Excellence in Education accepting nominations for Star Awards

Laura Abbey Brown
Special to the Sun
Courtesy photo
Picasa |

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Last year on my birthday, my then four-year-old daughter asked me quizzically where all the birthday decorations were? I smiled and asked her who she thinks puts those decorations out? To make her happy, together we put the birthday sign and streamers up to appropriately acknowledge the day.

This reminds me of all the things in our schools that “magically” happen, whether we see them or not. The classified staff in our school district work many hours — often behind the scenes — and without them our district couldn’t function.

There are the bus drivers who greet kids with a sunny “Good morning!” as they file onto the bus. There are the custodians we pass in the halls; the ones who maintain a safe and clean environment for students and staff.

There are the librarians — those who know the reading levels, interests, and attention span of each individual student and recommend books accordingly. We can’t forget the school secretaries who take all the phone calls and walk-in inquiries, acting as the “glue” that keeps the offices and classrooms together.

There are the instructional assistants, the bilingual translators and interpreters, cafeteria supervisors; each leaving an imprint on the students’ day in some way.

But there are more: Those who support all the teaching and learning efforts behind the scenes. There are dispatchers for the busses and equipment operators, the registrar for the high schools, the vehicle service workers and the plumbing and heating specialists, and many more.

Several years ago, the Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation saw the need to honor these individuals and created the Star Awards specifically for Classified employees.

In conjunction with the annual Linda Brown Fellows Awards, which recognizes exceptional teachers, the Star Awards honor extraordinary Classified employees who positively impact the lives of students by providing outstanding support in their positions.

The individuals are announced during a special “Back to School” recognition ceremony, and each receives $1,000 cash for personal use.

The Foundation is asking the community to help identify and celebrate more of these wonderful employees.

Award nominations may come from parents and community members, as well as any TTUSD faculty or staff member.

Self-nominations or nominations from Excellence in Education board members will not be accepted. Nomination forms can be found at all district schools, the district office, or online at, and must be postmarked or delivered to Excellence in Education by Thursday, May 2, 2013. The 2013-2014 recipients will be announced in the fall.

For more information, call 530-550-7984 or visit

2012-2013 Star Award Recipients

The 2012-2013 Star Award recipients were announced at the beginning of the school year. The following excerpts were taken from the recipients’ nominations.

Sergiu Balint, District Office — Sergiu Balint, Technology employee, is described as a “workhorse.” Everyone in the district benefits from his efforts including students, staff and parents. His highly regarded technical skills have showcased our district as never before. TTUSD schools have updated and secured state of the art computer systems as well as websites because of him.

Dawn Clifton, Truckee Elementary — Everyone who works with Dawn Clifton, previously custodian for Truckee Elementary and now at Alder Creek Middle School, appreciates her trademark generosity, willingness to take on every task and her respect toward all. Even community groups and the PTO remark on her professionalism and competence.

Vicki Edelstein, Kings Beach Elementary — Many teachers came forward to give accolades to Vicki Edelstein, Kings Beach Elementary third grade teacher, for her effective teaching techniques, precision, organization, and academic creativity in the classroom. After 23 years in our district, students and parents praise her for her devoted commitment.

Donna Marshman, Truckee Elementary — As the office went from five people being responsible for sharing the workload down to two, Donna Marshman, Administrative Secretary of Truckee Elementary School, stepped up her already incredible pace to ensure that all jobs got done. She manages school wide finances, orders supplies, handles all of the traffic through the school office, takes care of sick and bruised children and even takes care of overworked and stressed staff.

Luise Reith, Transportation — Each day Luise Reith, bus driver for TTUSD, greets each and every student by name. Lost and forgotten items are returned to children cheerfully even when it’s a daily occurrence. Every holiday the bus is decorated and every day the bus is welcoming. Last year she even entered the bus in the Snowfest Parade and all of the kids cheered out the windows.

Laura Abbey Brown is executive director of the Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation.

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