School district honors top employees, retirees

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By Tris DeRoma



The Los Alamos Public Schools said “goodbye” to 20 long-time employees, as well as “hello to its employees of the year” Thursday during its annual retirement ceremony at Fuller Lodge

Leading the ceremonies were Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt and Assistant Superintendent Gerry Washburn.

 Also on hand were members of the Los Alamos School Board, which included President Judy-Bjarke-McKenzie and board member Jim Hall. 

Schmidt kicked things off, thanking the group for their service.

“Even as we honor the teachers it’s really about the children, so we want to acknowledge all their family and friends that are here,” he said.

The first order of business was selecting the district’s Teacher of the Year. Candidates included, Britney Newman, a second grade teacher at Aspen Elementary; Lynne Higdon, a physical education teacher at Barranca and Aspen Elementary schools; Laura Gallimore, an elementary school teacher who served 28 years in the district at Piñon and Aspen Elementary schools; Robyn Collom, a special education teacher at Los Alamos High School; Jennifer Holmes, a language arts teacher at Los Alamos Middle School, Barbara Whitaker, a Kindergarten teacher at Mountain Elementary for 27 years and Jennifer Guy, a kindergarten teacher at Piñon Elementary. 

The winner would receive a $500 check from the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, presented by the foundation’s executive director, Joanna Gillespie. 

Before the suspenseful moment came, however, Gillespie said a few words.

“Today, I’m actually quite relieved that I’m not on the selection committee that nominated this esteemed group of educators, because it would have been very difficult for me to make this decision,” she said.

The winner was Lynne Higdon, who has spent nine years of her career teaching physical education in the Los Alamos public school system. 

Next up were the nominations for the district’s staff person of the year. 

They included Accountant Teresa Gatewood, Instructional Assistant Teresa DuBois, Instructional Assistant Julie Collins, Instructional Assistant Margaret Larkin, Building Trades Assistant and Instructional Assistant James Steritz, Library Clerk Ellen Nunez, Tech Specialist Linda Hand, Instructional Assistant Lee Ann Alison and Head Custodian Patsy Sanchez.

“It really does take our whole school community to see our students through successfully,” said Gillespie before the nominee was named. “I don’t mean to get choked up, but the person who showed my child at school a little common courtesy didn’t happen to be their teacher that day, not that our teachers aren’t kind.”

This year, Gatewood and Steritz shared the award, each getting a $500 check. 

After that part was completed, Washburn got on to the part everyone was waiting for, the part of the ceremony that congratulated all of the retiring employees for their hard work and dedication. 

Staff members included Timothy Acomb, maintenance technician, 24 years; Diane Brent, Secretary Registrar, Los Alamos High School, five years; June Gladney, purchasing manager, secretary, administrative secretary, computer lab assist and instructional assistant, 25 years; Cathy McAnally, secretary, Los Alamos Middle School, Central office, 16 years; George McDermott, bus driver, seven years; Mary Frances Romero, technology specialist, 24 years; Lyle Schofield, bus driver, 17 years; Roland Valdez, custodian, 16 years and Kathleen Walsh, clerk, instructional assistant, 16 years.

Teachers included Peggy Baker, special education, 11 years; Lorene Beckstead, Language Arts, Gate and Case manager, 19 years; Janice Carroll, preschool, speech language pathologist, Special Education, 25 years; Leroy Goodwin, Science and Math, 20 years; Jennifer Holmes, Language Arts, seven years; Gary Houfek, Social Studies, 25 years; Judith Magelssen, first grade, six years; John Rives, Special Education, 23 years; Tammy Seidel, Business Education, DECA, 30 years; Clara Vigil, Math, GATE, Social Studies, instructional assistant, 23 years and Sandy Warnock, principal, assistant principal and special education, 30 years.

After the awards were handed out, Washburn said a few words on their behalf.

“These are our retirees. We will hire people to take their places, but we will not replace them, Washburn said. 

“We will not replace their knowledge, their expertise, will can only hope to replace their love for children and all that they’ve done for this district.”