Laura Chambless, who has served the past 24 years as bookkeeper at Chelsea Middle School, was named the 2017-2018 Educational Support Professional of the Year at a special ceremony held May 17. Chambless was just one of several support professionals who were honored for the important role they play in helping to prepare students for the journey ahead of them.
Honorees at the 7th Annual Education Support Professional of the Year Awards also included the overall winners from several job classification categories. The winners were nominated and elected by their co-workers from their local schools or departments. The winners each submitted essays detailing why they love their jobs, along with a letter of support from their principal or department supervisor to be considered for the overall category awards.
The category winners were:
- Laura Chambless, Bookkeeper, Chelsea Middle – Accounting
- David Alverson, Custodian, Columbiana Middle – Custodial
- LaRue Adams, Child Nutrition Program Assistant Manager, Calera Intermediate – Food Service
- Shelia Alaniz – Instructional Aide, Mt Laurel Elementary – Instructional
- Christy Freeman, Bus Driver, Chelsea Zone – Transportation
- Rodney Chappell – Maintenance Supervisor, Facilities and Maintenance – Maintenance
- Cathy Majors – Secretary- Montevallo High School – Secretarial
Caroline Obert, principal at Chelsea Middle School, said Chambless exhibits all of the qualities that she looks for in both a bookkeeper and a leader.
“Mrs. Chambless’ colleagues often depend on her for guidance and partnership. They look to her to train them on how to property receipt and calculate finances,” Mrs. Obert wrote. “For most, she is the one person who can solve their problems in a moment’s notice. Her vast knowledge and wisdom is sought after and appreciated by all.”
Obert said Chambless oftten mentors students who are at-risk, because she wants them to have an adult in our building they can depend on. She also shows kindness to all of the teacher’s children by allowing them to play with her large collection of giraffes.
“They absolutely adore her and find her office a place where they feel loved and safe,” said Obert.
Chambless wrote in her essay that while some people see a job as a means to an end, specifically to provide an income and pay the bills, for her work takes on a whole new meaning because she works with a wonderful staff, amazing administrators and truly phenomenal kids.
“Chelsea Middle School is filled with all types of people. The type you absolutely love, those you like, and even some you tolerate,” Chambless said. “But, when you put them all together, it is a melting pot of extraordinary humans. Walking down the halls at any given time of day you are greeted with smiles. You hear warm hellos or just head nods that make you feel like what you do is worthwhile. It is easy to say that my job makes a difference, but I do believe that it really does.”
“I find that when I go out of my way to help a new teacher understand all the processes of the correct way to handle money, among following other bookkeeping guidelines that go along with their job, then the teacher is appreciative,” she continued. “That is what makes my job joyful. And when an administrator asks for my opinion and really listens, my job is validated.”
Blake Lovett, who went to Chelsea Middle School as a student and now works there as a teacher, was among many of Chambless’ colleagues to offer words of praise.
“The great thing about Mrs. Laura is that she is always thinking of others,” Lovett said. “Having known her when I was at Chelsea Middle as a student and now knowing her as a colleague, I know exactly how much effort and care she puts into her job. When I was a student I always knew that she was kind, but honestly, I had know idea what she actually did here; I just knew she worked in the office and always waved and smiled at me. Now that I am a teacher I get to see how much she really does for everyone; both the teachers and the students. Not only does she somehow juggle all of the financial odds and ends at the school, she also puts on a smile for new, and not so new, teachers that ask her for the tenth time how to fill out a purchase order!”
“Laura is such a team player! She leads by example and is truly an inspiration to others,” said Deana Rizzo. “She desires what is best for the students at Chelsea Middle and our school community. She exemplifies a servant’s heart and attitude in her daily life at school. Her priority is not herself, but others, especially where our students are concerned. She is a true jewel on staff at Chelsea Middle, and we are so very blessed to have her working with us and caring for all of us.
The other individuals who were honored as local school or department winners were:
Accounting: Vickie Quinn, bookkeeper, Shelby Elementary; Kim Parker, bookkeeper, Oak Mountain High; Kim Clowdus, bookkeeper, Career Technical Educational Center; and Samecca McCrimon, bookkeeper at Vincent Middle High,
Custodial: Sandy Brasher, custodian, Wilsonville Elementary; Vivian Carabello-Franco, custodian, Helena High; Danita Brown, custodian, Vincent Elementary; Allen Johnson, custodian, Forest Oaks Elementary School; and Lisa Morgan, custodian, Shelby County Instructional Services Center.
Food Service: Tori Rawlins, Child Nutrition Program Manager, Helena Elementary; and Crystal Kulow, Child Nutrition Program Manager, Shelby County High
Instructional: Stacey King, paraeducator, Helena Intermediate School; Kristy Gray, paraeducator, Oak Mountain Elementary; Judy Mooney, paraeducator, Calera Elementary; Amy Castleman, paraeducator, Oak Mountain Middle; Tonya Vick, Nurse, Oak Mountain Intermediate; Kimberly Martin, instructional aide, Calera Middle; Bree Tinch, paraeducator, Chelsea Park Elementary; Lou Ann Graves, Instructional Aide, Chelsea High School and Candace Gregory, instructional aide, New Direction.
Maintenance: Richard Sutton, maintenance technician, Linda Nolen Learning Center; and Wayne Raia, Maintenance Technician, Elvin Hill Elementary
Secretarial: Dana Rhodes, secretary, Helena Middle; Kathy DeVaughn, registrar, Inverness Elementary; Trina Carter, registrar, Montevallo Middle; Shelley Davis, Human Resources secretary, Central Office; Kristen Mixon, secretary, Montevallo Elementary; and Brandi Pardue, secretary, Calera High.