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Yocum, Primary students and staff recognized

by Caitlan Butler | June 2, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.
Whitney Walthall, a first-grader at Yocum Primary, was one of two Students of the Month for May. (Caitlan Butler/News-Times)

Students, teachers and classified staff members from Yocum Primary and Elementary were recognized last month by the El Dorado School Board.

May had two Students of the Month: Whitney Walthall, a first-grader at Yocum Primary, and Kenzi Pennington, a fourth-grader at Yocum Elementary.

Whitney is a "shining example of the Yocum BEARS Way," her teacher said, referring to Yocum and Primary's behavior standards exemplified by the BEARS acronym, which stands for Be responsible, Empathy, Achievement, Respectfulness and Show Citizenship.

"'She is respectful, kind and responsible. She is always willing to lend a helping hand to her classmates, and shows kindness as well as empathy to those who may be struggling,'" School Board member Wayne Gibson said during the Board's regular meeting last month, reading comments from Whitney's teacher. "'Whitney always takes responsibility seriously and is always excited to participate in class lessons.'"

Kenzi, who Yocum Principal Jessica Moore said wants to be a doctor when she grows up, is known at school for her caring heart and curiosity, Gibson said her teachers wrote.

"Kenzi is a really hard worker inside and outside of the class,'" Gibson read. "'Kenzi advocates for herself regularly when she has questions about her work, but she also ensures all of her peers understand. She has been a positive role model... You are guaranteed to smile when she's around.'"

Both girls were given gifts by their respective principals after they were recognized by the School Board.

Classified Employees of the Month in May were Yocum Primary secretary Megan Thurmon and paraprofessional Linda Donahue from Yocum Elementary.

Thurmon has been working in the district for two years, Gibson said.

"Her nominating coworkers say that 'Ms. Thurmon is the glue that holds us together.' Did you know that? 'Our school would not run without her, as she does a great job of juggling everything thrown her way,'" Gibson read. "'She sets the tone for our building with her welcoming smile when you walk in the door. She wears many hats, making sure our students are taken care of.'"

Thurmon said she was appreciative for the recognition.

"I just love working there. It's just a great environment, and I'm so thankful," she said.

Donahue, "the heart of Yocum Elementary," according to her nominating coworkers, has been working in the ESD for 28 years.

"'She's the person everyone looks up to, and her leadership and guidance are an amazing resource for us,'" her nominating coworkers wrote. "'She encourages our kids in the best way and always makes them feel seen.' ... 'She does her absolute best at all times to meet the needs of not only her students, but everyone else at Yocum as well. She is a joy to work with.'"

Donahue will retire after this school year, she said, and has enjoyed her time in the district.

"I admire and respect all the educators there. They do an amazing job and I couldn't do my job without them," she said.

May's two Teachers of the Month were Yocum Primary first-grade teacher Gayle Norman and Yocum Elementary second-grade teacher Leanne Barnett.

Norman, a teacher of 22 years, returned from retirement to continue her 17-year career in the ESD, Gibson said.

"Her nominating coworkers say, 'Ms. Norman is always the first one at school in the morning and the last one to leave in the afternoon,'" Gibson read. "'Ms. Norman's classroom is calm, inviting and engaging. She truly brings out the best in everyone. I'm very thankful to work alongside her.'"

Norman said teaching is her calling.

"When I stepped out of retirement and entered the classroom, I knew it was a calling," she said. "I know now I was missing it. It's just awesome to be back and I love Primary and I feel right at home there."

Barnett, who has been teaching in the ESD for nine years, "is an exceptional teacher," her coworkers said.

"'She spends more hours at work than at home and is no slacker,'" Gibson read. "'She has two to three foster children at a time in her care . Her classroom is always well-managed and organized. She connects with students and has a relationship with each one.'"

photo Kenzi Pennington, second-grader at Yocum Elementary, was one of two Students of the Month for May. (Caitlan Butler/News-Times)
photo Yocum Primary Secretary Megan Thurmon was a Classified Employee of the Month in May. (Caitlan Butler/News-Times)
photo Linda Donahue, a paraprofessional at Yocum Elementary, hugs Principal Jessica Moore after being recognized as one of May's Classified Employees of the Month. (Caitlan Butler/News-Times)
photo Gayle Norman, a first-grade teacher at Yocum Primary, was one of the El Dorado School District's Teachers of the Month in May. (Caitlan Butler/News-Times)
photo Second-grade teacher Leanne Barnett, from Yocum Elementary, was one of two Teachers of the Month in May. (Caitlan Butler/News-Times)

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