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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk Blog: Appreciating Our Classified Staff, Part III

Educating more than 5,000 students at Ukiah Unified requires a whole host of dedicated professionals, both in the classroom and behind the scenes. The third week in May is National Classified Staff Appreciation Week, a great time to spotlight the dedicated men and women behind the scenes, the ones who comfort, encourage, feed and ensure the safety of our students. I asked them to share what they love about their jobs and how their work impacts our students.

Amy Binkley – Paraprofessional, Calpella Elementary School

Amy works with youngsters who have special needs at Calpella Elementary. She loves watching their progression from uneasiness in the first weeks of school to confidence as the school year progresses. When she sees her students off campus, and they run up to hug her, she has to explain to their parents who she is. Clearly, the relationship speaks for itself, but because parents usually interact with the teacher, they are sometimes surprised when their child darts off to hug this “stranger.” 

Amy says the staff at Calpella is like a big family. “I really do enjoy every person on this campus. They’re great,” she said.    

Antonio Alvarez – Campus Supervisor, Ukiah High School

Tony oversees safety at Ukiah High. His team of campus supervisors works together to help kids stay on the straight and narrow; sometimes that means referring students for disciplinary action, and sometimes that means talking to them to see what’s going on with them. When students are struggling, they often act out. Rather than get mad at them, it can be more effective to try to get to the root of the problem. By talking to students, and sometimes their parents, Tony has been able to help some students see the value in school. He says he feels really good when parents call and thank him for helping their student stop cutting class.

Joanie Dunn – Secretary & Registrar, South Valley High School

Like Tony, Joanie believes in helping students, even when they’re surly. She says her role at South Valley allows her to “learn to be more compassionate. I learn not to judge a book by its cover. I learn that everyone has things going on in their lives that we don’t always know about and sometimes when you learn about those things, it can help you be more understanding and work harder and try more. It teaches you how to be more humble and not so arrogant.”  I can tell you, Joanie is not the least bit arrogant; in fact, she is beloved at South Valley.

Whether she is compiling last-minute documents for administrators, giving students much-needed hugs, coordinating facility repairs, or reassuring exasperated parents, Joanie is always busy. However, she’s never to busy to make sure students don’t fall between the cracks. She even makes a point of celebrating each student’s birthday, so they know someone cares. “Everyone matters. Everyone is special,” she said.  

Kip Webb - Head of Plant, Eagle Peak Middle School

Kip is a fixture in the lives of students and staff at Eagle Peak. He jokingly states that the acronym for Head of Plant, HOP, actually stands for HOP to it. Kip enjoys taking care of whatever the school needs, and with that, each day is different and presents a new challenge. He loves that he is appreciated and that it’s like a family at Ukiah Unified School District. Kip enjoys working around the kids because they are so much fun!

Like many of our classified employees, Kip is much more than his title implies. He is also there for our students. Since Kip is not an authority figure, he has a different kind of rapport with students. He tries to pay attention to students to make sure they are okay. He said, “If I see a student that may be moping or down and if they are by themselves, I’ll go talk to them and say, hey, what’s up, how ya’ doin’, what’s going on? …I see something, I try to take care of it.”

Stephane Maldonado - District Family/Community Liaison

Stephane has been with the district for years, but this is her first year as a family/community liaison, and she’s doing an incredible job. Districtwide, our liaisons help students and families navigate life’s more serious challenges, so those students can be physically and emotionally supported and better able to focus on their studies. Liaisons help students with everything from transportation, tutoring and setting up internet access at home to referring them to healthcare services and connecting them with community partners who provide food and shelter.

Stephane said it’s really rewarding to build relationships with these families, “so they’re not afraid to come to us for help.” She says she’s really thankful to work for the district and proud to be able to help students every single day.

I am so thankful for Stephane and all the classified employees who make Ukiah Unified such a wonderful place for students to learn. Next time you’re on a UUSD campus, take a moment to thank a classified employee. I guarantee, they deserve it.