Three from Lamont School District Named Classified Employees of the Year

Tuesday April 30, 2024

This is one in a series of stories highlighting the 2024 Kern County School Classified Employees of the Year Selections. Eight employees were selected by a committee from a pool of thirty nominees in a variety of job classifications. The eight are now eligible for the statewide award program.

In our education systems, classroom teachers are most often in the spotlight because they are on the frontlines directly educating our children. But behind the scenes, there are countless individuals whose dedication and hard work help shape the learning environment and support students’ growth. 

This year, Lamont Elementary School District (LESD) proudly shines with not one, not two, but three Classified Employees of the Year, each representing different facets of the district’s essential workforce.

I see their love and passion for the kids. And that just drives me in what I do. It’s about what’s best for children.

Lori Gonzalez, Lamont Elementary School District Superinetendent

With 22 years of experience as a Skilled Trades Utility Worker, Martha Garcia embodies the spirit of dedication. Her role at Myrtle Avenue Elementary School involves maintaining the school’s cleanliness and functionality, from repairs to ensuring a welcoming environment for students. But it’s her personal touch that sets her apart—greeting early arrivals with a warm smile and assisting wherever needed.

Garcia’s impact transcends her role, leaving a lasting impression on students who remember her kindness years later. She recalled a brother and sister who would come to school hungry. She fed them spicy chips and provided shoes to the brother when he needed them. Several years later, the boy recognized her and gave her a big hug.

“He remembered me! He said, ‘You made an impact,’” she said. “I felt so good. I cleaned the school; I didn’t think I was going to impact them.”

Sherry Gonzalez, who has served as the Health and Student Services Family Advocate at the Family Resource and Learning Center for nine years, is a beacon of support for families facing challenges. From case management to community events, she tirelessly works to stabilize families and ensure students come to school ready to learn.

“Parents want the best for their kids, and they want a better life for themselves,” she said. “That’s it for me, being able to help them become that stable family that they need to be.”

Gonzalez’s compassion stems from personal experience, driving her to give back to the community she loves.

“These are my people forever,” she said. “My family lives here in Lamont and so I’ve been through so much with them. The compassion that I want for myself, I want to give that back to these families.”

Maria Vilchis De Bruno, the Food and Nutrition Services Lead Cook with 19 years of service, nourishes both body and soul. Leading the charge in providing nutritious meals to students, her dedication goes beyond the kitchen. She oversees specialized diets and fosters a positive atmosphere, ensuring no child goes hungry, and every smile is met with a warm meal.

“My favorite part of the job is seeing the happy faces of the kids after they eat,” she said. “You never know the last time those kids had a good meal.”

Vilchis De Bruno’s journey from Mexico to becoming a U.S. citizen reflects her deep understanding of the struggles that some families face.

“I went through that process. I know what it is,” she said. “When I see kids who are hungry, it breaks my heart because I understand where they’re coming from.”

Lori Gonzalez, Lamont Elementary School District (LESD) superintendent, emphasizes the importance of peer recognition in their selection for those chosen for the honor. She says she put the nominations to a vote for all 250 employees in the district.

“It says a lot that their own peers chose them,” she said. “Their nominations speak volumes about who they are as individuals and employees.”

All three nominees say the recognition came as a shock.

“There’s others here. We all work really hard in my department. I did not expect that for myself,” Sherry Gonzalez said.

Vilchis De Bruno could not believe it either. 

“I was shocked, oh my God. I kind of started to cry and I wasn’t expecting that,” she said.

Together, the three women have 50 years of combined experience at LESD helping students thrive. Recognition of these outstanding individuals is a testament to their exceptional contributions.

“That’s why the district is so strong because our employees are here for years because they love the district and they love the children,” Lori Gonzalez said. “And so they take pride in their work.”

As they continue to serve the Lamont community with passion and dedication, Martha, Sherry, and Maria exemplify the unsung heroes whose contributions shape the educational landscape and uplift the lives of students and families. Their recognition as Classified Employees of the Year is a well-deserved honor.

“I just hope that we can continue to step up to the plate to continue to help our families, our children,” Sherry Gonzalez said.

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.