Orleans/Niagara BOCES recently named its employees of the year for the 2019-2020 school year.

Employees were nominated by their peers and a committee selected an awardee in each of these categories: Administrator, clerical, continuing education, custodial/maintenance, staff specialist, substitute, teacher aide and teacher.

Michelle Kulbago, Administrator of the Year. Kulbago, a 27-year veteran in the education field, is a special education coordinator/assistant principal who has worked at Niagara Academy for the past five years. Her favorite part of the job is being the lead adviser for its student council, she said. “Our students get a voice in decision making; and the activities that we undertake are super fun, in addition to being opportunities to practice real life skills. Student Council brings a certain kind of joy to the building.”

Susan Ryan, Clerical Person of the Year. Ryan retired in 2020, after 13-1/2 years at Orleans Career and Technical Education Center’s main office. Her favorite part of the job was “being able to help others, be it students, staff, or parents. It’s a diverse and challenging position, but the bottom line always comes back to making a difference by helping others,” she said.

Ann Ditto, Continuing Education Employee of the Year. Ditto was a literacy instructor for three years in Continuing Education and has since moved on to Niagara Academy. There is no one favorite part of her job, she said. “I enjoy everything about my job – my students, my colleagues and my supervisors. ... I transferred from the adult education world to secondary ... and I have found another great group of people and students to work with. This year has truly been one for the books when it comes to being an educator, but observing my colleagues work so hard to learn the technology, learn how to Zoom and Meet and Google, and change their entire format of teaching, is inspirational. I think everyone in the organization deserves 'Employee of the Year' for 2020.”

Alex Empson, Custodian/Maintenance Person of the Year. Empson has been a custodian at BOCES for 12 years. “My favorite part of my job is the people I work with," he said. "Finding out I was employee of the year was a good feeling.”

Lindsay Delaney, Staff Specialist of the Year. Delaney has been BOCES' School Library System coordinator since 2011. Her favorite part of the job is helping people, she said. "With the Library/Media Center, I work to help teachers and it is very rewarding. I also work with amazing educators and staff ... and their dedication is always very impressive to me. I also enjoy all the opportunities I have to attend conferences and trainings to better myself as an educator.”

Jennifer Stacks, Substitute of the Year. Stacks has been subbing since 2014 and last year she worked with teacher Mike Brauer at the North Tonawanda Learning Center for the school year. “My favorite thing is working with all the teachers, students and aides. It was a really good group to work with,” she said.

Lynda O’Keefe, Teacher Aide of the Year. O'Keefe has worked for BOCES for 18 years and is currently assigned to the Royalton-Hartland Learning Center. Her favorite part of the job, she said, is “finding those teachable moments that just pop up when you are working with the students. Taking these moments and encouraging the students to explore new things.”

Jennifer Herko, Teacher of the Year. Herko is a school counselor at the Royalton-Hartland Learning Center and is approaching her 19th year at BOCES. She said her favorite part of the job is “being a part of witnessing students experiencing the joy of learning and helping them to feel valued and important.”

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