District Names Educational Support Professionals of the Year (ESPY) Finalists - Angel Squire, Edge ES, Tom Ballard, Mary Esther ES, and Jerry Stuth, Plew ES

Angel Squire, Edge ES

Angel Squire, Edge ES, Classroom Assistant

Angel Squire provides Edge Elementary School with classroom coverage during IEP/MISS meetings; one on one tutoring; testing, event coordination; volunteer coordination; Kindergarten dismissal assistance; spelling bee, yearbook coordinator; maintains vending for faculty and staff; assists with Tag Art fundraisers; and assists the Health Tech as needed.

Dr. Samantha Dawson, Edge Elementary School's Principal, described Squire as “the go-to classroom assistant at Edge Elementary School.  She does it all! She works with students, covers classes so teachers can attend IEP meetings, produces our yearbook, creates beautiful celebrations, hangs the yearly art show, oversees kindergarten dismissal, and does dozens of other jobs that make Edge run smoothly.  She does these things quietly and without fanfare. She does not wait to be asked; she jumps in and helps, knowing that we all share the mission of doing everything in the best interest of children. Any task she takes on is completed in an exemplary manner with careful attention to detail and quality. Her pride in our school is evident in everything she does. We are grateful every day that she chooses to make her contributions at Edge. Mrs. Squire is valued on our staff for many reasons, but among them is her ability to bring joy to our workplace and support her colleagues with her consistently positive outlook. She frequently leaves gifts and messages in her co-workers' mailboxes or kind notes about the way she has seen someone interact with a student. Her sense of humor and cheerful can-do attitude are contagious. She loves her job and it shows. She is an asset to our school, our district, and most importantly to our children.”

Kristina Clark, Edge’s Assistant Principal, stated that Squire’s “position is rather unique. She does it all. Each day, she supports students and guides them through their learning. In addition to that, she completes many tasks, often without being asked to do so. When she is asked, she never, ever says no, even when she is busy. Mrs. Squire assembles our school yearbook and makes certain that there are many pictures of our students and school events. She coordinates our volunteer luncheon, Tigress Tuesday and Macho Mondays. These are events that involve much planning, decorating and securing helpers. She fills in anytime there is a need and frequently anticipates a need and has a plan in place before an issue ever arises. For the first quarter of the school year, Mrs. Squire was instrumental in helping a young student through a very difficult transition from home to kindergarten. Every single day, she met him with a smile, kindness, patience, and grace. She went out of her way, often at her own expense, to find ways to help this young child. There were many very challenging and exhausting days but she never complained and the child only saw kindness from Mrs. Squire. I have known that she is special all along, but getting to see our "angel" in action has been quite humbling and an honor.”

Angel is the embodiment of Support Person of the Year. “She is very deserving of this recognition and I am grateful that I have the pleasure of working beside her. More importantly, our students and staff are blessed by her presence each day,” said Clark.

Maria Lewis, School Counselor, has worked with Squire for the past three years and stated “regardless of the job delegated or task given to her, she carries it off always with a smile. As I have a difficult time delegating and then letting go, it speaks volumes to those that know me well, that I am able to do just that with Mrs. Squire. Some examples of the types of responsibilities she has taken on include getting with me at the start of each school year to schedule on the school calendar the activities I coordinate (Spelling Bees for 2nd through 5th grades; Honor Roll Assemblies for 2nd-5th grades for each of the quarterly grading periods; Volunteer Orientation at the start of the school year; and Volunteer Luncheon in May). In addition, she coordinates with the Media Assistant and schedules the annual Macho Monday in the fall (lunch inviting dads, granddads, uncles, for lunch with their Edge student) and Tigress Tuesday in February (lunch for the moms, grandmothers, aunts, etc.). For these events and the Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Volunteer lunches, Mrs. Squire ensures the tables are set up and decorated, schedules our retired staff/community members to serve for signing in our guests, and serving iced tea: and water. In addition, she purchases the food for our Volunteer Luncheon, generates and send out the invitations, handles the RSVPs and does the setup and decorating. In addition, she coordinates with the school's music teacher to have the Edge Tiger Chorus perfom1 during the luncheon.”

For the annual Spelling Bees, Squire arranges for the judges (former retired teachers), generates and sends out parent invitations, orders the medals for the top three spellers in each grade level, purchases and puts together goodie bags for the judges and callers, and has the multi-purpose room set up for the days of the spelling bees. She coordinates and covers classroom teachers so they can attend the IBP and MTSS meetings each Tuesday. (Often working through her "lunch" break to get all teachers coverage.)

“All of these tasks she does with a smile, and typically asks if there is anything else she can do,” said Clark. “She truly exemplifies the meaning of an Angel! She deserves to be recognized for her hard work and efforts daily on behalf of our Edge students, and the Okaloosa County School District.”

Tom Ballard, Mary Esther ES

Tom Ballard, Mary Esther ES, Paraprofessional/Classroom Assistant

Tom Ballard assists the teachers at Mary Esther Elementary School with sitting up activities and exercises; helps reinforce skills being taught with groups of students and helps supervise students; helps with arrival and dismissal each day; helps in VE Classroom while their assistant is on break; assists with emergency drills; and substitutes when needed.

Jason McClelland, Mary Esther Elementary School's Principal, stated that he is “very fortunate to have worked with him for the last three years. Coach Ballard goes beyond his duties as our PE Paraprofessional. He is part of our minority council and helps them with dances, cooking, and chaperoning students. Coach is the first to offer assistance with our special events such as open house, carnival, and field days. He will stay after school and stay late to make sure everything is taken care of on these special event nights. Coach Ballard is part of our safety committee. He assists with the drills that take place and is great at giving feedback to us on how to improve the safety of our school. He has assisted in the creation of our crisis plan. His background knowledge (due to working with the fire department) has been a big asset to our school.”

Not only does Coach Ballard help with all the above, he is also one of the school’s plan of care tutors. He enjoys taking a small group of students for the 12 weeks and helping improve in their academics. He has really enjoyed taking this on and loves to see the students' success. Coach Ballard will also volunteer his time to come into the school and help with summer projects such as painting halls, pressure washing, cleaning outside sheds and equipment and painting our blacktop.

“Tom Ballard is one of the most caring, organized, energized, and thoughtful person you will know,” said McClelland.  “He is able to build amazing relationships with students, staff, and parents and will put a smile on anyone's face. I am so happy that he is Mary Esther's Support Person of the Year.”

Tom Ballasch, Mary Ether’s Physical Education Coach, has worked with Ballard for eight years and stated that “Ballard has been a trusted aid helping with the management of all classes, kindergarten thru fifth grade. His duties are to help with the setup of the various games and activities, supervision of the students, and maintenance of the equipment, facilities, and grounds regarding the physical education area. In addition to his PE duties, Tom also has bus rider duty and has also been used in the cafeteria and classroom. Over the years, I've had several assistants and Tom is by far the best assistant I've ever had. He goes above and beyond his job requirements, whether it's coming in on the weekend to organize the PE equipment sheds or paint spots and lines for the basketball court. I can always count on Tom to get things done and feel confident that things will run fine even when I'm not around. Tom is great with the students being compassionate, caring yet fair and firm when it comes to discipline. Tom Ballard has made my job significantly easier whether It's day to day or a week of field day. Tom is the epitome of a physical education assistant. He's very much deserving of the Non-Instructional Support Person of the Year Award.”

Linda Morris, a Kindergarten Teacher, shared that Ballard was “a hard worker, a team player, a loyal, enthusiastic and dependable co-worker that shows professionalism at all times. Coach Ballard goes beyond everyday expectations for every student, their parent, and his co-workers. He is always willing to help someone in need even without being asked. If he sees something that needs to be done, he takes the initiative to get it done without being told to do so. He carries these values outside of work also, helping out in the community and his neighbors. Coach Ballard's eagerness and willingness to help students make him approachable to students. He has helped students overcome fears of a new school by talking to them and assuring them things will be good and that they will meet new friends and walks them to class. He makes them feel at ease and safe. He checks on them until they are settled and they, in turn, are thrilled when they see him.”

Coach Ballard volunteers at school functions after hours such as the school carnival and is an active participant in the school's Minority Council functions. He is a greeter at the dances and also cooks for various functions. He is always willing to help and the children are happy to see him. He has come to the school on weekends to help with clean up, painting, building and moving items for co-workers. He helps to ensure the school has a pleasant atmosphere and remains safe for all that enters our school. He is admired by his co-workers with his willingness to help no matter what is needed or how much time it may require of him.

“Coach Ballard is truly a reliable, confident and dependable friend and co-worker,” said Morris.  “I feel honored to have the opportunity to work and learn from him!”

Jerry Stuth, Plew ES

Jerry Stuth, Plew ES, ESE Classroom Assistant

Jerry Stuth serves as an ESE Classroom Assistant for a student with Cerebral Palsy at Plew Elementary School. He is with the student throughout the day. He meets the student when he arrives at school to help him get to class and helps get him to his before school activities such as Chess Club and Chorus. He walks him to class, sets up his books, and completes his daily planner. During class, he helps him when needed with his writing task. At lunch, he helps him to the cafeteria, sets up his meal, and gets him seated to eat. He takes him to his different therapy sessions 4 times weekly.  At the end of the day, he packs up his books, walks him to the car line, and assists him into his vehicle.

Carolyn McAllister, Plew Elementary School’s Principal, said "Steve Stuth has dedicated his life to the children of Okaloosa County School District for over 33 years.  He is currently a one-on-one aide to a  young man who has cerebral palsy.  Steve is caring and compassionate and focuses daily to provide our student with everything he needs to take part in all learning and school activities during his day.  Steve comes early and stays late so his student may participate in chorus and chess club. He is the kind of professional who is motivated to always give 100% to whatever task is at hand and his commitment to Plew and our student is commendable."