Photos left to right: Leon Hillmon, Elizabeth Williamson, Sarah Becker, Jessica Slusher
Photos left to right: Leon Hillmon, Elizabeth Williamson, Sarah Becker, Jessica Slusher
February 28, 2019
Wakulla County School Board honored February’s Teachers and Employees of the Month at the February 19 School Board Meeting.
Says Superintendent Bobby Pearce, “These four employees are recognized as outstanding by their peers. Their dedication to student success is seen in many different forms, from educating our students to making sure they are nutritionally well-fed and their computers and computer programs are working correctly. It speaks to the Wakulla school system employees working together to help in every aspect of educating our children. ”
Wakulla Middle School named Leon Hillmon as their Teacher of the Month for February. He is in his second year as Associate Dean of Discipline at WMS and in his 10th year as an educator.
Prior to becoming an Associate Dean, Hillmon taught middle school Math for six years: two years at Riversprings Middle School, two years at Madison Middle School, and two years at Wakulla High School before earning the job as a teacher on special assignment at WMS working as an Associate Dean.
Hillmon earned his Associate of Arts degree from Tallahassee Community College, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics Education from Western Governors University in Utah.
Becoming a teacher wasn’t always on Hillmon’s radar. He says, “After working nine years for the Agency of healthcare, I realized I wanted a more challenging and satisfying profession. Numerous individuals informed me that I had a gift of communicating with young people and that I should seek a career as a teacher.”
His experiences as a teacher and coach have helped him with the sometimes daunting job of dealing with student discipline, which involves students, parents, the students’ teachers, administrators, and sometimes the School Resource Officer.
As Associate Dean of Discipline, Hillmon believes his “ability to make connections with students and learn about their ideas, ambitions, and welfare” make a difference when a student comes to him for a disciplinary reason. He adds, “I am in the unique position of being able to mold and influence young people into successful adults by modeling how to interact with others and how to show respect.”
What is rewarding to him are “the simple things, like a smile or a fist bump, especially in the position I’m in. Many educators will agree that having a student who has moved on to the high school, or who has already graduated, come back and say that something you did impacted their life is the most meaningful thing a student can say.”
Hillmon also worked as an assistant basketball coach for two years, and currently is Chair of the WMS Safety Committee and a member of the WMS AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) Site Team.
Confirms WMS Principal Tolar Griffin, “Mr. Hillmon’s biggest strength is his rapport with students. When giving disciplinary consequences, he is always fair and firm. His calm demeanor allows him to maintain a positive relationship with the students, even when the student is being punished. He is a great asset to WMS and embodies the Wildcat spirit.”
Medart Elementary School chose third grade teacher Elizabeth Williamson as the February Teacher of the Month. She is in her 10th year of teaching, with MES as her home for the past four years.
A Kentucky native, Williamson earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Southern Indiana and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Oakland City University in Indiana.
Prior to working at Medart for the past four years, Williamson taught 2nd grade for one year and 6th and 7th grade English Language Arts (ELA) for five years.
About landing in Wakulla County, she says, “My family fell in love with the Forgotten Coast while on vacation. The warm climate, outdoor activities, and relaxed environment were temptations we could not resist. I was lucky enough to be hired to teach 4th grade at Medart Elementary. The Medart family has become a second family to me. They are caring and helpful.”
She adds, “The most enjoyable part of my job is connecting with children. If I can raise a child’s self-esteem, help them overcome a difficulty, or just make them laugh, I feel that I have met my purpose.”
Williamson is not afraid to use whatever methods work to motivate her students like dressing up, singing, and dancing about different parts of standardized tests when she and fellow educators at a prior school got together to inspire their students to do well on the tests. She notes, “Our school performed well, and I think being silly helped break the tension.”
In addition to teaching, Williamson has taken on roles such as the MES Spelling Bee Coordinator, MES Student Council Co-Sponsor, and Teacher Coach to mentor new teachers.
Says MES Principal Stan Ward, “I always enjoy visiting Mrs. Williamson’s classroom. There is a love of learning and an attitude of positivity throughout the room that begins with Mrs. Williamson and ripples outward to her students. She has mastered the art of making lessons fun and educational for all of her students. She represents the Mustangs well, and I am proud that she is a part of the team.”
Sarah Becker was selected as February Employee of the Month from Wakulla County Schools Food Services Department. She is in her sixth year at Medart Elementary School.
Originally from Michigan, Becker’s family moved to Wakulla County where she attended Wakulla Middle School and Wakulla High School.
Becker says she enjoys the MES lunchroom work environment and has a good rapport with her co-workers. She adds, “I also enjoy working with the Pre-Kindergarten kids” who were relocated to the Medart campus when the Sopchoppy Pre-K program moved. Some of these students are in programs that follow specific federal food requirements.
Going beyond what is asked of her, Becker states, “I voluntarily checked food labels for allergens even when I wasn’t the main dish cook.”
Says MES Food Services Manager Susan Trice, “Sarah is a blessing to have on our staff. She has made the transition from Wakulla Food Services to the corporate Sodexo Quality of Life Services much smoother for our kitchen. She is always on top of everything with our students with food allergies, making sure they get safe meals.”
Continues Trice, “She is always ready to help her co-workers if needed, and is wonderful with both students and adults alike. We could not do the good job we do without her.”
Jessica Slusher was chosen as February Employee of the Month from the Information Technology/Management Information Systems (IT/MIS) Department. She is a Distributed System Technician for Wakulla Middle School, Medart Elementary School, and Wakulla Institute, although she willingly works anywhere she is needed if there is a problem she can help solve.
Slusher attended Wakulla schools from 2nd grade at Shadeville Elementary, to Wakulla Middle and Riversprings Middle, to graduation from Wakulla High School. She then earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.
She has been involved with a pilot project of “Tablets on the Bus” from its beginning in 2016. Slusher explains, “When I first started with the Wakulla County School Board, the Bus Garage and District Office decided to test putting technology on a bus by giving the students tablets to and from school. My task was to set up and maintain the 60 Samsung Galaxy tablets. Morning and afternoon, the tablets are on the bus and during the day they are used in the Medart classrooms.”
“Maintaining the 60 tablets has been challenging and we have had to make some adjustments with different programs to allow for an optimal learning experience. I think the students really enjoy the tablets,” she adds.
Slusher’s supervisor Tim Stephens, Director of Information Technology for the entire school system, says, “I have known Jessica since 2011 when we were both employed at FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement). Knowing her skill set, I recommended her for a job as a Desktop Support Technician with the Municipal Code Corporation in 2014. When I had an IT opening in 2016, I immediately thought of her and recommended that she apply. Not wanting to be partial, I excused myself from the interviews. However, she still stood out as the top applicant to the interview panel.”
Stephens adds, “Jessica has the drive and desire to excel at everything she does. She puts in the time and does everything she can to get the job done, but she also is not afraid to ask for help when she needs it. Jessica is a true professional and I hear nothing but positive things from the teachers, staff, and administrators that she helps. She is someone that I can always count on and trust.”