From the Fulton County School System
Riverwood International Charter School's Olivia Gonzalez has been named the 2014 School Professional of the Year by the Fulton County School System.
The system also named Larry Keen of its Transportation Services as its 2014 Support Professional Of The Year.
Each spring, each Fulton County school and administrative building is invited to select an employee – excluding teachers – that has made a positive impact on students and contributed to the school or department’s overall success.
From these, one finalist is announced from each of Fulton’s geographic Learning Communities – Northeast, Northwest, Central and South – as well as from the district’s central support centers. Overall, the school system selects one School Professional of the Year along with one Support Professional of the Year.
“Today we spotlight those who often seem to be behind-the-scenes, but in reality, they play such an important role in our work,” said Superintendent Robert Avossa. “Our teachers and school leaders can’t do their jobs without the invaluable assistance of our support employees.”
Gonzalez and Keen will be recognized at the district’s Legacy of Excellence awards gala on Nov. 7 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Gonzalez, a bilingual parent liaison, is described by others as a “vital lifeline” to Riverwood. She is a trusted connection between the school and non-English speaking parents.
“Without the service she provides, many Riverwood parents would not have the information they need to be successful,” said her principal, Dr. Robert Shaw. “She makes sure that teachers and administrators do not forget about a vital group of parents and students that may not advocate for themselves.”
Over the five years she has worked at Riverwood, Gonzalez has been an integral part of the school’s internal and external engagement efforts.
Gonzalez has been a long-term member of the school’s governance council and PTA, and also has organized the school’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes for parents.
Each year she recruits Spanish-speaking college representatives to meet with parents and explain, in their language, the college application process and the importance of higher education for students. She also provides written and verbal translation to parents and has organized transportation to school events, such as graduation, for families without a car.
Reflecting on the Professional of the Year recognition, Gonzalez acknowledges that it is aschoolwide effort.
“This honor belongs to all of us. We work as a team and without the collaboration of all, I could not do my job,” she added. “I hope to excellently represent my school and the other bilingual liaisons who go above and beyond their call of duty; to help those students who struggle in school and help them achieve a better life and hope for a better future.”
As a school bus driver, Keen knows to expect the unexpected. From rush hour traffic, to spirited and energetic students, to unusual travel or weather conditions, Keen always keeps his cool and shows kindness and respect to all who ride his bus.
A driver for the past six years, Keen safely transports hundreds of students to and from school every day, cheerfully delivering students to High Point Elementary School, Ridgeview Charter School and Riverwood International Charter School.
“Since I have known Mr. Keen, he has always been a dependable and efficient employee," said Jackquline Gamble, South Transportation coordinator. "His warm, cheerful attitude toward students and staff has always been phenomenal. I truly admire the way he manages difficult situations that may occur with remarkable patience and confidence. He goes above and beyond to help fellow bus drivers and continues to look for ways to increase the overall professionalism of the Transportation Department.”
Fellow bus drivers also hold him in high regard.
“Larry has been a great co-worker for several years and has demonstrated the many qualities needed to be successful in this field," said colleague Tammie Echols. He is a genuine person with goals. Watching him interact with students is a great aspect to see as it refers to his ability to be more than just a driver but a mentor, a friend, a listening ear and just an individual who all can trust.”