugs, and silliness”, she said.
Mrs. Platt also loves the people she works with. She said they are like family who provides support, accountability, and prayer when she needs it.
According to Principal Debbie Horton, Smelcer ensures that the students at Oak Mountain Elementary have access to a clean and safe environment and is always willing to assist the teachers with any task no matter how big or small. She describes Mr. Smelcer as a “team player” who works hard at his job every day because he loves it, not for any recognition he might receive.
“The children, parents, and staff absolutely adore him,” said Ms. Horton. “He takes great pride in his work and continues each year to look for ways to better serve the teachers, students, staff, and community of Oak Mountain.”
One reason Mr. Smelcer loves his job is getting to see the excitement in the eyes of first-time teachers as they come in to set up their classrooms and kindergarten students at the beginning of each school year.
“I know when I go home that I truly did something meaningful and important,” he said. “It’s my home away from home, it’s a family atmosphere.”
Claudia Banuelos was the winner of the Secretarial category. Her desire to assist and serve others is evident in how she plans her work, which includes networking and collaborating with departments and schools in the school district and community agencies and organizations said ESL Supervisor Leah Dobb’s Black. She is a life-long learner who seeks opportunities to grow professionally and personally, including currently being enrolled in graduate school at UAB pursuing her Master’s degree in ESL.
Ms. Banuelos coordinates the translation and interpretation support and services needed around the school district to ensure effective parental communication. She assists in planning parent engagement workshops and most recently shared her personal experience as a culturally and linguistically diverse parent with district administrators during a professional development workshop. One reason she loves her job is helping families and schools bridge the communication gap.
“Even when language does not represent a barrier, just navigating the school system can prove to be a trying process for parents and students,” she said. “Because the partnership between parents and schools is paramount to the students’ success, I feel this aspect of my job reaches out to many of our parents and provides them with the opportunity to be active partners.”
Columbiana Middle School Principal Kerry Rush said in Price’s role as a bus driver, she leads her students by example, treating them the way she would want her own children to be treated while also making her expectations known.
“While recognizing the somewhat less-structured atmosphere of a bus can lend itself to students making unwise choices, Mrs. Price is quick to redirect and provide opportunities for her students to correct those choices,” Dr. Rush said.
In addition to her duties as a bus driver, Mrs. Price also serves as a certified substitute teacher, where she has filled long-term positions at CMS.
“As presence in our building almost daily, there is no position or duty that she does not accept willingly, graciously, and with an attitude of appreciation,” said Dr. Rush.
Mrs. Price said, “I remember having a teacher that made a difference in my life, and as she helped me through some hard times I realized that she was the kind of influence I wanted to be. From being the first person they see on the way to school in the morning to helping in the classroom. I believe if we respect our children they will respect themselves as well as others.”
School and department winners were:
- Judy Mooney – special education para-educator – Calera Elementary
- Jennifer Miller – instructional aide – Calera Intermediate
- Jim Clark – custodian – Calera Middle
- Sabrina Harris – paraprofessional – Calera High
- Tony Kelley – custodian – Chelsea High
- Alfred Hunt – custodian – Chelsea Park Elementary
- Laura Chambless – bookkeeper – Chelsea Middle
- Tonya Vick – secretary – College and Career Center
- Melissa Nolen – nurse – Elvin Hill Elementary
- Candy Falkner – secretary – Forest Oaks Elementary
- Ray Lewis – custodian – Helena Elementary
- Brenda Garner – CNP manager – Helena Intermediate
- Stephanie Brown – instructional aide – Helena Middle
- Kelley Emerson – registrar – Helena High
- Julia Thomason – instructional aide – Inverness Elementary
- Maura Gallo – instructional aide – Linda Nolen Learning Center
- April Mixon – secretary – Montevallo Elementary
- Cheryl Snyder – secretary – Montevallo Middle
- Bob Stricklin – custodian – Montevallo High
- Lynn Falkner – custodian – Mt Laurel Elementary
- Kay Hurley – secretary – Oak Mountain High
- Barbara Edwards – custodian – Shelby County High School
- Holly Hoyle – computer lab aide – Vincent Elementary School
- Misty Lewter – bookkeeper – Wilsonville Elementary
- Kristy Densmore – secretary – Central Office
- Jeff Elliott – maintenance technician/plumber – Maintenance Department
- Joel Stagner – master mechanic – Transportation Department