Shelby County BOE names support persons of the year

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, May 30, 2024

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By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Reporter

The Shelby County Board of Education recently celebrated many outstanding individuals in the school system honoring them as the Shelby County Schools Support Persons of the Year for the 2023-2024 school year.

Awards were handed out across eight categories to the staff members that work behind the scenes to make Shelby County Schools possible and to ensure the lives of students are enriched throughout the year.

The overall winner for the 2023-2024 Support Person of the Year was Dolly Chavez, a translator and secretary at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center. She was the winner of the Secretarial Category, as well.

Chavez has been an interpreter for about 15 years, entering the field knowing that she wanted to help people and make communication easier across the district for many families and workers.

“I just wanted to help people,” Chavez said. “We have a lot of families here that come from different countries. Not only the Spanish speaking families, but we have about 52 languages in the district, and I get to support those families as well.”

Her supervisor, Leah Dobbs-Black, is very supportive of her work, knowing how much easier she makes things better as a whole.

“Dolly is perpetually kind and happy,” Dobbs-Black said. “She’s a great facilitator of communication between representatives in the school, but also the district as a whole. She loves people, and it doesn’t matter who they are. She loves people and everyone she encounters, it’s like she is meeting members of her family.”

Chavez understands how much of a difference her work makes and is continually grateful for what she gets to do in the community on a daily basis.

“Being in the interpreting field is really rewarding,” Chavez said. “You can be their voice and they can understand things that normally otherwise they wouldn’t be able to understand and understand things that could actually have a great impact in life. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to help them with the little part that we can.”

The instructional winner of the year was Mariko Ballentine, a special education paraprofessional at Oak Mountain Intermediate School.

For the past 22 years, Ballentine has been a person that radiates positivity, and she does that simply because she wants to help people. That is a prime result of her relationship with the staff.

“I love this school,” Ballentine said. “The people working here is so close, and if you need help, it gets handed to you.”

The accounting winner was awarded to Chelsea Middle School’s Angela Black, who according to Principal Cynthia Cruce, is someone that has been a very hard worker when she is under pressure.

Black knows that as long as she can leave a positive impact on the teachers and staff each year, she will continue being happy in this position, as she always has been.

“I look forward to coming to work at Chelsea Middle School,” Black said. “If I can make a teacher happy, I can help their year go smoother, then I feel like I have accomplished something.”

The nursing services winner for this academic year was Brittany Freeman, the nurse at Montevallo Elementary School. Her kids were the main reason that she got into position, one that she has only left smiles on her face.

“I have been a nurse for 11 years (and) after I had kids I started doing pediatric nursing,” Freeman said. “It is the best job of all time. I get to be here with my babies and I have 750 other babies as well that I take care of every day.”

The transportation winner was Joe Mobley, a bus driver in the Vincent zone for Shelby County Schools.

Mobley enjoys his relationships with the students that he gets to drive each day. For him, it puts a light in his life that makes him feel young again.

“Best part of this job is just being around people,” Mobley said. “Being around young children like that, it kind of makes you feel like you’ve still got part of your youth. They’re just a good bunch of kids. I’ve had them since they were in kindergarten, so that makes a lot of difference. You’ve got to have a heart, and just like my mother told me, ‘To have a friend, you’ve got to be a friend,’ and that’s one thing I try to be with these kids.”

Wallace Pitts of Helena Intermediate School was the Maintenance Category recipient. He is many things to Helena, but what he loves is coming together with the school to get things done and make life better for all of the people in a tightly knit family.

“The best thing I love about working for a school is it’s a team,” Pitts said. “The kids, the teachers and the administration, I just love making sure best I can that everything is running smoothly and I just love being part of a team.”

Sherri Stinnett earned the title of custodial winner. She works for Calera Middle School, being a face everybody once to see every single day.

For her, the smiles she sees from the kids each day in the school hallways are ones that she will remember forever, knowing there is something different about leaving a positive impact on kids.

The food services winner was awarded to Angelia Taylor, a cafeteria worker at Wilsonville Elementary School. She has enjoyed getting to watch the students grow as they move through the school system, which has made her time in this position so memorable.

“I have a T-shirt that says ‘Feed them, love them, watch them grow,’ and I feel like that’s a great motto for the lunch,” Taylor said. “We love them, and we get to watch them grow from pre-K all the way up until they go here at fifth grade, and once again because I live in the community I get to see them even when they’re passed the fifth grade. We still get to see them and I still get to watch them grow.”

All of the winners were honored by their staff colleagues for the hard work that they have put in during the school year, and they now will look forward to doing the same in the future.