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District honors classified employers

by Merrie Leininger

Michele Burke said she was speechless when it was announced she was the Douglas County School District’s classified employee of the year Thursday.

“I was absolutely astounded. They had a brunch at the district office for all the school’s employees of the year, and at the end they announced the winner, and for once in my life I was speechless,” Burke said. “There are so many people who work behind the scenes to ensure the kids get a good education – it’s nice to be singled out.”

Burke has been the librarian at Pinon Hills Elementary School since PHES opened three years ago.

She has done a lot of work in those three years, building up the library and making it accessible to the community.

She said the school started a family library night last spring in which the library is open to the public during a couple of nights a month.

“We were looking for ways to increase access to the library. We are far away from the main library. I’ve had students from middle school and high school come in to work on research papers and parents who are going to college come in to get information,” she said.

Because the school has only been open for three years, the library is still growing.

Burke said the facility opened up with a little less than 3,200 books and now has 6,300 books, due in part to the parents’ group and the school administration, who, she said, both make the library a big priority.

Burke regularly works with the teachers to combine their classroom work with library skills. She teaches them to use databases that were made available to the kids through University of Nevada, Reno and she teaches other technologies.

“Libraries are becoming more media centers than warehouses for books. Our books are cataloged on the computer, so kids learn right away how to use the computer. Technology is an important tool for access,” Burke said.

Burke said she almost feels guilty about receiving an award for what she calls a “perfect job.”

“I get to work with all the students at the school. I feel almost guilty because I have the perfect job. In kindergarten I get to introduce them to the library and I get to teach the older kids how do research – I get them for all the years they here. It is fun to have them come in and be excited about new books and see them grow in literature,” Burke said.

n Working mom. Burke worked in the district as a kindergarten and playground aide when her children started school. Now that Joshua, Daniel and Meghan are in the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades at Carson Valley Middle School, she has more time to commit to her job as the librarian media technician at PHES.

“I got into this because I was volunteering in the schools. This job enables me to be at home when they get home, so it works well in our family,” she said.

When she started the job, she had a degree in history and a minor in English, so she has been taking UNR’s library master-level classes while working.

“I always loved to read and to get to share it with people, it’s amazing I get paid for this,” she said.

Burke was nominated as the school’s classified employee of the year, and a small committee composed of last year’s employee of the year, personnel administrator Sandy King and a few other employees pick the district winner out of the 11 nominees.

Principal Nancy Bryant of PHES said that Burke deserves the recognition because of her attitude.

“She’s made the library the heart of the school. No request is too much. She’ll get books for students, teachers and parents. She’s always warm and always smiling. She’s very accommodating and helps with reading lessons and integrating library skills with what they’re doing in the classroom,” Bryant said.

The other school classified employees of the year are: Monica Bingham, Carson Valley Middle School; Daria Essary, Gene Scarselli Elementary School; Mario Giannoni, Kingsbury Middle School; Rob Gitthens, Jacks Valley Elementary School; Debbie Haskins, Minden Elementary School; Maria Raker, C.C. Meneley Elementary School; Robbie Thorson, building and site maintenance; Janelle Wilcks, Douglas High School; Larry Wilson, Gardnerville Elementary School; and Rebecca Winter, Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.