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STORY SEARCH: Past 30 days | What's available

PUBLISHED SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2003

Patience, heart make difference for top employee

Santa Rosa teacher aide chosen as School District's No. 1 worker

Carmen Paige
@PensacolaNewsJournal.com

Jennifer Howell, an Exceptional Student Education teacher, took one look at Regina Marek and knew she wanted her on the West Navarre Elementary School team.

One look at letters of nomination and recommendation, and members of a selection committee knew they wanted Marek to be the Santa Rosa School District's School-Related Employee of the Year. She is an ESE teacher assistant.

"There was no contest this year," said Jud Crane, the district's purchasing director and contract manager, during Friday's surprise announcement. "It was a runaway selection."

Co-workers said Marek's patience results in a calming effect, which is needed when dealing with children who have emotional and physical disabilities.

Lisa Gilmore, a teacher assistant, said Marek has the heart and compassion to make a difference in the students' lives.

"It takes a person with a special touch to be able to work with children like these," Gilmore said. "She has that touch."

Marek, 41, said she lets the pupils know she cares but is firm when dealing with them.

"I believe in honesty and love - and letting them know they can't pull things over on me," she said. "They have to do their homework and tow the line. I never let them think just because they are in another class, they are not on the same (level) as the other students."

Marek moved to Navarre three years ago from Georgia. She said the small-town atmosphere and the staff's camaraderie has made her family feel at home.

"I'm treated as an equal," she said. "Even though I'm not a certified teacher, I'm treated with respect, and my input is accepted and highly considered."

School Board member Diane Coleman said it's an honor to have Marek in the school system.

"(She's) another star in our crown in Santa Rosa County," Coleman said.

Employee of the Year

  • NAME: Regina Marek.

  • JOB: Exceptional Student Education teacher assistant, West Navarre Elementary School.

  • CHILDREN: Charles, a seventh- grader at Woodlawn Beach Middle School; and Colleen, a fourth- grader at West Navarre Elementary.

  • NATIVE OF: Philadelphia.

  • CREDENTIALS: Certified in crisis prevention intervention.

  • ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Began the school's Clean and Green Club; spearheaded the printer recycling program to raise money for a three-wheeler for an autistic pupil; member of the Relay for Life team; and an ESE representative on the Parent Teacher Organization board.

  • WHY SHE WON: Anna Ratliff, principal: "Regina truly defines the ideal employee - one who does what she can, where she can, with what she has, always with the students' best interests in mind."

  • RUNNERS-UP: Diane Newsome, Secretary III at Holley-Navarre Middle School, and Dianne Brooks, area supervisor in the food service department.

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