“This is much different because of the restrictions but we still wanted to make sure we recognized all the employees especially after the year we’ve had,” said Ryan Burris, Chief Communications Officer for the district.
Bus driver Elizabeth Gustafson, who was named Transportation Employee of the Year, has been on her current route for four years.
“I’ll probably never retire now because these kids mean so much to me,” said Gustafson, who praised her entire department.
“Our administrators and supervisors, mechanics, clerical, dispatch … There is not anyone who does not help,” Gustafson said. “There is such togetherness. Everybody deserves part of this.”
Erica Arreola expressed gratitude for being named Employee of the Year in the Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance category. As a para-educator in the adult transition program, Arreola works with young adults ages 18 to 22.
“I love teaching them something and seeing the joy that they get to learn something,” Arreola said.
Westling, who has spent 34 years with the district — all of them at San Clemente — received the award in February and still feels overwhelmed.
“I just feel really proud to be part of the San Clemente community and a part of San Clemente High School,” Westling said. “I really respect the teachers that I work with. The teachers, the staff, the administrators. Everyone is super supportive.”
Kelly Heard, who was named Teacher of the Year for Marblehead Elementary School, said 2020-21 has been one of the most difficult of her 19 years as a teacher.
“It’s a double to have survived and influenced the littles of the world and kept them healthy and clean and with a positive mindset,” Heard said.
Heard gets the most joy from making her students laugh and watching them have “those lightbulb moments.”
But in the year of the coronavirus pandemic, Heard said she misses the hugs.