Monterey County’s Classified School Employee of the Year Estella Ramirez (Contributed Photo)

SAN LUCAS — Estella Ramirez received a trophy Aug. 19, recognizing her having earned the title of Monterey County Classified School Employee of the Year.

The original announcement at San Lucas Union School District, where Ramirez works as an office clerk, was made March 6 during parent-teacher conferences, but the full ceremony was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and eventually canceled. The mailed trophy was the one she would have received had the original May ceremony been held.

Superintendent Jessica Riley nominated Ramirez, who is completing her 47th year of service with the district.

“For over four decades, Estella has been the face of San Lucas School,” Riley said. “If you ask her what her title is, she will say she is the office clerk, but her job responsibilities and duties extend well beyond that role. Small districts operate with small staffs, and ours is no exception.”

Ramirez said she was “very surprised” about her recognition.

“I didn’t have a clue about the nomination, it was well kept from me, as I’m in the middle of all that is happening at our small school,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez is present at many San Lucas school functions and meetings, as Riley noted she acts as interpreter and helps translate report card comments and document. She also serves lunch and supervises the lunchroom.

“Estella is our No. 1 influencer, the eyes and ears of our community,” Riley said. “… I am happy to see her receive a well-deserved recognition for her many years of hard work.”

“Working in the office is challenging, always something to take care of with the students and parents, very busy,” Ramirez added. “I have seen three generations of children at this school and I tell myself, ‘OK, this is way too long to be here,’ but can’t get myself to stop.”

Ramirez, however, has no plans to retire anytime soon.

“It will be extremely hard to leave the school,” she said. “This is my second home and I enjoy every bit of the job.”

Among her motivations to continue working is getting to see the students grow up from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“Knowing that our students, coming from a small community, have gone beyond high school in their education and have made good choices as adults,” Ramirez said about what makes her proud of the students she works with. “My favorite part is helping the students in their many needs and knowing they feel at home at our school.”

Riley said Ramirez is an “inspiration to our rural community, proof that dedication to task and longevity reap benefits.”

“Growing up in a rural area can sometimes result in a disconnect with the rest of the world, the idea that people in small towns can’t make a difference because we’re too small,” Riley continued. “A recognition for Estella is a recognition of our whole area — it shows our students that they are contributing part of a larger world, and that feeling is imperative when developing a growth mindset.”

She said small towns value community, and San Lucas Union Elementary School embraces that value.

“Because students tend to have the same teacher for two to three years, there is a great opportunity to get to know students and identify what makes them unique, which in turn enables us to develop their growth mindset,” Riley said.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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