BUCKHANNON – Another exciting ambush of sorts occurred at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School on Friday at noon. Members of the board of education, teachers, students and media convened in the cafeteria to surprise Linda Smith with the announcement that she was chosen as Upshur County Service Personnel of the Year as everyone shouted in unison “Congratulations!”.
Just like BAES’s process for selecting Teacher of the Year, candidates for Service Personnel of the Year are also nominated and voted on by the staff of their school. The nomination forms ask what the person has done for their school and community, as well as why they are a good representation for the honor. Everyone is given about a week to review the nominees in the office before making their selection on a ballot that is placed in a box and counted by the secretary.
“I’m shocked”, said Smith when she learned that she had been selected for this distinguishing award. She added, “I really like that we get to do different, extra things with the kids. I especially like seeing them after summer and how much they’ve grown and to hear their stories about what all they did over the summer.”
Linda Smith has been a cook at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School for the past 12 years. She loves all the children, but especially enjoys having her grandchildren there at her school. Smith goes above and beyond her duties as cook, facilitating special activities for the students, particularly on holidays. Vice-Principal Shannon Lewis stated, “She’s amazing. She’s the kindest person to the kids. The kids love her.”
She and another cook collaborate with the art teacher to organize a pumpkin coloring contest every year. The students draw a design for their pumpkin on paper and Smith carves a pumpkin to match their pattern, bringing it to life and then the winner gets to take it home. Smith also just helped the kids to dye over 350 Easter eggs before going on Spring Break.
Smith is also an integral part of the school’s fresh fruit and vegetable grant. She stays after her cooking shift to order and prepare the samplings for the students. She also volunteers her time at after school parent involvement activities and prepares special treats for the staff. Smith lends her talents to help plan the staff Christmas party as well.
Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus proclaimed to the packed cafeteria, “We hope that she’s the best service personnel in the whole state and we think she is, so we’re really excited to have you, Ms. Linda as a cook and all that you do, and all that all of our cooks do. We are so blessed in this county for all the great employees we have.”
BAES Principal Susanne Britton said she is excited for Smith to move on to the state competition to be considered as the West Virginia Service Personnel of the Year and said, “She’s a good one, so I think we have a good shot at it.”