Clovis Unified Honors the Best of the Best at Crystal Awards

Contributed photo

By Johnny Martin | Reporter

Thirty-two Clovis Unified Employees were honored at the annual Crystal Awards Ceremony on Feb. 21 at the district’s performing arts center on the campus of Clovis North High School.

Those employees were honored for embodying the district’s philosophy of excellence in mind, body and spirit for the 2015-2016 school year.

“It’s such a pleasure to recognize our employees of the year, a group you heard repeatedly described as the best of the best,” Clovis Unified Chief Communications Officer Kelly Avants said. “It’s truly a joy to give recognition to our employees who are just so worthwhile.”

CUSD has been giving these awards out to their staff since 1992 as they were formerly known as Employee of the Year awards. Now, they call the awards “Crystal Awards” behind the acronym of “Clovis Unified Recognizing Your School Teachers and Leaders.”

Recipients were nominated by their peers and chosen by a judging committee for having shown to have met one of the three district aims: maximizing achievement for all students, operating with increasing efficiency and effectiveness, and developing, sustaining and valuing their quality workforce.

The following classified and certificated employees were selected as Crystal Award recipients:

· Tiffany Aoki-Chance – Guidance Instructional Specialist, Liberty Elementary

· Kathie Aschenbrenner – EL Teacher, Clovis North Educational Center

· Wendy Barner – School Secretary, Kastner Intermediate

· Deidra Bennett – Campus Catering Supervisor, Fancher Creek Elementary

· Debra Bolls – Principal, Pinedale Elementary

· Annamarie Brown – Nurse Practitioner, Sierra Vista Children’s Health Center

· Sharon Bush – Cook/baker, Sierra Outdoor School

· Wynona Byrom – LD Secretary, Clovis High

· Betsy Clemings – AB Teacher, Alta Sierra Intermediate

· Michael Delgado – Plant Supervisor, Garfield Elementary

· Kim Fox-Kristensen – Teacher, Century Elementary

· Nichole Gambrell – Office Manager, Fugman

· Janet Hambleton – Office Supervisor, Child Development

· Jerry Hardy – Plant Supervisor, Freedom Elementary

· Shawna Henson – Teacher, Temperance-Kutner Elementary

· David Hobbs – Teacher, Clovis North Educational Center

· Brooke Jackson – Teacher, Kastner Intermediate

· Misty Johnson – Accounting Technician, Business Services

· Richard Kinney – Teacher, Buchanan High

· Georgiana Leonardo – Library Technician, Tarpey Elementary

· Maragaret “Muggs” Marquez, Clerical Specialist – Temperance-Kutner Elementary

· Patricia Mushegan – Teacher, Weldon Elementary

· Michael Olenchalk, Director, Sierra Outdoor School

· Kristin Ormond, Teacher, Nelson Elementary

· Julia Rapier, Teacher, Fugman Elementary

· Dan Resciniti, Chief Technology Officer, Information Technology Services

· Bill Rotella, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Specialist, CUSD

· Julie Tavares, Campus Catering Supervisor, Clovis High

· Gabriel TeNyenhuis, Teacher, Reagan Educational Center

· Chintana Thatsanaphone, Teacher, Fancher Creek Elementary

· Ellen Youssef, Teacher, Miramonte Elementary

· Ray Zavala, Plant Supervisor, Pinedale Elementary

“It’s a huge honor and I feel very humbled by the opportunity,” Pinedale Elementary Principal and Crystal Award recipient Debra Bolls said. “It’s kind of cool because it’s recognition for our school, we have two staff members who were nominated.”

The honorees were awarded a crystal-like plaque engraved with their name, the year awarded, and their school site or department they work for. They also received a brick with their name on it to go in the district’s “Walk of Fame” located in the courtyard outside the professional development building and a $500 grant that they can use at their discretion.

“That was really fancy to get my name on a brick,” Miramonte Kindergarten teacher and Crystal Award recipient Ellen Youssef said. “It’s really a great honor, I always used to think to myself you’ve got so far to go before you can accomplish what past winners did, they are amazing and have done such great things so then when I was nominated I was truly like, ‘who me?’”

Crystal Award recipients for the 2016-2017 school year will be honored next Feb. 28 at the Paul Shaghoian Concert Hall on the campus of Clovis North High School.

CUSD also had three of their Crystal Award winners nominated for the Fresno County Office of Education’s “Educator of the Year” awards ceremony on Nov. 16 at the Saroyan Theatre in downtown Fresno.

Those recipients are Debra Bolls, Principal of Pinedale Elementary; Ray Zavala, Plant Supervisor at Pinedale Elementary; and Ellen Youssef, kindergarten teacher at Miramonte Elementary.

Getting to Know Your CUSD Nominees for the Fresno County Office of Education Awards

Debra Bolls

Growing up, Debra Bolls did not think she would be in the position she is now. When she started at Fresno State as a psychology major, the dream was not exactly teaching.

When she was going through college she began working for Clovis Unified in an after school program known as Campus Club. Bolls did that as a way to make an income as she went through school never did she realize what that would lead to.

“It was something that definitely developed through my experiences working for Campus Club,” Bolls said. “I really got the itch to want to lead the lessons and the activities for the kids and so once I did that I really just fell in love with teaching and from there it just ignited a passion in me to continue to pursue my education and I was blessed to be able to begin here at Pinedale.”

Bolls changed her major to liberal studies after her experiences with Campus Club. After changing her major and finishing her education, she got her start as a teacher at Pinedale in 1995.

As she continued her career she began to make her way up the totem pole. x`She climbed the latter a little bit and became the GIS at Fancher Creek and then landed an LD position at Clovis East and Reyburn. Through out her time she also taught at Mountain View before she ended up back at Pinedale Elementary as the Principal where she is now in her fourth year.

“I just felt like I had a purpose, I found that missing puzzle piece to complete me,” Bolls said. “Teaching gave me the perspective of I have a bigger purpose on this earth and that’s to support kids and help them and that’s why I’m always enticed to work at Title I schools, I want to be that mentor that helps kids get through the struggles that they have.”

Bolls loved her time as a teacher but she knew she was meant for more, she had a bigger purpose she wanted to explore. That is why she wanted to climb the latter and have a bigger role.

“I was just wanting to make a difference on a more global scale, I had that ability within my classroom or as a coach, but the idea of being able to connect with an entire school versus just my little small piece of that,” Bolls said. “Really it’s just something that’s always enticed me to go into administration and I really just wanted to help build leadership and colleagues and get them to realize their potential and their ability to make a difference as well.”

Bolls is up for administrator of the year at this year’s Fresno County Office of Education Awards.

Ray Zavala

Growing up, Ray Zavala did not have the greatest of upbringings. When he was a kid he wanted to be a soldier, he wanted to serve in the military. When he graduated high school, Zavala followed his dream and joined the Marine Corps.

“Ever since I was little I wanted to be a soldier,” Zavala said. “My dad still has pictures of soldiers that I drew growing up, the one’s I wanted to be.”

Zavala spent four years in the Marine Corps traveling all over the world, serving in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He said his time in the military showed him that he did not want to do that anymore even though he was good at what he did.

After four years, Zavala decided it was his time to move on. He started working in manufacturing companies and print shops and it was in the print shop where he was lead to his job. Zavala’s wife had a cousin who worked in the district as a groundsman and recommended to him that he apply for the position. He listened and went and applied for the custodial department.

“I actually applied for the wrong department,” Zavala said. “I got in that department and not the groundsmen department but I liked it, it worked out and I ended up being really good at it too.”

Zavala joined the district’s custodial department and got his first job at Weldon Elementary. During his time there he would always here from coworkers and those around him that he did not want to go to Pinedale Elementary because it was a challenge and really a tough job.

“That made me want to come here because that’s how I thought fresh out of the military, if I could go over there and make a difference then it’ll be better,” Zavala said. “I always applied but never could get out here but when I stopped applying that’s when I started getting a bunch of calls and they called, told me to apply for the plant supervisor position and I’ve been here ever since.”

Before he was able to finally get a position at Pinedale, Zavala had gone back to school to be a registered nurse. Growing up his mom had multiple sclerosis and his two brothers had muscular dystrophy so he always had to take care of his brothers. When his mom got really sick he had to go to the hospital and help her so he thought maybe he should do that.

However, Pinedale finally called with a job offer and the rest is history. Zavala has now been working in the district for 22 years.

“Ray makes a huge impact on our kids and in our community,” Pinedale Principal Debra Bolls said.

Zavala currently serves as the school’s plant supervisor and head coach of the wrestling team. This year their wrestling team went undefeated and were area league champions, something that has not happened in17 years for Pinedale Elementary.

Zavala is Clovis Unified’s nominee for Employee of the Month at this year’s Fresno County Office of Education awards.

Ellen Youssef

When she was young, Ellen Youssef never thought she would be a teacher. When she was growing up she lived all around the world. As she was going to high school in Japan, she would teach English and baby sit kids from people who were in multinational corporations.

She used to think to herself, wow that would be really neat to do that job and I would love a job like that.

Originally from Berkeley, Youssef began starting to take business classes in college. The classes were interesting to her, but then her husband got transferred to Fresno.

“Fresno is not really the multinational corporation environment so I thought teaching would make sense because my mother was a teacher and my father was a professor so I think naturally it was just in my blood,” Youssef said. “I’ve always loved young children because they’re full of wonder and they just need all the experience you can provide for them because they’re natural learners. They want to learn on their own and you just have to facilitate it so I became a teacher.”

That is when she began her education to become a teacher. As she was going through school, she did her student teaching at Miramonte Elementary. She then went on to get her master’s degree and it was actually her professor who told her there was a job at the school she did her student teaching.

“It is quite amazing because I did my student teaching here, found out a spot was open so I came here and been here ever since,” Youssef said. “On top of the time if I include my student teaching time here, it’s been like 23 years at the same school.”

Youssef still serves as a kindergarten teacher at Miramonte Elementary and loves her job. She was nominated by her peers and received a Crystal award at this year’s ceremony.

“They kept saying it’s a really big deal and you should be more excited,” Youssef said. When I went there then I kind of started to experience the magnitude of how big a deal it really is.”

Youssef is Clovis Unified’s nominee for teacher of the year at this year’s Fresno County Office of Education Awards.

“I always think to myself you’ve got so far to go before you can accomplish what they did, they are amazing and have done such great things,” Youssef said. So then when I was nominated I was truly like, ‘who me?’ That’s really what I thought, it’s great honor and to be the Fresno County nominee as well. It’s a great honor and that’s even icing on the top.”