These are the 2024 Orange County Classified School Employees of the Year

Title with star Orange County Classified School Employees of the Year

A school bus driver, a head custodian, an office coordinator, a cook and a library media technician are among this year’s Orange County Classified School Employees of the Year.

Classified workers are essential to the operation of schools, districts and county offices of education, covering roles that don’t require a teaching certification. Their ranks include food services staff, IT professionals, classroom aides, administrative assistants, health services personnel, as well as those in the skilled trades. These staff members are quietly working behind the scenes to ensure optimal learning environments for students.

On Monday, the Orange County Department of Education announced that nine local staff members had emerged as the 2024 Orange County Classified School Employees of the Year from a pool of 82 district-level honorees. Recognition was based on applications that reflected each candidate’s work performance, leadership, dedication and involvement with their schools and communities.

“Classified employees truly are the unsung heroes of our education system, providing critical services that are the backbone of our school operations,” said OCDE Deputy Superintendent Ramon Miramontes. “The contributions of this year’s recipients are nothing short of extraordinary. Not only do they ensure that everything runs smoothly and effectively, but they also bring personal care, compassion and positive interactions into their daily tasks, greatly enriching our learning environments. Their authentic commitment to serving our students, schools and communities truly makes a profound difference.”

This year’s honorees, by category, are:

Clerical and Administrative Services
Mary McCulloch
School office coordinator, McAuliffe Middle School
Los Alamitos Unified School District

Custodial and Maintenance Services
Allen Ortiz
Head custodian, Star View Elementary School
Ocean View School District

Food and Nutrition Services
Concepcion “Connie” Flores
Cook/baker, Garden Grove High School
Garden Grove Unified School District

Health and Student Services
Rachell Chasteler
Health office aide, Linda Vista Magnet Elementary School
Saddleback Valley Unified School District

Paraprofessional Services
Taia Thompson
Behavior support assistant, Cambridge Elementary School
Orange Unified School District

Security Services
Robin Dunning
Campus supervisor, Dwyer Middle School
Huntington Beach City School District

Skilled Trade Services
Hung “Hank” Nguyen
Electronics technician, Maintenance and Operations
Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Technical Services
Carol Moore
Library media technician, Pioneer Middle School
Tustin Unified School District

Transportation Services
Julia Canas
School bus driver, Transportation
Ocean View School District

Further recognition

Since being established in 2008 by the California Department of Education, the Classified School Employees of the Year program has annually spotlighted the key contributions of staff who support the education of California’s six million public school students.

In Orange County, OCDE encourages all local school districts to participate by submitting nominations according to the state’s guidelines and timelines.

The nine distinguished Orange County Classified School Employees of the Year above will be formally celebrated during Classified School Employee Week beginning May 20, and the OCDE Newsroom have more on each staff member around that time.

Meanwhile, the county winners will also have the opportunity to vie for further recognition through the state Department of Education — and they could even go national through the federal Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) awards program.