HURON — The Huron Public Schools recognized some of their own Wednesday night, at its 29th annual Employee Recognition Banquet, held at the Huron Event Center.
In addition to recognizing employees’ longevity (see the list at the end of the story) the school district also honored six women who have been chosen for special awards within the district.
Two individuals - Darla Halbkat and Tricia Wehrmann - were selected as the Classified Employee of the Year, Linda Pietz was named as the Professional Support Staff Member of the Year, while Brandi Fitzgerald, Shari Lord and Erica Boomsma were named Teachers of the Year.
Teachers of the Year
Advertisement for Teachers of the Year are extended throughout the school district and the community. When all nominations are in, a committee including teachers, administrators and the public review the nominations and vote for three finalists in each of the Elementary, Middle School and High School levels. Those finalists are invited to apply to be Teacher of the Year and the committee again meets and scores the nominees.
Erica Boomsma, 4th-grade teacher, Washington 4-5 Center. Washington Center Principal Beth Voss said that Boomsma is a very deserving recipient of the Elementary School Teacher of the Year award.
“I have been the principal here for eight years and have enjoying having Erica here for five of those years,” Voss said. “Erica has been with the district for 15 years. She is an outstanding teacher who loves being with her kids and loves her job. This is a well-deserved recognition.”
Shari Lord, 8th-grade History and Science at Huron Middle School. Her award was presented by HMS Principal Mike Taplett.
“Shari has 19 years in education,” Taplett said, “many of them in the middle school building. She’s a true team player who has moved around to different grade levels to help out when we have needed help. She serves or has served on the school improvement committee, the school advisory committee and the faculty advisory committee. Shari is a very deserving candidate for this award.” Taplett noted that Lord was nominated by three of her students, who were touched by how they were treated by her.
Taplett said that one student had written, ‘She has changed my life.’ “There is really no higher praise for a teacher than to hear that from a student,” Taplett said.
Brandi Fitzgerald, Math teacher at Huron High School. Saying that Fitzgerald is a ‘Math’ teacher is saying DaVinci was an ‘Artist.’ Fitzgerald teaches Honors Algebra II, Sheltered Algebra I, as well as AP Calculus and Sheltered Geometry.
Huron High School Principal Mike Radke said that it was something in addition to Fitzgerald’s classroom performance that he felt set her apart.
“What stands out to me is the importance that she puts on the non-academic activities and how she uses that to create relationships,” Radke said. “Teachers have students for four years in homeroom and Brandi takes to the idea that they are really her kids. That relationship building helps out exponentially with the student’s overall performance. That’s what comes to mind when I think of her. She puts so much effort into homeroom and other activities that make things better for her students.”
Professional Support Staff Member of the Year
The Professional Support Staff award begins with nominations from throughout the school district. The building principals and Superintendent Terry Nebelsick review nominations and score the nominees.
The Professional Support Staff Member of the Year is Linda Pietz. Principal Voss said that a Professional Support Staff member’s primary duty is to be a support person for the classroom teacher.
“A Professional Support Staff person can be a librarian or a counselor among other things,” Voss said. “Linda is an Instructional Coach for the 4-5 Washington Center. She is skilled in a variety of areas and has an expertise in working with teachers, which she honed as classroom teacher herself for 25 years. She is a great communicator, an organizer and is a great instructor.”
Classified Employee of the Year
Most of the time there is a sole recipient of the Classified Employee of the Year award, but this year the selection process narrowed it to two people with identical scores.
Tricia Wehrman is a para-educator at the Buchanan K-1 building. “Tricia has been here since 2012, when we added the first grade to the Kindergarten here at Buchanan,” said Principal Peggy Heinz. “She was at Madison School and came with the first grade. As a para-educator, she works with small groups of students in whatever area they need help - math, reading - and her main job is to assist the teachers with what they need to be successful and to work with the students.”
Heinz said that was most impresses her with Wehrmann’s work is that she is very intelligent. “She is a hard worker who goes above and beyond whatever needs to be done. She has a lot of knowledge who understands how to help the student and who makes every effort to make things work for the student.”
Darla Halbkat - Administrative Assistant at the Central Office, working with both the Activities and Building and Grounds departments.
“Darla means everything to this office,” Huron Activities Director Terry Rotert said of his lead assistant. “Let’s be clear, everything that happens in this office goes across her desk. She assigns workers for each event, all of our various contracts go through her, and I cannot begin to explain the responsibility that is hers - it’s really kind of mind boggling.” Rotert noted that Halbkat is the media coordinator for all of the state events hosted by the school district, and there were four such tournaments this past year. “Honestly, she has been on top of the biggest, busiest year that I have seen in my nine years as Activity Director.”
Rex Sawvell is the Building and Grounds director for the school district. “Nobody is more deserving of this award,” Sawvell said. “When I think about Darla, she is someone who comes to work every day, ready and willing to do the best job possible. Darla exemplifies dedication to her job and always cheerfully and willingly takes on any task that is assigned to her.”
Classified Employees of the Year are selected from the monthly winners. Wehrmann was November’s winner and Halbkat followed in December. From those monthly winners, the Employee Recognition Committee ranks the nominees 1 to 9 and then add the rankings. The employee with the lowest score, or in this case employees, is the Classified Employee of the Year.
Career Recognition 2017
5 years — Jody Berg, Leah Branaugh, Amber Eichstadt, Victoria Erwin, Jan Haskett, Melinda Hoogland, Laura Iverson, Colleen Jensen, Michelle Lyon, Ethan Moo, Tracy Nelson, Charles Price, Joyce Price, Rex Sawvell, Jonathan Schouten, Megan Smith, Bernadette Van Zee, Amy Velthoff and Sara Waldner.
10 Years — Robin Axtmann, Kelly Hennrich, Janet Johnsen, Bobbie Matthews, Laura Petersen, Samantha Rieck, Josh Trandall, Suzie Van Berkum, Patricia Van Vleet and Tonya Whitmore.
15 Years — Rita Baszler, Erica Boomsma, Amanda DeJong, Vicky Ferguson, Mary Hershman, Carol Jones, Monda Kotas, Lindsey Passmore, Dolly Venables and Dayna Winter.
20 Years — Kristle Christensen, Jason Hill, Kari Hinker, Heidi Holforty, Neil Kotas, Todd Preson and Carol Tompkins.
25 Years — Vanya Munce, Susan Vanden Hoek and Mary Helen Wipf.
30 Years — Tim Buddenhagen, Susan Fleck, Kathryn Meyer, Janelle Olmsted, Jan Overbo and Cheryl Puhl.
40 Years — Carol Buesing.