First Quarter Shining Stars

First Quarter Shining Stars
Posted on 11/08/2021
First Quarter Shining Stars Graphic

These teachers and staff shine bright as our first quarter Shining Stars! Read what their nominators had to say about our winners below.

Paula Swords
Paula Swords, 6th Grade Teacher, Skaith Elementary School
Paula is one of the most sincerely helpful people I have ever known.  She comes to work early and she also stays late. She volunteers to pilot curriculum materials, write curriculum for Virtual Academy, serve on district committees, and to help with building level committees also.  She tutors a former student who now attends Truman because he needs additional help with his work. If a teacher needs support with a student, Paula volunteers to help. If someone has a flat tire, Paula is the first person down on the ground figuring out the mechanics of getting the tire changed.  Paula asks for zero recognition in return for her kind deeds, as this kindness is the fabric of her character. I've worked with Paula for many years and I truly admire her dedication to the students and staff here at Skaith.  

Amy Kretzer
Amy Kretzer, PowerSchool Technician, TMC
Amy Kretzer has gone above and beyond to support me. We have spent approximately 6-8 hours together over the last couple of weeks. She sets aside her own work to sit beside me, teach me, and encourage me as a new leader. She is incredibly kind and patient. She is a behind the scenes worker but valued so much by others. Others have listened to her walk me step by step through creating sections and changing student schedules. I believe she deserves some recognition! I wanted you all to know how AMAZING Amy has been to me! 

Jenny Wray
Jennifer Wray, SPED Para, Pershing Elementary School
Our librarian was out for a month due to an accident. Jenny not only continued her regular job with her students, she also gave up her own time to make sure the library was running as usual. She checked in books on a daily basis, she learned the system to do check in and out. She trained the subs every day so they could also run the system. She gave the subs her cell number so she could help if a problem arose. She made herself available the entire time. She is a great asset to our building all the time and helps out in every way. She has been known to help put desks together, hang posters in classrooms, and build anything that needs built! Ms. Wray is very caring and works with her students to ensure their success rather being pushed into their classroom or pulled out into our special education room. She celebrates their successes and supports them with they face a struggle or challenge. Her dependability is remarkable!

Tabitha Blevins
Tabitha Blevins, Principal, Edison Elementary School
I have worked in a school with five administrators the last five years and I am overwhelmed and grateful for the support Tabitha has given me. She has taken the time in her busy schedule to come help in the classroom with not only supporting the new program, but helping cover class when we are short staffed. She comes to say hello to our students and includes them in the school community. She also takes the time to listen to concerns and helps problem solve where she can. She is very approachable as a principal and makes you feel like part of the team and you can stop by her office anytime. I am very thankful to have her as a principal and to receive this kind of support from her is more than I could ask for. 

Becky Whitmer
Becky Whitmer, Counselor, Hillyard Technical Center
Mrs. Becky Whitmer is our school counselor at Hillyard Technical Center. When I hear the term "Shining Star" I cannot help but to think of Mrs. Whitmer and all she does for us at HTC, whether a student or teacher. She goes above and beyond in her position and it is apparent this is more than a job for Mrs. Whitmer,'s a calling. And she answers that call with numerous hours of work for teachers, staff, and students. Her duties require more than being a counselor as she organizes applications to HTC programs filling our classes with students acclimated to the trade, works with each teacher on class structure and special needs, is always willing to lend a hand or speak to the class about issues of the day, communicates with students on scholarship or job opportunities, makes herself available for students inside and outside the classroom, and is always an encourager in our daily duties. Her smile is infectious and her positive attitude lights up a room. When you mention the requirements of a Shining Star nominee being one who inspires trust and accountability, Mrs. Whitmer is exactly that for HTC. It doesn't matter what kind of day we had, or the frustrations we face, Mrs. Whitmer will always put a positive spin on those issues to cause us to look at things in a more positive manner. She is all about the students having what they need to succeed and all about the teachers having the resources and accountability to perform and meet those needs. When it comes to appreciations, Mrs. Whitmer is always on the front line to offer encouragement, whether it be through words, a note, or a Sonic drink. She is a true servant and asset of SJSD. 

Mark Weis
Mark Weis, Principal, Robidoux Middle School
Mr. Weis has gone above and beyond his role of principal this quarter in support of his teachers and students. From pulling our big 5 data, the PBIS team identified a group who was struggling to make good choices and therefore was missing instruction. Mr. Weis volunteered to spend intervention time with these students to reteach expectations and build relationships. He has fostered school attachment by letting these students help set up and run the school snack cart. Mr. Weis also covered for a teacher when she got a migraine and wasn't able to make it to RMS. He jumped right in, on a Friday no less, and taught alongside his staff. Mr. Weis shows outstanding character through his everyday interactions and is truly a great leader.

Caleb Garber
Caleb Garber, Building Computer Technician
Caleb is a new tech this year. He has gone above and beyond to make sure that our technology is fixed in a timely manner. He is kind, responsive, a problem solver and the staff already are on a first name basis with him. Every staff member sings his praises. Caleb works extremely hard and is constantly busy, but always makes time for staff if they stop him in the hallway. He even came to assist staff during summer school classes helping with drones and other technologies that were new to our staff members. Caleb checks in and out of the office to make sure that all issues have been resolved within the building. It has been a long time since we have had such a knowledgeable tech at Ellison. We all appreciate Caleb so much! 

Debbie G. Fujinami
Debbie G. Fujinami, Social Worker, Edison Elementary School
The benefit of working in the St. Joseph School District is our sense of community and nobody personifies this as much as Debbie. Debbie shows up to school everyday willing to help students at Edison in any way possible. Everyday she can be found greeting students to gauge their emotional state and making mental notes of who to interact with that day. Debbie can often be found working one-on-one with students, meeting with small groups, or communicating with families or outside agencies to help those in need. Debbie doesn't ask, "What are my responsibilities?" but rather she wants to know what else she can do to help. She is a team player and will work tirelessly to do what's best to meet the needs of students. She is truly one of a kind. Debbie makes the jobs of other staff members easier. It is evident to those around her that she is willing to go above and beyond to help students be successful at Edison.

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