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2019 Support Employee of the Year logo.

Superintendent Deborah A. Gist surprised five staff members at their schools and worksites to congratulate each for being named a finalist for the Tulsa Public Schools 2019 Support Employee of the Year.

"These team members exemplify excellence, going above and beyond in service of the teachers, children, and families in Tulsa," said Gist. "We have many dedicated staff members working 'behind the scenes' to make awesome happen every day, and these five finalists are some of the very best!"

The five finalists are:

  • Donna Garner, paraprofessional at Mark Twain Elementary School;
  • Paola Belcher Gutierrez, parent involvement facilitator at Dolores Huerta Elementary School;
  • Darryl Mayfield, buildings, grounds, and site supervisor at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School;
  • Lori Ann Sample, paraprofessional at Carnegie Elementary School; and
  • Donna Wiley, principal's secretary at Carver Middle School.

The five finalists were selected by a committee including 2018 Support Employee of the Year Anna Stone. The district's 2019 Support Employee of the Year will be announced in spring 2019.

You can learn more about the five finalists below.

Donna Garner is a paraprofessional at Mark Twain Elementary School and has been with the district for 25 years. Since the day she arrived, the staff and students have been amazed at her abilities and commitment. Donna finds ways to incorporate learning into every experience, such as sharing her love for the presidents of the United States with first-graders during breakfast time. Her support for her students continues even after they leave her care: she recently helped a former student enroll in college and apply for financial aid after he graduated high school.

Paola Belcher Gutierrez is the parent involvement facilitator at Dolores Huerta Elementary School and has been at the school since 2015. Paola helps the Huerta community stay informed with visual displays, fliers, messages, events, and individual parent contact. She builds lasting relationships by regularly having lunch with families and students and works to improve her engagement efforts by attending as many professional development opportunities as she can. Because Paola is bilingual, she is also able to meet the needs of the 194 Spanish-speaking families who are part of the school.

Darryl Mayfield serves as buildings, grounds, and site supervisor at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School and has been with the district since 2001. Darryl works extra hours to make sure the school building is clean, safe, and ready for learning every day – even if his team is short-staffed. As part of the Kendall-Whittier family, he greets and assists the many community members who provide more than 4,000 volunteer hours each year at the school.

Lori Ann Sample is a paraprofessional at Carnegie Elementary School and has been with the district since 2008. Lori works tirelessly to assess and understand student needs and find ways to support each child’s learning process and treats every day as a new opportunity for professional learning and growth. She builds relationships with her students by learning about their interests, passions, and hobbies – and even reads their favorite books and watches their favorite movies!

Donna Wiley is the principal’s secretary at Carver Middle School and has been with the district for 11 years. She has served in a number of roles, including Before and After Care site assistant, teacher’s assistant, paraprofessional, and school clerk. She always looks for creative ways to meet the needs of teachers and staff, minimize disruptions to instruction, and find solutions for classroom coverage when teachers are out. She is friendly and kind to everyone who walks in the building and creates a welcoming atmosphere in main office and a positive first impression of the school.