District Names Educational Support Professionals of the Year (ESPY) Finalists

District Names Educational Support Professionals of the Year (ESPY) Finalists – Jody Neely, Meigs Middle School; Michael Wright, Ruckel Middle School; and Mayela Nagy, Okaloosa Technical College. The winner will be announced Friday, February 5th.

Jody Neely, Meigs Middle School

Jody Neely, Meigs Middle School

Jody Neely, Lead Custodian and Head Football and Baseball Coach of Meigs Middle School, has worked for the Okaloosa County School District since 2002. He has been at Meigs Middle School for just under two years but the impact he has had not only upon the campus, but with the students is huge.

“I began working at Meigs in the summer of 2019, and instantly recognized how important Coach Neely is to the success of our school,” said Assistant Principal, Robert McElroy, Jr. “Mr. Neely is like the Swiss Army Knife of our school. His many talents and abilities include custodial, and maintenance duties associated with our campus, head football, and baseball coach, Mr. Fix-it, Student -Teacher, assisting students and teachers with anything they need, as well as being flexible with any task or job that may be required of him by our Admin Team.”

Time and time again, Coach Neely is there for the students at Meigs Middle School “As a positive role model and staff member, Coach Neely has been selfless in taking time to establish and foster relationships with several of the students attending Meigs,” said McElroy. “From athletes to those who might be in need of a little extra guidance and direction, Coach Neely is a person our students can count on to be there for them in their hour of need. For example, I have watched him take time to sit down during lunch with an upset student, calm that child down, listen to the student, and from that instant on Mr. Neely was his Go-To Guy. Coach Neely gets it! He sees the BIGGER picture when it comes to the students, faculty, staff, and parents at Meigs. It is about serving others, and he serves people selflessly.”

Michael Wright, Ruckel Middle School

Michael Wright, Ruckel Middle School

A life-long resident of Niceville, Michael Wright has been a Custodian at Ruckel Middle School for four years. His impact on the school exceeds his custodial duties in the most important way, connecting with the heart of the school community by building relationships with others.

“Mike Wright performs his custodial job at Ruckel like he is a friendly neighbor who has come over to lend a hand,” said Ruckel Middle School Principal, Paul Whiddon. “He greets both students and teachers every morning with a friendly smile and is always willing to stop what he is doing to help anyone in need. This year when we had many teachers out and not enough substitutes to cover all duties, Mr. Wright would regularly fill in for bus ramp duty and make sure that all buses arrived. When areas have been potentially contaminated due to COVID-19, he is there to clean and disinfect the areas without being told. Earlier in the year when it was unsure what Hurricane Sally would do, he came to the school to secure the band's outdoor pavilion. When a trailer was needed to take donated can goods to Sharing and Caring, Mr. Wright was able to get a trailer from a community member for the transport of those can items. He goes above and beyond to get the job done!”

Michael is not only concerned and willing to help his coworkers but is also concerned about the needs of all faculty, staff, and students. “He has come to me on several occasions when he thought that a student might have material needs and let me know that he is willing to chip in to cover those needs,” said Whiddon. “This summer, when teachers could not come on campus, Mr. Wright would retrieve items that a teacher might need and take those items to their mailbox or doorstep. He is an invaluable asset to our school. Mike Wright is a shining example of doing what it takes to help make our school safer and cleaner.”

Mayela Nagy, Okaloosa Technical College (OTC)

Mayela Nagy, Okaloosa Technical College (OTC)

Mayela Nagy has been at Okaloosa Technical College (OTC) since 2013, starting as a Spanish-English Interpreter and becoming a Secretary/Registrar in 2017. She has proven to be a very valuable member of the OTC staff as she inspires, not only the students she is working with, but all students to better themselves and to not give up.

“When I first met Mayela, she was working at Choice High School as an interpreter and was tutoring Latino families at night to help them with their English,” said Principal, Kelly Hayes. “Mayela had attended and graduated from Okaloosa Technical College (then Choice High School and Technical Center) in 2013 for certification in the Medical Administrative Technology program. Because of Maye la's incredible work ethic and her way of working with the high school students in the class with her and of course the fact that she is bilingual, she was hired as the interpreter.”

Mayela proved to be a very valuable member of the OTC staff. She inspires, not only the students that she is working with, but all students to better themselves and to not give up. “Mayela did not stop with the students, she encouraged the parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles of the students to work to learn English,” said Hayes. “She would tell them how valuable they could be if they were bilingual. Mayela would share her own story with them as an example of how hard work and a willingness to learn can help a person to better himself. She told of going to school in Mexico, where education was not free; books had to be bought, transportation had to be paid for, etc., and she would share with all students that they should be grateful for what they could get as an American. She shared of learning to speak English and how she learned to drive by working hard to translate the driver's manual while living in Germany and not have a strong support system. Mayela worked hard and studied to become an American citizen so that she could set herself as a model for the American dream. You see, Mayela lives what she teaches.”

Mayela is now a registrar for Okaloosa Technical College. “She interacts with students and potential students regularly and helps to set the tone for helpfulness and customer-first service that we strive to hold at OTC,” said Hayes. “She guides and leads students to make good choices for their futures, and students speak highly of her. She works to build the rapport with the other employees by helping with the social committee and she always takes a minute or two to talk with the staff and make them feel special.”

Congratulations to all the School Educational Support Professionals of the Year:

Antioch Elementary School - Stacie Griffitts, Food Service Worker

Baker School - Cynthia Bell, Bookkeeper

Bay Area Office - Mary N. Rivas, Secretary

Bluewater Elementary School - Jeanne Whyte, Parapro – K-5

Bob Sikes Elementary School - Vickie Precht, Library Assistant

Bruner Middle School - Sammie Beard, Custodian

Choctawhatchee High School - Justin D. Floyd, Custodian

Crestview High School - Scottie Milton, Parapro 9-12

Davidson Middle School - Michelle Geoghagan, Secretary

Destin Elementary School - Pamela Page, Data Clerk

Destin Middle School - Andy Cooper, Lead Custodian

Edge Elementary School - Annette Buckley, Library Assistant

Edwins Elementary School - Ted R. Wojciechowski, Custodian

Eglin Elementary School - Terri Davis, Library Assistant

Elliott Point Elementary School - Traci L. Drew, ESE Resource

Florosa Elementary School - Tanya L. Garcia, Parapro ESE

Fort Walton Beach High School - Kyle Bryant, Parapro ESE

Kenwood Elementary School - Penny L. Powell, Lunchroom Monitor

Laurel Hill School - Leslie Renee’ Alford, Bookkeeper

Lewis School - Jennifer Guyton, Secretary

Longwood Elementary School - Kionna Ruiz, Parapro Pre K-D

Maintenance FWB South - Austin Dale Caudill, Site Base Technician

Maintenance Grounds Support - Gary Brown, Welder

Mary Esther Elementary School - Erin Thompson, Secretary

Niceville Complex - Lori Hupp, Secretary

Niceville High School - Dwana Neyendorf, Bookkeeper

Northwood Elementary School - Michelle Painter, Parapro ESE

Nutrition Center - Cynthia Critcher, Accountant

Okaloosa STEMM Academy - Senna Giles, Secretary

Plew Elementary School - Anna Marie Haley, Parapro K-5

Pryor Middle School - Melody Hess, Custodian

Richbourg School - Vada Moore, Parapro ESE

Riverside Elementary School - Angela Livingston, Parapro ESE

Shalimar Elementary School - Debra L. Cahoon, Secretary

Shoal River Middle School - Andrea Staples, Secretary

Silver Sands School - Anita D. Mitchell, Parapro PE

Southside Primary School - Classie Mae Wilkes, CDA/Parapro PE

Transportation Central - Amy Riggs, Bus Driver

Transportation North - Debra Duda, Bus Driver

Transportation South - Mary L Reedy, Bus Driver

Walker Elementary School – Becki Andrews, Parapro ESE

Wright Elementary School – Bobby R. Bess, Jr., Parapro K-5