May 25, 2023 by HCDE Communications
Harris County Department of Education honored outstanding employees at a Celebration of Excellence banquet on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at the Irvington Conference Center.
This celebration, which is anticipated to become an annual Department staff recognition event, recognizes employees for their achievements during the school year.
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“This is something that we started a couple of years ago. We wanted to recognize our Teacher of the Year and Education Aide of the Year,” said Superintendent James Colbert Jr. during opening remarks. “But we have so many incredible employees beyond our Special Schools division, so that’s what we are doing here today.”
Forty-four employees from HCDE’s five instructional divisions—Adult Education, Head Start, Special Schools, School-Based Therapy Services, and the Center for Afterschool, Summer, and Enrichment for Kids (CASE for Kids)—and the 2022-2023 Employees of the Month attended the evening event, where they were presented with a certificate of appreciation in front of colleagues and loved ones.
One such employee is Gil Gaona, the administrative assistant for the Center for Safe and Secure Schools and the April Employee of the Month. For him, the Celebration of Excellence is about more than receiving recognition.
“It gives you something to aspire and look forward to,” he said. “It’s nice to be among all these other people who are appreciated as much as I am. After I was named Employee of the Month, I thought about how I could pay it forward. Someone that I depend on a lot is Hicham Al-Hazbari, so I nominated him. And lo and behold, he was the Employee of the Month for May.”
During the ceremony, Occupational Therapist Catherine Guthrie received a standing ovation as she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by School-Based Therapy Services Senior Director Carie Crabb.
“This is a special award. This is for those who have more than 20 years of service,” said Crabb. Catherine Guthrie has been with us since 1978 and was one of the first occupational therapists ever hired by HCDE, working with special ed children who had just been allowed to come to school.”
Guthrie, who was recognized for 42 years of service, is a pioneer in school-based occupational therapy. Though she retired in the fall of 2020, Guthrie returned to HCDE in January as a part-time member of the Therapy Services assistive technology team, training the next generation of occupational therapists in the Houston Independent School District.
“I always say our employees can work wherever they want, but they choose to stay here,” said Superintendent James Colbert Jr., as he addressed the room. “This is a place where I know I’ve saved lives because I work with people who are as passionate about education as I am.”
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