Medical assistant Norma Isquierdo is so passionate about schoolchildren getting appropriate medical, vision and dental care that she spent a year making sure a kindergartner with a cleft lip and palate received treatment.
And Stan McConnell is a longtime mechanic at the Turlock Unified School District who professionally and quickly works on anything with a motor — from a pickup truck to a lawn mower.
"One merely needs to look at the age of our school bus fleet and the excellent condition that it is in, in order to see that Stan McConnell is an excellent mechanic," said those who nominated him.
Isquierdo and McConnell were among 27 Stanislaus County schools' employees honored Wednesday as "Employees Making a Difference." Isquierdo works with nurses out of the Stanislaus County Office of Education.
The annual award program is similar to "Teacher of the Year," but recognizes non-teachers who give their all behind the scenes. Known as classified employees, they include secretaries, bus drivers, custodians, teachers' and nurses' aides, food service workers and landscapers.
School districts across the county nominate employees. This year, 27 from 17 districts made the cut and six will go on to the state contest. The six finalists include Isquierdo and McConnell, as well as Tammy Zeiger, cafeteria worker at the Salida Union School District; Woodie Mercer, custodian at Downey High School; Kathleen Wood, data entry clerk at Johansen High School; and Rossilyn Starn, library media assistant at Crossroads Elemen- tary School.
The employees were honored by the county Office of Education and the local chapter of the Association of California School Administrators.
"Our classified employees are too often the unsung heroes in our schools," said Phil Alfano, ACSA chapter president and assistant superintendent of human resources at the Patterson Unified School District.
Others recognized in front of hundreds of family, friends and co-workers included:
Manuel Chavez, Eglicerio Villavincencio, Cindy Benham, Kay Carhart, Pat Caudle, Ruthie Colon, Stephanie Days, Cynthia Enriquez-Tellas, Lesli Hodge, Elizabeth Jackson, Janet Ribeiro, Carol Todd, Hallie Choate, Margy Sawyer, Gloria Silveira, Dolores "Lori" Machado, Ismael Maldonado-Garcia, Janet Nunez, Monica Villarrael, Nancy Winn and Stan Fliflet.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2339.