Every morning, Michele Madden helps students at Davila Day School start their day off right with a caring and enthusiastic greeting.
Madden is an instructional aide at the school, supporting students who are Deaf and hard of hearing.
"She knows the strengths, interests, and needs of each student in the classroom and is able to effectively support them as they learn," said Keri Gravette, a teacher at the school.
As the classified staff member who has been at the school the longest, she also supports and mentors other employees and is well-respected for being a positive and caring colleague.
"She approaches each day with a smile and does all she can to ensure those around her are taken care of," Principal Heidi Lyon said. "She's a vital cog in the Davila wheel."
Davila students are Deaf or hard of hearing. The San Diego County Office of Education operates the special education
school in Chula Vista, serving children from preschool through 6th grade
from southern and eastern portions of the county.
In addition to her efforts in the classroom, Madden works to prevent suicide as a presenter with SDCOE's Student Mental Health and Well-Being team. She is a certified Question, Persuade, and Refer Gatekeeper trainer who offers training to educators across the county in suicide prevention.
"She is personable and passionate about her job and the mission to educate others on suicide prevention," said Violeta Mora, a project specialist with the Student Mental Health and Well-Being team.
Madden also volunteers in the evening and on weekends at her church.
Madden plans to retire in June. Her co-workers said she'll be missed by the employees there as well as the students.
“Ms. Madden is a natural in the classroom and is a devoted, motivated, and caring adult for all students in the classroom,” Lyon said. “Michele is unflappable and there is nothing that might occur in the classroom that could throw her off her focus of supporting all students.”