At home and on the job, CSEA members nurture tomorrow’s leaders
Classified school employees make an impact on the lives of students. Classified School Employee Week (CSEW), celebrated every third week of May, is a time to reflect on the contributions classified employees make to education and to celebrate their contributions to California’s students.
This year’s CSEW theme is “Inspiring Generations” since classified school employees are in a unique position to mentor students and celebrate their success. CSEW was designated by the California Legislature in 1986 to recognize the essential work of clerical workers, paraeducators, bus drivers, food service workers, maintenance workers and other classified school employees. The third full week in May is designated as CSEW and was signed into law on April 1, 1986.
Classified employees often take on volunteer roles as coaches, group advisors and leaders because they genuinely care about the well being of students. They know that they can help create a better future for everyone by helping today’s students grow into tomorrow’s leaders. These stories illustrate just a few examples of how classified school employees inspire generations through their efforts and devotion to students.
Teaching the value of paying it forward
Instrcutional aide mentors and encourages young adults
Instructional aide RoseAnne Johnson hopes her students learn about charity and goodwill by example. That’s part of the reason she dedicates a lot of her free time mentoring young adults and working with them on community service projects.
Johnson, a member of Merced Chapter 530, began a mentoring program at Tenaya Middle School where students from the school, along with those from a nearby high school, gather to discuss their personal problems and other issues that concern them.
“They talk about different topics like bullying, peer pressure and alcohol abuse,” she said. “If they are having any issues in their lives, they talk about them and we try our best to help them.”
Johnson said she began the mentoring program at the school five years ago because she saw the need for a safe place where students could confide in others. Currently, there are about 15 students who regularly attend the program.
“This is a good opportunity to nurture them and lead them on the right track,” she said.
Johnson said she is driven by her faith. She became interested in mentoring young people when she took on the role of youth leader at the Christian Life Center in Merced. She is still involved with that church youth group, which routinely performs community service, such as feeding the homeless and volunteering at a local convalescent home.
“The group does a lot for others,” she said. “We make no-sew blankets and take those to the police and fire departments so that they can give them as encouragements for little ones. We made prayer bears to send to the troops.”
Johnson said that although it may seem like a lot of work, she tries to show the youth who are part of her church group that selfless service can be gratifying.
“There are so many rewards in helping others,” she said. “I never thought I’d be where I am today making an impact on the lives of young people.”
Johnson added she never intended to be involved in mentoring and guiding young people for the long term but she and her husband Ceasar, a youth minister, don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I always tell people that it’s important to pay it forward because there are others who are in worse situations,” she said. “It’s important for us to try to make a difference in other people’s lives and within ourselves.”
Instilling important values through football
Library clerk volunteers as head of sports league
For Yvette Lizarraga, working to improve the lives of kids doesn’t end when she leaves her job as a cafeteria and library clerk for the Brawley Unified School District.
Lizarraga is the coordinator for the Brawley area Pop Warner football program. She became involved as a volunteer for Pop Warner about eight years ago because her two children were participants and she noticed that the league was in jeopardy. She said she felt the program was too important to lose so she decided to step up to ensure its survival.
“Pop Warner is about football but it’s also about learning how to win and lose,” She said. “It’s about discipline because they have to come to practice three times a week and they have games once a week,” she said.
Through hard work and dedication, Lizarraga was able to ensure the program’s survival so it can keep teaching those important lessons to its players.
“It was in dire straits because of mismanagement of funds,” she said. “When I got involved, we did a lot of fundraisers to get it back on track.”
Lizarraga said although the program is now fiscally sound she still must work on fundraising regularly to keep costs low for the nearly 300 participants. Besides that, she said that there are other things that she must do to keep the program strong.
“This is an everyday job for me,” she said. “I have to make sure that the kids are signed up by age and weight. I have to make sure that parents signed the waivers and submitted the birth certificates and report cards to qualify. I work a lot with the parents and the coaches and I have to make sure that the kids have the equipment they need.”
Lizarraga said that she doesn’t mind doing all of the work for the kids because of many valuable lessons they learn from playing Pop Warner football.
“It has a lot to do with teaching kids responsibility,” she said. “It’s an after-school program and I hope they have fun doing it. They have to learn about getting along with other participants and about being respectful.”
Lizarraga is president of Brawley Chapter 335 and member of the Hidalgo Society community service organization. She said she encourages other CSEA members to volunteer in their communities and for the benefit of children.
“I do a lot of community service but the main thing is to do something for the kids,” she said.
Improving the lives of students
Human resources clerk understands importance of being a good influence
Jose Garcia understands that being a classified school employee and sports coach makes him a role model to students so he tries to set a good example.
Garcia, a human resources clerk, was the baseball coach at Baldwin Park High School for 10 years and now volunteers as a softball and soccer coach in Baldwin Park and in Rialto. He also volunteers for the Girl Scouts.
“I always felt that I could contribute by being involved with athletics,” he said. “I see the 13-plus years that I’ve been allowed to coach and volunteer as a way of giving back.”
Garcia, a member of Baldwin Park Chapter 28, said it’s important for adults to know that young people look up to them so they must make an effort to have a positive effect.
“We have to help open new opportunities to them and further their education,” he said.
Being a volunteer in youth athletic programs is important for many reasons, according to Garcia. He said that through athletics, young people learn about setting goals and perseverance. Garcia’s work on behalf of young people doesn’t end at coaching. He’s also developing a scholarship program.
Garcia said he hopes his work will motivate young people to serve their community.
“I just want to make sure that they continue doing good work and take pride in their city and their education,” he said. “These kids are going to come back one day and be mentors and role models for others.”
Garcia added that being a positive role model doesn’t have to mean taking on extra responsibilities or volunteering. He said classified school employees can be a good influence by showing students that they care. Simple acts such as giving words of encouragement or listening to a student’s problems can set a positive example.
“We’re seen as role models in our community,” he said. “We can go out of our way to extend a hand and show them that we are there to work together. Try to be a good listener and do that little extra to reach out to them.”
Reaching students through entertainment
Custodian is a positive influence on students
Richard Weyand, a custodial supervisor for the Walnut Creek School District, has turned lunch time into a variety show for the students of Parkmead Elementary School.
Nearly 20 years ago, Weyand found that the best way to keep the students quiet and well behaved during lunchtime was to keep them entertained. So the former musician picked up a microphone and began an improvisational show for the students. Now, students look forward to the lunch-time show and even learn a few things without realizing it.
“I act like an emcee while going about my regular duties,” he said. “I interview the kids, they give weather reports, we talk about composting and recycling, and about how the school rules apply to different situations. We also do some magic tricks.”
Weyand, a member of Walnut Creek Chapter 202, said that he tries to include as many students as possible during his shows and tries to keep the routines entertaining and educational.
“The idea for the show grew out of need because the lunchroom was so chaotic,” he said. “It’s a way to keep control of the lunchroom by keeping the kids occupied and interested rather than by haranguing them to be quiet. The kids are in class all morning long and they should be able to come into the lunchroom and converse with each other, be entertained for a little bit and have a reasonable lunch period.”
Weyand has become a celebrity of sorts. Local news stations have visited the school to witness his act. He is so popular that one year, during a fundraising auction, a day of having a student shadow Weyand sold for $500.
“I do that about 50 times a year,” he said. “The students get a t-shirt and a set of keys and they get to follow me around for the day.”
Weyand uses his popularity to help in other ways. Since the kids know him well and respect him, he’s able to get the kids in and out of their parents’ cars while directing traffic after school.
“I feel really blessed,” he said. “Respect and love is something that you have to earn because you can’t just demand it no matter how many degrees or titles you have. It’s a mutual admiration I have with these kids. I feel absolutely blessed to serve my community and work in that environment.”
A personification of love and devotion
Security supervisor’s influence will be felt for years to come
Classified employees sometimes touch people in such a profound way that they continue to inspire even after they’re gone. This is the case with Creighton Lane, a security supervisor and basketball coach at Santa Clara Unified School District.
Lane was the epitome of caring and dedication.Lane, a member of Santa Clara Chapter 350, passed away on Feb. 24 from stomach cancer. Having been a longtime boys’ and girls’ basketball coach at Wilcox High School, Lane made an impact on the lives of many. Colleagues and former Wilcox students described him as someone who served as a mentor, friend and father figure.
“Whether he was talking to a student or a staff member, there was always a message or a lesson,” said Michele Hernandez, the registrar at Wilcox and fellow member of Chapter 350. “He was humble. He didn’t want credit for a favor or good deed. If a student didn’t have lunch, he bought lunch and not just for one student but for many. He picked students up who needed a ride so they wouldn’t be late to school. If a student needed a ride home later in the day, Creighton made sure they got home safely.”
In many ways, Hernandez said Lane exemplified devotion.
“He loved us as much as we loved him,” she said. “He acknowledged us, he protected us, and he made each and every one of us feel loved, special and important.”
Whether through acts of kindness or simply through a hearty greeting, Lane was always looking to brighten someone’s day and make a difference in the lives of students. Even when students graduated high school and moved on, Lane continued being there for them lending an ear or giving some advice. Christina Montez, a Wilcox alumna who is now a graduate student at St. John’s University in New York, said Lane was dependable and devoted to others.
“I would describe Creighton as loyal,” she said. “No matter the situation, good or bad, he was always there. Even being 3,000 miles away, he stayed loyal to the bond we built together.”
Laura Stott Hardesty, an English teacher and softball coach at Wilcox who is also a former student, said that Lane gave his all to students to motivate them to succeed on the basketball court and in life.
“He took the time,” she said. “It’s that simple. Creighton found the way to make every one of us feel special. He remembered small details about everyone because he had an amazing memory.”
Hardesty added that Lane’s humility would not allow him to take pride in how much the Wilcox community loved him and appreciated all he did, but the impact he had on the lives of others won’t be forgotten.
“I think Creighton would feel pleased that he was able to share a part of himself with so many,” she said. “I think he would feel hopeful that we didn’t just learn from him, but that we would share our know-ledge with others.