As part of Classified School Employee Week, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is recognizing its classified employees of the month for the 2019-20 school year.
So far this year, we have celebrated 10 classified employees for the expertise and passion that they bring to SDCOE. Below is a short profile of each of them.
"Thank you to all of the classified school employees across the county for all you do on behalf of San Diego County's children," said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold. "You truly are the hidden heroes of education."
Lisa Moon brings a smile and can-do attitude to everything she does.
"Lisa is always ready to try something new, learn along the way, and always strives for excellence in everything she does," said Chris Reising, executive director in Human Resource Services. "She represents the best of our organization."
Moon is an administrative assistant with Human Resource Services. She has been with SDCOE for nearly 13 years, spending time with Learning and Leadership Services, Student Services and Programs, and Integrated Technology Services.
"I've been fortunate to work with so many amazing co-workers over the years," she said. "SDCOE has such an elite workforce that no matter what division you work in, you are surrounded by the most knowledgeable, highly motivated, inspiring group of people."
She said she finds many things about the work rewarding, including opportunities for growth, amazing co-workers, and the beauty that surrounds the main campus.
"It's inspiring and a pleasure to come to work each day," she said.
When she's not at work, Moon enjoys hiking, running, dirt biking, yoga, and exercising. She also enjoys spending time with her grandson Luke.
Mario Ruiz is a team player with a positive attitude who enjoys doing all he can to make SDCOE's facilities look their best.
"Mario has an exemplary attitude," said Judy Weil, Library Media Services, who nominated Ruiz. "He is always smiling and always in a good mood."
Ruiz is a custodian with Maintenance and Operations. He has been with SDCOE for three years, starting as a temporary worker and becoming permanent two years ago.
Ruiz said he loves knowing that his work helps make SDCOE's facilities look their best.
"The way I look at things is that it's my job to make people happy," he said. "Every time they look around, I know they have something positive to say about this place."
In fact, Ruiz said he misses work when he's not here, though he keeps himself busy with gardening. He enjoys growing trees and bushes from seed, including bananas, pineapples, and mangoes.
Before he came to SDCOE, Ruiz worked for 30 years doing construction on high-rise buildings downtown.
Hector Jimenez enjoys helping SDCOE employees and school districts with technology needs and problem solving.
"Hector's detailed work and assistance when setting up our workstations went above and beyond," said Anabel Mireles, Expanded Learning, who nominated him for the honor.
Jimenez is a computer support technician with Integrated Technology Services. He has worked for SDCOE for nearly eight years. He said he was excited to find a job that would help him increase his knowledge and improve his skills.
He said he's thankful to work for a team that not only provides clients with great services but is also made up of good friends.
"I like to be part of SDCOE team," he said. "People are very professional, polite, committed."
Jimenez enjoys spending his free time with his family and practicing football with his son.
"My wife says that I'm the king of the parade because I always greet all the people even if I don't know them," he said.
Joe Hernandez is an integral part of the Learning and Leadership Services team, according to his colleagues.
"Joe is a self-starter and is constantly seeking ways to make our work more efficient," said Dr. Shannon Baker, Curriculum and Instruction. "He is supportive and willing to take on any project put in front of him."
Hernandez is a web publisher with Curriculum and Instruction who has been with SDCOE for 15 years. He said he enjoys working with people from across the organization and knowing he can always count on his co-workers.
A recent project that Hernandez said was rewarding was creating a functional solution for reserving collaborative workspaces. He also recently created an onboarding program for new employees in the Curriculum and Instruction department.
"All of the new employees that have used this system have felt supported and more organized," Baker said.
In his free time, Hernandez enjoys skateboarding, surfing, and making music. He is currently working on recording and producing an album.
Susan Thorne works as an employee benefits technician in the Human Resources department. She has been with SDCOE for more than 20 years.
Thorne said she enjoys helping employees understand the benefits they get as SDCOE employees.
"It is very rewarding when I can assist in the resolution of a stressful benefit issue and hear the relief," she explained. "I feel so fortunate to work for SDCOE. I have the best team of co-workers, and wow do we have fantastic benefits."
Darcy Lomeli, Organizational Excellence, nominated Thorne because of her tireless work to ensure employees can fully access their benefits.
You can count on Susan to always brighten your day with a smile, and sincerely ask 'How are you doing?'" Lomeli said.
Outside of work, Thorne is focused on the arts, particularly visual, historical, and lapidary. She is a member of the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society, and enjoys stone cutting and jewelry making. Her free time also is spent with her husband and friends, playing with her dog, visiting Ocean Beach, and reading.
Kimberly Garcia is proud to know that she's part of a team that's committed to and focused on giving students the best possible chance to be succeed.
As a program data technician for Special Education, she manages the entire special education data system, supporting students with disabilities at Friendship School, Juvenile Court and Community Schools, and some charter schools in South County.
"I enjoy knowing I am making a difference for our students, even if I am no longer at the school site," she said. "It is very rewarding when I receive an error-free file notice from the California Department of Education. It makes my day!"
Garcia has been with SDCOE for more than 10 years, spending much of that time at Monarch School.
"Kim is a shining star, and her work fully embodies SDCOE's mission to support districts and schools," said Cara Schukoske, executive director for special education services.
She said she is thrilled to work with such an amazing group of employees at SDCOE.
"It goes beyond my department, because so many people here truly care about the lives and success of our students," she said. "I feel blessed to be a part of this amazing team. I love my job!"
When she's not working, Garcia spends her time running, serving at her church, decorating cakes, and spending time with friends and family.
Sara Nicholson is always willing to take on extra responsibilities to help her team and local schools.
"Sara is an unsung, capable, dependable employee that enhances our department and it is a pleasure to have her on the Risk Management team," said Brandy Jensen and Lisa Jensen, her colleagues who nominated her.
Nicholson has been with SDCOE for three years as a systems technician in the Risk Management department.
She says the most rewarding thing about her job is knowing that people rely on her to better serve local school districts and their students.
"I see it as every completed task being an accomplishment for the team as a whole," she said. "Ultimately, this benefits the kiddos!"
She also appreciates her "thoughtful, brilliant, and supportive" co-workers, who provide a variety of supports for local schools.
When she's not working, Nicholson likes to spend time with her family, going to the beach or park, and watching Disney movies.
Nianza Thompson is known for her patience, smile, hard work, and encouragement.
Thompson is lead accounting technician in the San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) Internal Business department and has been with the organization for 20 years.
"I have known and worked with Nianza since 2000, and I have always been impressed by her exceptional quality of service to everyone," said Vy Nguyen, who nominated Thompson for the recognition.
Providing great customer service to customers, districts, and departments is the most rewarding aspect of her work, she said.
"I work with a great team," she said. "We all inspire each other to do our best and we are all willing to help each other out when needed."
In her free time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with family.
Andrew Baldwin is well known across SDCOE for his positive attitude and helpful spirit.
"Andrew has been a tremendous support to our team when conducting trainings and presentations and consistently has a positive and enthusiastic attitude in everything he does." said Mara Madrigal-Weiss and Heather Nemour, co-workers at SDCOE.
Baldwin is a technology center support analyst has been with SDCOE for more than 15 years, starting here as an intern when he was 17.
"One reason working at SDCOE is great is because you know that your work is ultimately about students, never anything else," Baldwin said.
In his free time, Baldwin enjoys metalworking, skating, woodworking, traveling, gaming, brewing, off-roading, and camping.
Evelia "Evi" Medina, is the school administrative assistant at North County Academy, where her co-workers say she goes above and beyond her regular duties.
"Evi is always professional, efficient, and caring," said Ellen Spencer, a teacher at the school. "She is the heart of our school."
Medina has been with SDCOE for 21 years, including 19 at North County Academy. She started as an office aide for Juvenile Court and Community Schools.
Her duties at North County Academy are varied from day to day.
"As a school administrative assistant, my main goal is to help serve our students and families with anything they may need," she said.
This includes providing resources, helping facilitate meetings, triaging crisis situations, reviewing referrals, placing students in academic courses, updating transcripts, managing student information systems, scheduling student individualized education programs, and assisting with student health concerns and daily medication.
When she's not at the school, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their three kids. She also enjoys cooking and baking, listening to good music, dancing, watching documentaries, traveling, and taking long strolls through Julian.