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Employees of the Month Recognition

Employees of the Month Banner

MCOE greatly values employees who strive each day to provide high-quality services and programs, and continually work to fulfill the critical mission of public education. 

Employees of the Month are selected through a nomination process presented to the Cabinet. Awardees and their colleagues are invited to speak at the monthly County Board Meetings. Employees of the month are selected for each of our three employment categories which are: Management, Classified, and Certificated employees.

Employees of the Month are honorably recognized and nominated by their teams for their outstanding job performances. Each month, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Deneen Guss, the MCOE Communications team, and the awardee's managers and team surprise each individual awardee at their work locations with balloons, a certificate, and a bag of gifts.

This recognition page showcases our Employees of the Month for the past 12 months. 

November 2023 Employees of the Month

Yesenia Casillas holding her certificate

Special Education Teacher Ms. Yesenia Casillas exhibits exemplary skills every day. She is an excellent role model for staff, parents, and families, as she demonstrates how to work successfully with students who have moderate to severe disabilities, including communication, behavior, social skills, and academics. Ms. Casillas always presents a demeanor that demonstrates a love for her job but, more exceptionally, a love for her students because she delights in each mark of progress they show. Ms. Casillas plans for and organizes every minute of the school day to provide her students with a maximized school experience that directs them toward success and fun! Ms. Casillas’ classroom staff emphasize that they are busy, but not rushed, informed and included, supported and appreciated.

Ms. Casillas displays high competence, compassion, and thoughtfulness toward her students and their families. Her reports are professional and informative, and her presence at important meetings with parents always comes with a calming and reassuring demeanor. She utilizes best practices in all areas and embeds crucial skill development into every activity. Many staff members who work, or have worked, in Ms. Casillas’ classroom proclaim that she is one of the best teachers they have seen - within MCOE and elsewhere!

Maricela Cruz holding certificate and balloons

Alternative Education Administrative Assistant III Maricela Cruz has been instrumental to her team, especially during the recent Federal Program Monitoring (FPM) review. During this extensive review, Maricela was proactive and committed to going above and beyond to produce multiple documents required for compliance. She remained focused and dependable during the time it took to ensure that the needed documents showcased that the program funding was accounted for as required by law. Maricela led this task exceptionally by organizing and preparing all necessary documentation.

Maricela was also a great help as Open Door Charter moved to the Alternative Education office, and without hesitation, she helped organize and prepare the area for teachers, families, and students. In addition, now that the Educational Liaison has moved sites to the Salinas Community School, Maricela's expertise shines through as she helps to assist and support families and students. She is praised for thinking ahead and communicating well to ensure the department's needs are met. Maricela's coworkers continually expressed their deep appreciation for her depth of knowledge and experience. In addition to her excellence in her role at work, Maricela is an active community member and participates in many events to support youth in sports.

October 2023 Employees of the Month

Alejandra Andrade holding balloons and certificate

Alejandra Andrade, Bilingual School Secretary for the Special Education Division at John Gutierrez Middle School, is a superstar employee. She is welcoming and courteous to parents, staff, and community members and serves them with a gracious smile. She is easy-going, friendly, and caring, and has built relationships with many staff, students, parents and professionals. Alejandra's supports her colleagues by eagerly reinforcing the day-in and day-out tasks needed to operate a school office. She also contributes to the school climate and spirit by using her artistic talent to create and decorate their front office, staff lounge, and classroom hallway doors to celebrate seasonal holidays throughout the school year. Alejandra is an exemplary employee who goes above and beyond to ensure everyone has what they need. Alejandra is described as "the beating-heart" of her program. She brings a light and joy to all those that work around her.

Lisa Bernardi holding certificate and balloons

Lisa Bernardi, Teacher for the Monterey County Home Charter School (MCHCS) in the Student Services Division, has shown exemplary performance of her responsibilities that have contributed significantly to the success of MCHCS. She serves as the English Language Development Teacher (ELD) as well as an Independent Study Teacher, teaching six classes per week for ELD students in addition to her own students. Ms. Bernardi's classes are popular because of her ability to connect with and engage the students in active, creative learning. She is the first person to step up when there is a need and has had an open-door policy for all MCHCS students who need an open ear and encouragement. Ms. Bernardi is an advocate for all students and is unapologetically honest when it concerns the good of the student. She is inclusive and welcoming and uses her great sense of humor and team-building skills to make all students feel comfortable. Ms. Bernardi is currently in her 29th year of teaching and has undoubtedly been such a pillar to the MCHCS program. 

Lora Carey holding certificate and balloons

Lora Carey, Math Program Coordinator II in the Educational Services Division, always goes above and beyond to provide support. As a former elementary teacher who spent many years teaching math, Ms. Carey collaborates with math educators to elevate student achievement, increase math access through equity, and deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of math and how it relates to the world around them. Ms. Carey brings excitement to math, helping to incorporate hands-on activities and projects into math lessons so that students develop a positive attitude toward mathematics and understand how it is used in the real world. Ms. Carey is insightful, helpful, problem-solving, supportive, and considers others in unique and outstanding ways. She is a wonderful asset to MCOE.

September 2023 Employees of the Month

Maria Ortega holding balloons and certificate

Maria Ortega, a Special Education Teacher at Boronda Meadows Elementary School, plays a crucial role in the academic and personal development of her students. Her dedication and commitment to each student often leads to their positive advancements.  Special education students can face many challenges and Ms. Ortega helps to make changes that best fit the needs of her students. She always consults with the itinerant providers and staff to ensure her students will have an optimal learning environment. Maria is very dedicated to her students and works endlessly to help them make progress in their classwork. She also commits to the effort it takes to make them happy each and every day. She is an exceptional teacher at MCOE and is recognized by her colleagues for all of her outstanding work with her students. 


Lety Gomez-Gong holding certificate and balloons

Lety Gomez-Gong, Program Manager for Expanded Learning in the Educational Services Division, exemplifies the mission and vision of MCOE. Her work, supporting four counties through the Expanded Learning Program, ensures high-quality before and after-school programs and dynamic summer learning experiences. Over the years, her work has grown from supporting approximately 150 schools to over 500 schools across the region. Lety has excellent communication skills and works to build positive relationships to support the individualized needs of each learning community. She understands the importance of building the capacity for leaders within each one of the Expanded Learning teams. She plans purposeful learning opportunities and emphasizes personal connections through mentoring and ongoing support. Monterey County school district leaders have shared that her support to maximize the enrichment of their summer learning programs and onboard new employees has been invaluable. 

August 2023 Employees of the Month

Arturo Balcazar

Arturo Balcazar, General Services Custodian at the Arthur B. Ingham School (ABI), is recognized for his twenty-five-plus continued years of service. Arturo's commitment, going above and beyond his daily tasks, is proof of his exemplary performance. His responsibility and efforts in keeping the school safe and clean contribute significantly to the success of all students and staff associated with MCOE and its service to the community. Arturo has been a versatile employee at MCOE by showing up consistently at his supervisor's side when emergencies arise or when a special job needs to get done. Arturo models exemplary attendance and is readily accessible to both his school site at ABI and the General Services Department and supports additional sites such as the CAT Center, Toro Park School, and responds on locations as needed. Arturo began his MCOE journey in the Head Start Program by cleaning and maintaining multiple centers daily, and once he had perfected his routine, he was able to become more efficient. He helped revolutionize the way custodians clean Head Start centers today. Arturo diligently practices a sound work ethic, evidenced by his outstanding attendance, great customer service skills, availability for on-demand jobs, and willingness to serve.

Jill Groves

Jill Groves, Credentialed School Nurse for the Special Education Division, serves students at Arthur B. Ingham School (ABI). Jill also travels to assist with MCOE Special Education programs located at San Benancio Middle School, Toro Park Elementary School, Bueno Vista Middle School, and Spreckels Elementary School. Jill assists in providing nursing training to staff throughout Monterey County. Nursing is in Jill's heart. She cares deeply for the students she serves and their families. Jill enjoys conversing regularly with both English and Spanish-speaking parents, and her combination of medical expertise, compassion, and effective communication skills help to make parents feel more at ease about their child's needs. Her devotion to students goes beyond her regular duties. Whenever a student needs her attention, she drops what she's doing and responds to the student's needs. Jill not only cares about their well-being, but also works with the staff and the parents to see what else can be done to best serve the student's health every day moving forward. Jill always keeps her door open to her colleagues. Her attitude is very positive, despite any unexpected circumstances that the day may bring. Jill joined the MCOE family less than a year ago, but she has already proven to be a great addition to the Special Education Division.

July 2023 Employee of the Month

Martin Soria holding balloons and certificate

Martin Soria, Maintenance Custodian for General Services and Business Support, is always ready to help with any task. He is pleasant to work with, wears a daily smile, and truly cares about his coworkers and the work that must be completed daily. Martin played a major role in helping to locate important documents that were over 15 years old and stored in the warehouse before the implementation of scanning and electronic filing. This project came at one of the busiest months in District Advisory Services for the Financial Services Department. Fortunately, Martin went above and beyond to help search for and locate the documents, shortening the search period for everyone involved. Martin is a known problem solver and team player. His colleagues have also said that he is a positive, happy employee with an infectious smile, and when it's time to get the work done, he dives right into it. He comes in early and works on weekends when it's necessary. Martin, thank you for your kindness, friendliness, work ethic, and the quality of human being that you are!

June 2023 Employees of the Month

Cindy Altemeyer holding certificate

Cindy Altemeyer, Senior Director of Human Resources, provides leadership, management, evaluation, coordination, and direction for all MCOE divisions, departments, and programs. One of her greatest accomplishments here at MCOE is the Monterey County Teacher of the Year and Classified School Employee of the Year recognition programs. Cindy has been able to build upon the size and prestige of the annual dinner event that honors the education profession in Monterey County. This year, 60 classified school employees and 13 teacher nominations were submitted. Because of Cindy’s outreach efforts to secure donations, MCOE presented $500 cash awards to the four Teacher of the Year and nine Classified School Employee winners. The overall 2024 Teacher of the Year received an additional $500 cash award. Cindy’s leadership and coordinated efforts also enabled MCOE to highlight these outstanding employees in front of their students, peers, and administrators during a coordinated surprise visit to each awardee's work site. Overall, Cindy is being honored for her hard work and dedicated efforts to the HR profession and to MCOE and the school districts we serve!

Regina Thomas holding certificate

Regina Thomas, Infant Specialist for the Special Education division, represents MCOE's core values. She has remarkable teaching skills and is amazing at interacting with infants and toddlers, and their family members. She sings and talks with the children, reviews the child's achievements with parents, and provides ideas for parents to work on. Regina makes parents feel relaxed, supported, and respected during sessions. Regina has been a 'go-to' person for questions about the Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSP) documentation and requirements. She is organized and friendly and makes it comfortable for her colleagues to approach her with questions. Regina leads the team in scheduling infant home or school visits. She is adept at using technology, calendaring invites for academic/therapy sessions, and sending IFSP forms for parents to sign electronically when appropriate. As case manager, Regina is thorough in her assessments, which helps her colleagues gather pertinent background information for specialized assessments. Regina is also an integral part of organizing quarterly family gatherings for activity sessions, ensuring they have excellent attendance and providing specialists with an opportunity to work jointly with parents and other specialists. We thank Regina for the dedication, knowledge, creativity, and energy that she provided to the MCOE Infant Program.

Ruby Gonzales holding certificate

Ruby Gonzales, Administrative Assistant II for the Early Learning Program, is an outstanding, long-time MCOE employee that goes above and beyond in providing quality work. Over the years, she has proven her dedication through her attendance, professionalism, ability to work independently and on a team, and her overall job performance. Ruby is always at work on time or early and is rarely absent. She is professional with community members, teachers, management, custodians, and outside vendors. Ruby can work independently on her day-to-day tasks but also demonstrates that she is an asset when working as part of a team. Ruby understands the needs of the department, staff, and families that MCOE serves and displays a positive attitude in all that she does. Ruby is an all-around exemplary employee that has served MCOE and the Monterey County community with an amazing attitude and work ethic for over two decades.

May 2023 Employees of the Month

Cindy Dunn holding balloons and certificate

Cindy Dunn, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools, is a vital team member in the Superintendent's Office, providing a wide variety of confidential administrative and office support. She works with a high level of professionalism and is always one step ahead in preparing for board meetings, managing the Superintendent's calendar, and serving as a liaison to all levels of staff. Over the past several months, Cindy has worked on creating a new board member governance handbook, which is something the office has needed for quite some time. Cindy rolled up her sleeves and spent several months putting it together, just in time for our four newly elected board members. Being Dr. Guss' right-hand person is a complex job and Cindy does it with ease and a smile, working as long as it takes to complete the various demands. Cindy often communicates on behalf of Dr. Guss and ends up taking the brunt of the message that is delivered. She should be commended for handling tough messages with poise. Cindy is admired in the office for her high drive and great work ethic.

Nathan Sausedo holding certificate

Nathan Sausedo, Maintenance Custodian for the General Services and Business Support division, is a fantastic employee who is a major asset to the Arthur B. Ingham Center. Nathan fully deserves to receive this award as he continuously demonstrates exemplary job performance. He is passionate about maintaining and operating the school building to ensure a clean, safe, and healthy learning and working environment. Nathan is a very dedicated employee who is known for going the extra mile. Nathan makes a significant impact on the readiness of his school site on a daily basis. He makes sure all the classrooms are well stocked with the essentials that staff need for their everyday tasks. He is very attentive, knowledgeable, and capable when it comes to maintenance methods, tools, and equipment. He routinely checks the grounds and the facilities to make sure everything is in good running condition. Nathan's attention to detail makes classrooms, offices, hallways, and grounds safe, clean, and inviting to our students, teachers, and staff. He is a valuable team member whose role is essential to the success of campus operations.

April 2023 Employees of the Month

Maria Luna holding balloons and certificate

Maria Luna, MCOE Bus Driver for the Transportation Department, is recognized as MCOE's Employee of the Month for her tremendous dedication to her work as a school bus driver while going above and beyond for our students and their families. Maria is always willing to go out of her way to help out and pick up additional students when a driver is delayed by traffic. Maria has a big heart for her students. She is an experienced driver and always helps out new drivers and the bus driver cadet. Maria always has a positive disposition and is a joy to have in the Transportation Department. Maria rarely misses work and when she does she communicates with transportation staff to ensure her students are taken care of. Upon surprising her with her award, she shared with us, "I love coming to work." Thank you, Maria, for being a team player and a dependable employee.

Jared Willimas holding balloons and certificate

Jared Williams, Teacher for the Therapeutic Intervention Program (TIP) for MCOE's Special Education Department, has a nurturing, peaceful, and caring attitude toward his students and their families. When a family has concerns, Jared follows through and checks in with them because he cares. All of his colleagues speak so highly of him due to the consistent effort he puts into his work. He's highly invested in the program and the students light up when they see him. Jared is able to relate to his students in a way that has had a powerful impact in the short time that he's been with us. He came to MCOE with previous TIP experience and has been a model for newer teachers in the program. Upon surprising him with his award, Jared shared, "I'm so appreciative of you all. It's been a wonderful experience working with a really good team." Thank you, Jared, for serving your students so well.

Dr. Matthew Turkie holding balloons and certificate

Dr. Matthew Turkie, District and School Support Liaison for MCOE's Education Services, is a go-getter who, rain or shine, will make anything happen, ultimately for the benefit of educators and students. Dr. Turkie has supported districts with continuous improvement practices to help address areas of needed support. His personality and passion for education are inspiring. He plays an incredible role in connecting with our learning communities and has a unique ability to take each person from where they are and move them to the next place while honoring their expertise and the role they play in overall team success. Upon his surprise, he told us, "I love it here. This is the work which I really like to do... Being able to collaborate within a district team and work with different people...I love all that stuff." Thank you, Dr. Turkie, for your dedication to MCOE.

March 2023 Employees of the Month

Alejandro Magallanes holding balloons and certificte

Alejandro Magallanes, ID&R Liaison II for the Migrant Education Program, works tirelessly every day. Alejandro has dedicated himself to his role as a field-based and community-based recruiter since 2004. Besides his love for and his dedication to his work, surely one key reason why he has managed such outstanding performance is that he rarely misses a day of work. Alejandro approaches his work with the utmost respect, care, empathy, and kindness toward migrant families. His efforts showcase exemplary enthusiasm and professionalism which are recognized and appreciated by his coworkers and parents, who frequently express their gratitude for his courteous and professional manner. Thank you, Alejandro, for continuously going above and beyond for MCOE's Migrant Education Program.

David Amesquita holding balloons and certificate

David Amesquita, Special Education Paraeducator for Boronda Meadows Elementary School, is an asset to the classroom. His knowledge and ability to work with children with disabilities are exceptional. David not only showcases exemplary performance in leadership, team building, and attendance but his selflessness and cheerful attitude have fostered a welcoming and positive environment for his students and coworkers. David's responsibilities contribute significantly to the success of the students that he works with. Thank you, David, for bringing your smile to work with you every day!

February 2023 Employee of the Month

Richelle Drollinger holding flowers, balloons, and certificate

Richelle Drollinger, Special Education Principal for Arthur B. Ingham School, is a Life Skills/Functional Academics Program Principal for A.B. Ingham, Ruth Andresen, and San Benancio Middle Schools. Ms. Drollinger joined MCOE in 2021 and has excelled from day one in her leadership role, creating collaboration and teamwork to ensure a safe, healthy, and engaging learning environment for all of her students. Ms. Drolllinger is hands-on with students and goes above and beyond to involve parents in their child's education. She listens first, acts with care, and reacts with calmness and confidence, and always promotes a positive working environment. Ms. Drollinger provides cheer, brightness, and graciousness in all that she does for her students and staff.

January 2023 Employees of the Month

Donna Smith holding balloons and certificate

Donna Smith, Program Coordinator II for Homeless Services, dedicates her advocacy efforts and commitment to homeless youth. Her work is invaluable and an inspiration to her team and the MCOE as a whole. She is a valuable employee that treats everyone with respect and welcomes them with open arms. She is not only amazing at her job, she is a kind, caring, and compassionate person. 

Cecilia Alonzo holding balloons

Cecilia Alonzo, Bilingual Administrative Assistant for MCOE Early Learning Program, is recognized as Employee of the Month for her professionalism and outstanding service to the young students that she works with. Her dedication to her vital role in the program has not gone unnoticed. Her team is thankful for her help as she works to prepare our youngest students for success.

December 2022 Employee of the Month

Bill Beltran holding certificate and balloons

Billy Beltran, Accountant for the Finance and Business Services Division, is known for having a keen eye for managing accounting transactions. He was honored for his exemplary performance of responsibilities and the outstanding support he provides to other MCOE departments. He comes to work with a great attitude, ready to take on any task at hand. He is a valuable asset to the MCOE family!



Employees of the Month and Their Teams!

Honorable Recognition by The Monterey County Board of Trustees

Upon being recognized as Employee of the Month, honorees are invited to the following county board meeting to be recognized by their teams in front of the Monterey County Board of Trustees. 

Employee of the month and team members at podium in MCOE board room
Employee of the month and team members at podium in MCOE board room
Employee of the month and team members at podium in MCOE board room
Employee of the month and team members at podium in MCOE board room
Employee of the month and team members at podium in MCOE board room