Warsaw Community School Corporation hosted a Welcome Back to School and Employees of the Year Recognition Program today from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Three staff members were granted awards for their respective fields.
The 2013 WCS Support Employee of the Year award was given to Don Ritter of the maintenance department. The Special Services Employee of the Year was Tracey Akers, head of health services, and the Teacher of the Year award was given to Andrew Bass of Edgewood Middle School.
The event, which hosted nearly all WCS staff members, began with a continental breakfast at 7:30 a.m. The ceremony, which was hosted in the Warsaw Community High School Performing Arts Center, featured a live performance by the band as well as speeches from WCS Superintendent Dr. Craig Hintz, School Board Member and former Harrison Elementary Principal Randy Polston and Director of Communications and Language Programs Wendy Long.
Ritter, who has been employed with WCS for 21 years is noted as a “vital member of the WCS maintenance staff.” In her presentation of the support employee of the year award, Long stated Ritter is well known for his continued work to ensure the safety and comfort of schools within the district and is often found working during weekends and holidays.
“He is reliable, dependable and always attentive to the needs of students and staff across the district,” stated Long about Ritter. “This exemplary support employee does whatever it takes to make sure our buildings are comfortable and safe … When asked what he liked most about his job he stated, ‘I like the chance to meet and work with people – I like to make them happy by fixing their problems.”
Nominees for the support employee of the year included: Deb Baumgartner, Washington Elementary; Robert Farrington, Transportation Department; Bonnie Fox, Claypool Elementary; Lisa Francis, Leesburg Elementary; Leonard Gagnon, WCHS; Yesenia Giron, Gateway Education; Wendy Harges, Harrison Elementary; Teresa Helm, Edgewood Middle School; Dixie Houck, Madison Elementary; Dan Litfin, Eisenhower Elementary; Carolyn Neff, Lakeview Middle School; Donna Propp, Jefferson Elementary; Ginny Rautenkranz, Lincoln Elementary; Don Ritter, Maintenance; Charles Shelton, Food Services; Jeni Streeter, WACC; and Brad Gutwein ESC.
The recipient of the Special Services Employee of the Year award, Akers, is well-known throughout the community and school system for her work with students. Among the noteworthy programs created by Akers is the Boomerang Backpack program, which allows students to take home food items for the weekend. The initiative was started as a way of ensuring that students were provided healthy, nutritious food options during their time away from school.
“This year’s Special Services Employee of the Year is an inspiration to her colleagues, students, teachers and members of the community,” said Long in making the introduction. “As a school nurse she manages the medical needs of students with a variety of health issues, provides direction and assistance for medication concerns, helps with home visits and participates in case conferences when medical issues arise.
“She attends professional development conferences to receive training about important issues. As the school systems head nurse, she supervises, assists and trains all nurses for WCS. This special employee not only fulfills the mission statement as a school nurse, but also enriches the lives of others through the boomerang backpack program.”
Nominees for the special services employee of the year included: Tracey Akers, Edgewood Middle School; Jeanne Calvin, Jefferson Elementary; Leigh Cox, Madison Elementary; Cara Drake, Lincoln Elementary; Sherry Fancil, Lakeview Middle School; Phil Jensen, WACC; Brenda Linky, WCHS; Angie Madeford, Washington Elementary; Sagan Stier, Gateway Education; Jim Thompson, Harrison Elementary; and Laurel Whetstone, Claypool Elementary.
Bass, the recipient of the Teacher of the Year award, has been noticed before for his work with students. According to Barb Smolen, executive director of the Warsaw Education Foundation, Bass has been a past recipient of the “Red Apple Award,” which is given when members of the community provide a donation in a teacher’s name.
“The 2013 WCS Teacher of the Year (Andrew Bass) is described by colleges as amazing, engaging and inspiring. He holds his students to a high standard of excellence and fulfills our mission statements by desiring for all of them to succeed. A college describes him as a selfless leader with a servants heart that desires the best for his students,” said Long.
Nominees for the district teacher of the year were: Terry Aukeman, WACC; Andrew Bass, Edgewood Middle School; April Boggs, Lakeview Middle School; Krista Dausman, Leesburg Elementary; Holly Fancil, Gateway Education; Stacey Mehlberg, Harrison Elementary; Derek Pike, Washington Elementary; Sherry Searles, Claypool Elementary, Kathy Williams, WCHS; Tami Williamson, Jefferson Elementary; Sherry Zehr, Eisenhower Elementary; and Jane Zellers, Lincoln Elementary.
Award winners and nominees were provided with plaques honoring their work with WCS. In addition, photos of award winners will be seen on billboards throughout the community courtesy of the Warsaw Education Foundation.