2020 Employees of The Year Announced

Teacher+of+the+year+Deborah+Strube+poses+with+principal+Jessica+Haddox+

Courtesy of Jessica Haddox

Teacher of the year Deborah Strube poses with principal Jessica Haddox

AnaBelle Elliott, Staff Writer

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Each year several employees get recognized for their hard work and dedication to the school. The 2020 Employees of the Year were announced at the annual second semester back to school meeting in January. Renee Miller was awarded Assistant Principal of the Year, Lisa Zierlein was awarded Clerical/Paraprofessional of the Year, Paula Georgiana was awarded Counselor of the Year, Gretza Barriga was awarded Educational Assistant of the Year, Valerie Luedeker was awarded Substitute of the Year, Gina Hawkins was awarded Professional Support of the Year, and Debbie Strube was awarded Teacher of the Year.

Teacher of the Year – Deborah Strube

With her own paintings hanging around her English classroom, Strube uses her own creativity and curiosity to encourage her students to be curious. She has been using this technique throughout all 39 years of her teaching career thus far.

“On a normal day I get up at 4:30 and I try to get to school by  6:30 and I come and just kind of mellow out a little bit,” Strube said. “I plan exactly how I’m going to teach, what video I’m going to use, or how I’m going to introduce the lesson so I’m constantly looking at YouTube to find things and other websites so I can get my kids excited about what were fixing to learn.”

Strube teaches English Language Learning students and thinks it is important to allow the students to help each other learn.

“My goal when I come to work is to try and reach every single student in my room, to try to get them engaged in what we’re doing and interested and excited about what we’re doing and not only to learn individually but to help each other as well,” she said.

Strube says that immersing students in English, she has found to be very effective.

“We want our students to be immersed in English and I’ve found it really works,” Strube said. “I allow them to help each other.  We are a community. Every one of our classes is a huge community where we help each other learn.”

After teaching for seven years, Strube left the classroom to go work in a limestone quarry as the training director. After learning to operate heavy equipment and learning all about the mining industry, she returned to being a teacher.

“Then I went back to teaching, I just couldn’t leave it,” Strube said. “I taught again and then in 2012 I retired. Mr. Whitehead was my principal at Strack Intermediate and then he called me a year and a half later and said ‘I’d like for you to come to Klein and teach small classes who need some extra help passing the STAAR.’ and I agreed and have been thrilled ever since.”

 Strube has taught second grade all the way through 12th grade. She taught at Strack Intermediate for 12 years in middle school then at Klein for seven years. 

“As a teacher what motivates me is the joy of seeing my students learn and be excited about what they’re learning ,” Strube said. “My creativity is a big important part of what I do and that motivates me to come to school and try to find unique ways.”

An example of Stube’s creativity is earlier this year she had a pipe cleaner challenge where she passed out supplies and allowed the students to collaborate and create. Then she connected it to the lesson about titles and parts of speech.

“Whatever I do, I try to make it something that will extend into many other lessons. Teachers are, I believe, an underrated profession. And I think it is so important for us to make our children, make our students, aware of how important they are and what they can offer the world. They have to discover who they are first and what they have to offer and this is really our Klein 5. This is how we teach how to be good people, how to be responsible people, how to make a difference in the world and I think that teaching is a key role in doing that.” 

Professional Support of the Year – Gina Hawkins

Hawkins is a traveler, someone who is very close with her family, and she also is the Department Chair of Special Education. She holds the responsibilities of being the students with special needs’ counselor, scheduling classes, meeting with students individually on a daily basis, doing credit checks for juniors and seniors, doing course selections and also being  intuitively available to be an emotional support to students. As the Department Chair, she also deals with the staff and any issues that arise within the various programs. 

“Anything special ed, I’m in the mix of it all,” Hawkins said.  “[My personal goal everyday is] making sure my kids are taken care of and safe, that the staff is happy and doing what they need to do, and that we all just get along.”

Kimberly Lassinger, who also works in the Special Ed program, shared that Hawkins has a love for her students like no one she has ever seen.

“She truly cares about them being successful and helping them graduate high school. She also cares about their emotional needs,” Lassinger said.

Hawkins has a unique role in the program because she has a deep understanding of how each different aspect works to make the program work all together. This means that she is very important to the program because her knowledge and expertise is very versatile.

“In the general education system, you have a counselor and an AP etc…, and I kind of service all of that,” Hawkins said.

Lassinger said that Hawkins brings a lot of laughter to the team.

“She brings a lot of comic relief to the team. And always has something funny to say. She also knows when to be serious, but she knows when to encourage or just make us laugh.” 

Hawkins said that what motivates her most are the kids.

“Making sure that they are taken care of, that they are learning and that they are happy- It’s important for kids to come to school and enjoy being here,” Hawkins said. “That’s what motivates me is making sure that everybody is in the right place.”

Hawkins lived in Jamaica on-and-off for several years and said that she feels that her traveling experiences have impacted her professional career.

“The different cultures and the different things that I’ve learned about people- you learn that people are different and you embrace those differences and that’s exactly what my career is about- people with differences,” Hawkins said. “It helps you embrace everybody as they are.”

Assistant Principal of the Year – Renee Miller

Miller has been an Assistant Principal for four years at Klein and six including her time serving as an administrator in Aldine ISD. 

Miller starts off the day with observing classrooms, processing discipline referrals, greeting students and staff, and checking emails and messages. Then she checks off students with attendance, attends multiple meetings a day, lunch duty, monitors halls, checks passes, and steps out in between classes. 

“School is not necessarily a job for me,” Miller said. “School is fun. We have a great culture here. We’re like a family. My team is awesome. We’re all pretty close.”

Miller is also over special education.

“I have a small staff underneath me that I get to work with on a daily basis,” Miller said.

Miller challenges herself to increase the number of kids that she knows and that know her everyday.

“My personal goal everyday is to build relationships with the kids,” Miller said. “That’s why we’re here and why we do what we do. And the same goes for staff too, we exist to educate kids, partnering with staff about what’s going on in the classroom. It’s about service to kids and staff.”

Miller said that student relationships and student behavior is what she is really passionate about. She is also motivated by service.

I’m internally motivated just to do the best I can on whatever I’m working on,” Miller said. “I’m a little bit of a perfectionist sometimes.” 

Before serving at Klein, Miller worked at Magnolia High for eight years, then Silsbee ISD for two years, and then Magnolia. She  taught journalism, newspaper, yearbook and photo journalism along with other jobs outside the classroom before moving to administration.

“My role is important because leadership is important; I’m a partner with teachers,” Miller said. “A lot of people think administrators just give out discipline but that’s not all we do. I personally talk to more kids about problems and ideas on a daily basis than handing out consequences. I get to celebrate kids and I get to help kids go through what they’re going through because everyone here,adults and kids, everyone is going through something.”

Miller said that she puts her identity in two things, one is being a Christian.

“No one is perfect at that but a relationship with Jesus is something I’ve always had, as a kid and teenager and that has guided me and my decision making; that’s been my strength in a lot of things I’ve overcome,” Miller said. 

The other thing that Miller said she puts her identity in is being a mother.

“Having kids has been one of my driving forces as well,” MIller said. “Most people, if you ask them what drives me, they’ll say being a mom. That’s what I was born to do- hands down, anyone that knows me knows my kids are everything to me.”

Assistant Principal Rene Malveaux is a friend of Miller as well as a coworker.

“Mrs Miller has a heart for kids,” Malveaux said. “She is in the right profession. She is always thinking about improving things at school for kids and she’s always thinking about her students and how she can help them.”

Having kids around the age of high school students has helped Miller understand her students better.

“I learned a lot about being a mom, about what kids go through,” Miller said. “Having kids so close to high school age helps me understand what high school kids these days experience.” 

Miller impacts the work environment as well as the people sharing the environment in a positive way.

“She makes me happy at work,” Malveaux said. “We have a great friendship; she’s a great person administrator, friend, and mother.”

Counselor of the Year – Paula Georgiana 

Being a counselor for 27 years, Georgiana is well-aware that everyday in a counselor’s office requires different and new ways of solving problems and dealing with situations. 

“There’s really not a normal day for counselors because everyday is a new day,” Georgiana said.  “You never know what’s gonna walk through the door and what you’re going to be dealing with that day.”

A counselor may have their day all planned out and a situation may occur that alters the whole plan.

“I think that’s what most of us like about this job: it’s different everyday,” Georgiana said.

At Christmas time Georgiana organized the notorious decorating of the counselor’s office. She also frequently plans lunch-ins and other events meant to add fun and community to work.

“She makes our work environment a fun place to be,” fellow Counselor Sue Weatherton said. “She’s very much a caretaker of the rest of the counseling department and somehow in the middle of all that she manages to be a model of efficiency.”

Weatherton’s office is next to Georgiana and she says that she can learn a lot from her.

“I love being close to her because I love overhearing the way she talks to students and interacts with kids,” Weatherton said. “She’s always very direct- ‘what you see is what you get,’ she is uncompromising in her values and she stands by them,  but in doing all that, she is very kind and respectful she’s a team player.”

As a counselor, Georginana takes part in groupings such as advanced academics, AP, Dual Credit, the College and Career Center, and courses involving students with special needs.

“The first and most important thing is academic and social/emotional well-being for students,” Georgiana said.

Several of the counselors describe Georgiana as their go-to person when in need of a second opinion or help with a task.

“When you need something done right, you need it done thoroughly you need it done thoughtfully, she’s the first resource,” Weatherton said. “She’s always very consistent.”

Georgiana has taken on different classes this year involving dual credit classes and she says that the kids are what motivate her. 

“This is a great atmosphere, a great place to work,” Georgiana said. “I have a tremendous team that I’m on. They’re all super stars themselves, working with them, just being around professional people and our kids. Our kids are great.”

Substitute of the Year – Valerie Luedeker

Luedeker recently substituted for several counselors taking on all of their responsibilities. 

“What stands out about her is her willingness to help with whatever is needed,” Counselor Melissa Parish said.

Lukeder substituted for Parish at the beginning of the school year while she was out for maternity leave. She started out the school year for Parish and then substituted for another counselor after she got back.

“She stepped in and did a fabulous job,” Parish said. “She always had a smile on her face. She’s just a real pleasure to work with.”

Some of her responsibilities included opening the school year, enrolling new students, and cleaning up schedules. 

“Anything she can do to step in and help she does it and she’s happy and has a great attitude. She brings a lot to the team,” Parish said.

Ludeker was previously a counselor and then she retired, however, recently she came back to step-in for several counselors as a substitute.

“Opening school is a huge responsibility and it’s very stressful but she did it with grace and with class,” Parish said. “She also has perseverance. She thought she was going to come in and take over for me on maternity leave with an end date, but then she came back and worked for another counselor and just helped us all get through the first semester. She represents integrity and perseverance.”

Educational Assistant of the Year – Gretza Barriga 

Barriga, who works in the Making Connections program, is someone who cares about the world as well as the students who live in it. Barriga is constantly making efforts to protect the environment and to help the world, such as donating money to animal societies and becoming a PETA member. 

“We have just one world and we’re destroying it like crazy, and that really hurts,” Barriga said. “So in my outside job I’m always signing petitions and writing letters to governments and it’s a challenge for me. I’m always doing a bunch of translations with sending all those letters because it’s not all the same language but we’re fighting and this is what we do.”

Making Connections is a program that prepares students with autism for success after high school, she said.

“My role in Making Connections is to prepare our kids to survive in the real world,” Barriga said. “For example we teach them that when they make mistakes or do something wrong, there are consequences because in the real world there are consequences. Our goal is to prepare them to go out into the world and be successful.”

Part of Barriga’s job is getting to school early in the morning and making sure all the students get inside their classes.

We have a pretty large group in the morning,” Barriga said. “If they need emotional support, we’re there. Most of the time we divide the building and we are checking things and working like crazy.”

Barriga’s focus is not only on her students but on her coworkers too. She is also a support to the teacher, Cat. Burchum.

“I try to keep my kids in control and emotionally stable so they can perform their obligation to the classroom,” Barriga said.

Barriga said that being positive is what motivates her.

“I think we live in a very negative world, we all have problems, everybody does but when I come to work, I try to leave all my problems outside. It motivates me to have a great day.”

Making somebody else’s day also motivates Barriga. 

“You can have a bad day, but a hug or maybe saying ‘hi’, that can change it around. We can have a better environment,” she said.

Barriga finds ways to add fun to her daily routine by having friendly competitions with her coworker, Johanna Huaccho.

“I look forward to doing my job everyday, checking in my kids, and doing my steps,” Barriga said. “I lost 50 pounds. We’re always challenging each other with our steps and then we eat croissants together. And at the end of the day just knowing we had a good day, we survived that really lightens me that really fills me up.”                 

Barriga has been working at Klein for 20 years and has had experience at various schools since then. 

“But I came back to this one [Klein] because this one, co-workers are legit,” Barriga said. “I’ve never found coworkers like this before. The principals, everybody knows your name, everyone calls you by your name. For me, that’s important. Everyone is nice. And whoever is not nice, you give them a hug. I like the environment here and if I look back, I can say I really enjoyed working here.” 

Clerical/Paraprofessional of the Year – Lisa Zierlein

On a normal day, as a clerical/paraprofessional, Zierlein first checks in with her administrators to see if there’s anything urgent to take care of. She also focuses on any projects that she has a hand in, such as homecoming. She also works on discipline such as tardies, skipping class, and calling kids in to follow up on discipline.

My goal when I come to work is to have a positive attitude, to always try to connect with my kids, and know what’s going on,” Zierlein said. “Everyday is different so I try to be aware of what my kids, either alpha or my student aides, what’s going on, what’s the temperature of the room, if I see that a kid is off- I’m gonna let one of my AP’s know, even if it isn’t one of my kids. 

What motivates Zierlein is seeing the students grow, she said. 

“As a freshman level kid I know what to expect but by the time your seniors I totally love to see your growth and see the different stages of your life,” Zierlein said.

Zierlein has been a paraprofessional at Klein for three years, but has done this job for a total of 19 years.

“ I think that high school is very important because it’s right before y’all are young adults,” Zierlein said. “I like seeing the end results and sometimes there’s a big difference, sometimes it’s not a big difference but after like four years later or five or six when y’all come back, and say ‘I graduated and now am this or that,’ I feel like ‘I was a part of that.’”

Zierlein’s favorite part of working at a high school is seeing all the different activities going on.

“ I like working with the kids and I like the different activities going on,” Zierlein said. “The beginning is football and homecoming and prom will be coming up, and before that is Spring Break, and I love all the spirit weeks and everything you guys are doing.”

 Zierlein says her role is important because she helps keep her assigned administrators as organized as possible.

“They’re already very organized, but if I can help them in any way, just to make things a little smoother, anything I can do to either communicate or organize or anything, that’s what I want to do to help them,” Zierlein said.

 Zierlein is a parent and a grandparent and she thinks that that helps her with her job.

“I want to connect with kids and I’m relatable with kids because I have children who are older and I have grandchildren who are younger. I’ve been through it myself so I think connecting and relating to kids is important. To me, my first role is being a parent- that’s who I am. I love being a mom and kids will tell me ‘you’re my school mom’  I’m a parent and I love kids. Something that I work hard at is teaching kids to communicate with adults. That’s the biggest thing.”