For the past 30 years, Cecelia Woods has been a fixture at the Linda Nolen Learning Center, always greeting visitors with a smile. She retired at the end of this school year, but not before being honored as the 2018-2019 Educational Support Person of the Year.
Woods was one of several support professionals who were honored prior to the May Board of Education meeting for the important role they play in the success of the Shelby County School District and in helping to prepare students for the journey ahead of them. Honorees included each individual who had been selected as a local winner from their school or district department. For those nominees, seven individuals were selected as job classification category winners.
Category winners were:
- Evelyn Kuuan, Accounting Assistant, Central Office – Accounting
- Bob Stricklin, Custodian, Montevallo Elementary – Custodial
- Priscilla Webber, Child Nutrition Program Assistant Manager, Inverness Elementary – Food Service
- Tim Gilbert – Instructional Aide, Calera Middle – Instructional
- Wayne Price, Bus Driver, Montevallo Zone – Transportation
- Tommy Kines – Maintenance Tech, Helena High School – Maintenance
- Cecelia Woods – Secretary/Receptionist – Linda Nolen LC – Secretarial
Woods began her career with Shelby County Schools in 1989 working for The Center for Exceptional Children, which eventually was renamed the Linda Nolen Learning Center after the late Dr. Linda Nolen.
Dr. Michelle Shepherd, principal at the Linda Nolen Learning Center, said in today’s economic climate, it is not uncommon to work a job for a few years and then move on. What is more uncommon, she said, is to serve alongside employees that support you and your vision for 30 years with quality, good counsel, effervescence, leadership and organizational skills, diligence and stability, year in and year out. Additionally, it is a rarity to maintain individuals in the workplace that impact your life more than you think yours impact theirs.
“During the 30 years of Ms. Cecelia Wood’s’ tenure, she has shaped my leadership and programs phenomenally,” Dr. Shepherd said. “She has developed a trusting rapport with our parents. She has been there to fix wardrobe mishaps, bringing in her sewing machine to tailor prom dresses for our female students and tying ties for the male students attending formal events.”
Dr. Shepherd said Woods utilized her past experience as a bus driver to help transport students to weekly therapeutic horseback rides at a local Special Equestrian farm. During the snowstorm that struck in January 2014, Woods stayed at LNLC to add stability to 20 plus students by preparing warm meals and soliciting warm blankets during a two-night stay at the facility.
“These are just a few instances where Ms. Cecelia’s character and passion surfaced to support a community that is often unrecognized, disregarded or viewed unfavorably,” Dr. Shepherd said. “She has been a champion for the disadvantaged. She will be greatly missed as an irreplaceable asset to our school family.”
Woods said she has always strived to help the Linda Nolen Learning Center have a reputation of excellence.
“I became immersed in making our center have the best image in Shelby County Schools while also ensuring that our students maintained a quality care environment,” Woods said. “Over many years of service, it became perfectly clear that my contribution was not merely a job, instead it was my mission, my ministry, my service, and a gift.”
“These children have changed my life in so many ways, how do I ever recount them,” she continued. “Engaging with them…. verbal and non-verbal alike, seeing the smiles on their faces….it lights my heart. My relationships with parents have gone beyond the school walls. I have done respite care for them to have a date night and even spent weeks with them on summer vacation as a confidant and caregiver.”
Woods said as the school’s receptionist, she tried to find ways to make everyone feel comfortable, especially the children who might have been visiting the LNLC for the first time.
“I have requested the appointment itinerary so that I might address each student by name and have watched them beam with joy and excitement because they were important enough to me to be recognized by name. See in our center, everyone is SOMEONE,” Woods said. “I love the Linda Nolen Learning Center. I have been able to fulfill my dreams and aspirations in giving of myself to the children by working here and I have absolutely no regrets.”
The other individuals who were honored as school or department winners were:
Accounting: Karen Dukes – Calera High, Amy Dufour – Helena Middle, Ginger Hartsock – Oak Mountain Middle, and Julie Hughley, Montevallo High.
Custodial: Tyler Phillips – Chelsea High and Floyd Lilly – CTEC/New Direction
Instructional: Vanessa Simpson – Calera Elementary, Jordan Brooks – Calera Intermediate, Heather Long – Chelsea Park Elementary, Amy Horton – Columbiana Middle, Sasha Knighten (SRO) – Elvin Hill Elementary, Thea Kovakas – Forest Oaks Elementary, Angela Johnson – Helena Elementary, Jamaica Dunigan – Montevallo Middle, Angie Driskill – Shelby Elementary, Jason McGinnis – Shelby County Instructional Services Center, Kim Holder – Shelby County High School, Connie Davis – Wilsonville Elementary
Maintenance: Adrian Kelley – Chelsea Middle, Amanda Devaugh – Oak Mountain High, and Shane Hughes – Oak Mountain Intermediate.
Secretarial: Jennifer Olive – Helena Intermediate, Tammy Dixon – Mt Laurel Elementary, Mary Kelley – Oak Mountain Elementary, and Krystal Mims – Vincent Elementary