Three Yosemite Unified School District (YUSD) educators were honored at the April board meeting for their service to the district. Katy Penton was named teacher of the year, Dena Boortz, administrator of the year, and Jeff Hartwig was named employee of the year.
Penton, currently a kindergarten teacher at Coarsegold Elementary School, said she has experienced more than 30 "first day of kindergarten" experiences with students in the district.
"It's my home. It's where I belong," she said of kindergarten. She has also taught first, third, and fourth grades.
"She treats each class of kindergartners as if they were her first group," said board member Tammy Loveland whose two daughters were each greeted by Penton on their first days of kindergarten.
Being chosen as a Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program participant to teach in England was a highlight for Penton. She has also been a Reading Recovery teacher, spelling bee coordinator, a School Site Council representative, a Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) provider, and a mentor teacher.
"Teachers are made by the teacher next door," Penton quoted Dr. Lola May who was a noted mathematics educator, consultant, and teacher trainer. This is the philosophy guiding Penton even today as she mentors a new kindergarten teacher in the district.
Penton and husband, Malcolm, have two daughters who both graduated from Yosemite High School.
Administrator of the year
Dena Boortz, a nine-year district employee, was named administrator of the year. She not only is the Director of Child Nutrition Services for YUSD, and Bass Lake and RaymondKnowles School Districts but is also in the classroom teaching in the career and technical education department.
Boortz has taught a variety of classes including Life Management, Foods and Nutrition, Human Growth and Development, Regional Occupation Program (ROP) Culinary Arts and Hospitality, Learning Strategies and ROP Careers in Education. Through the district's adult education program, Boortz has taught the ServSafe Food Safety Certification class.
Other district roles filled by Boortz: Career and Technical Education Department Chair, ROP District Coordinator, Perkins Grants Coordinator, member of the District Advisory Committee, and co-chair of sober grad.
"I love running into my former students in the community who are employed in the food and hospitality industry," said Boortz. She also feels a real sense of pride when her culinary arts class caters a community event.
All three of her children are alumni of Yosemite High School and all are currently attending California State universities.
Employee of the year
Jeff Hartwig was named employee of the year by the district. He has been with the district for 11 years, beginning as a utility worker and bus driver. For the past eight years, he has worked in the classroom as a paraeducator but still fills in as a utility worker.
When presented with his plaque, he was lauded for his technique for teaching algebra to learning disabled students. "We work on a section and when the student completes that section, we give them a test right away," Hartwig said explaining his method.
"I'm here for the kids," Hartwig said. "When a student seeks me out for help, that's pretty cool. Probably the top thing is graduation night being up on the stage and shaking the hands of students. There is really something about helping students who haven't been successful to become successful."
Hartwig and his wife, Kathy, have one daughter who died in 2012.