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Celebrating the heroes in our schools

May 2016

One of the most overused words in the English language is “hero.” It is often used for athletes, politicians, and television and movie personalities, as well as those who deserve such a label, such as those in the military who risk their lives to keep us safe and free, nurses, police and firefighters, and others who have earned our respect and praise.

This brings me to the theme for this year’s Classified School Employee Week (CSEW)—“Classified School Employees: Everyday Heroes”. This theme, maybe more than any other, hits home for me. As a longtime activist of this union, I have met so many classified employees whose efforts are awe-inspiring. Most of them don’t even realize it and would never in a million years do anything to call attention to their work. That’s just what CSEA members do and this is why we have CSEW. 

In too many schools and colleges, classified staff is under-appreciated and unrecognized. But in our own way, each and every school employee is an everyday hero. I’ve learned during my 30-plus years as a classified employee that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and most don’t don a cape, mask or shiny leotards. But they do dedicate their lives to helping students. We begin before the first students arrive each morning and we are most likely the last to leave the building at night. We keep students of all ages fed, safe, comfortable and healthy. We do the work that needs to be done, but we don’t stop there. 

Many of us take our role as nurturers, educators and leaders beyond the workday. We are coaches at our schools and in our communities. We are scout leaders, Sunday school teachers and election volunteers. We rebuild parks, run charity marathons and teach students how to maneuver the college financial aid maze in our spare time. We raise our children, take care of foster children and care for elderly parents. We take our role as community leaders and activists seriously. Each year, the number of classified employees being elected to local office or appointed to boards and task forces swells.  

As you read through this very incomplete list of the roles that we play in addition to the work we do, I hope you feel the same sense of pride that I do. If that doesn’t do the trick for you, then be sure to read through the "Everyday Heroes" featured article from Focus magazine. You’ll be introduced to just a small sample of the CSEA members who go above and beyond the call of duty for our students. I hope as you read these stories, you see yourselves in the members highlighted. While the article focuses on a few members, I know that they truly represent all the great members I’ve met and will meet as I travel across our state. 

In Unity,

Ben Valdepeña, Association President 


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